In an article in Reader’s Digest (February 2001) titled ‘Beyond 2001’, Sir Arthur C Clarke outlined a series of predictions for the next 100 years. And asked to be checked for accuracy on 31st December, 2100; tongue firmly in cheek.
Retrospect is always enlightening. So while some of these predictions may seem far-fetched (even laughable) in 2011, not all of them, incidentally, are entirely inaccurate.
2001 Cassini space probe (launched 1997) begins exploration of Saturn’s moons and rings. Galileo probe (launched 1989) continues surveying Jupiter and its moons. Life beneath the ice-covered oceans of one moon, Europa, appears likely.
2002 The first commercial device producing clean, safe power by low-temperature nuclear reactions goes on the market, heralding the end of the Fossil Fuel Age.
2003 The motor industry is given five years to replace all fuel-burning engines with the new energy device. The same year, NASA’s robot Mars Surveyor is launched.
2004 First (publicly admitted) human clone.
2005 First sample sent back to Earth by Mars Surveyor.
2006 Last coal mine closed.
2008 A city is devastated by the accidental detonation of an atomic bomb in its country’s own armoury. After a brief debate in the United Nations, all nuclear weapons are destroyed.
2009 The first quantum generators (tapping space energy) are developed. Available in portable and household units, from a few kilowatts upwards, they can produce electricity indefinitely. Central power stations close down: the age of pylons ends.
Electronic monitoring virtually phases out professional criminals.
2011 Largest living animal filmed: a 76-metre octopus in the Mariana Trench. Even larger creatures are discovered when the first robot probes drill through the ice of Europa.
2012 Aerospace-planes enter commercial service.
2013 Prince Harry becomes the first member of the British royal family to fly in space.
2014 Construction of the Hilton Orbiter Hotel begins by converting the giant shuttle tanks previously allowed to fall back to Earth.
2015 An inevitable by-product of the quantum generator is complete control of matter at the atomic level. Within a few years, lead and copper cost twice as much as gold as they become immensely more useful.
2016 Existing currencies are abolished. The “mega-watt-hour” becomes the universal unit of exchange.
2017 December 16, on his hundredth birthday, Sir Arthur C. Clarke is one of the first guests in the Hilton Orbiter.
2019 A major meteor impact occurs on the north polar ice cap. The resulting tsunamis cause considerable damage along the coasts of Greeland and Canada. The long-discussed “Project Spaceguard,” to identify and deflect potentially dangerous comets or asteroids, is finally activated.
2020 Artificial Intelligence reaches human level. Now, there are two ‘intelligent’ species on Earth.
2021 The first humans land on Mars.
2023 Dinosaur facsimiles are cloned from computer-generated DNA.
2024 Infrared signals are detected coming from the centre of the Galaxy, obviously the product of a technologically advanced civilisation. All attempts to decipher them fail.
2025 Neurological research finally leads to an understanding of all the senses, and direct input becomes possible, bypassing ears, eyes, skin, etc. The result is the metal “Braincap.” Anyone wearing this close-fitting helmet can enter a whole universe of experience; real or imaginary.
The Braincap is a boon to doctors, who may now experience their patients’ symptoms (suitably attenuated). It also revolutionises the legal profession, as deliberate lying becomes impossible.
2040 The “Universal Replicator,” based on nanotechnology, is perfected; any object, however complex, may be created – given the necessary raw materials. Diamonds and gourmet meals alike may literally be manufactured from dirt.
Resultantly, agriculture and industry are phased out, taking conventional notions of ‘work’ with them. There is an explosion in spheres of art, entertainment and education. Hunter-gatherer societies are deliberately recreated, and huge swathes of the planet are allowed to revert to their natural state.
2045 The completely self-sustainable mobile home (envisaged almost a century ago by Buckminster Fuller) is perfected. Any additional carbon needed for food synthesis is obtained by extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
2050 Bored in this era, millions decide to use cryonic suspension to emigrate into the future in search of adventure.
2057 On October 4, the centenary of Sputnik 1, the dawn of the space age is celebrated by humans on Earth, the Moon, Mars, Europa, Ganymede and Titan, and in orbit around Venus, Neptune and Pluto.
2061 Halley’s Comet returns. First landing on the comet by humans, and the sensational discovery of both dormant and active life forms; vindicating Wickramasinghe and Hoyle’s century-old hypothesis that life exists through space.
2090 Burning of fossil fuels is resumed to replace carbon dioxide ‘mined’ from the air, and to try to postpone the next Ice Age by promoting global warming.
2095 The development of “Space Drive” – a propulsion system harnessing the structure of space-time itself – makes the rocket obsolete and permits velocities close to that of light. Human explorers set off to nearby star systems.
2100 History begins…
2001 – A Space Odyssey : Change the way you look at the stars. And at yourself.
“ Dazzling. Wrenching. Eerie. A true mind bender.” - TIME
2010 – Odyssey Two : Cosmic in sweep. Filled with the romance of Space. Eloquent in its depiction of Man’s place in the Universe.
“A daring romp through the solar system and a worthy successor to 2001.” - Carl Sagan
2061 – Odyssey Three : For Scientists and Metaphysicists alike.
“[Clarke] remains a master at describing the wonders of the material universe in sentences that combine a respect for scientific accuracy with an often startling lyricism.” - The New York Times
3001 – The Final Odyssey : Scientifically accurate. Yet startlingly lyrical.
“[Clarke] is . . . the poet laureate of the Space Age.” - Los Angeles Times