Arthur C. Clarke Predicts Future

Arthur C. Clarke predicts the future on a 1964 BBC Horizon program.

Arthur C. Clarke predicts the future on a 1964 BBC Horizon program.

He’s remarkably prescient on the communications revolution, the ability to telecommute, and even remote surgery. He’s totally wrong, though, that this would have led by now to the demise of the city as a gathering place for talent. In fact, more people than ever are migrating to urban areas. Whether this is his failure of imagination or ours is an open question.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Michael says:

    I think his prediction was only off by the time frame. It will take far longer for a city’s population to disperse than it will for the city’s population to transition to working remotely. In fact, what is far more likely isn’t that city populations will disperse, but rather that their rate of growth will slow in comparison to rural areas, and only over a long-term growth of those rural areas will we see anything like Clarke’s prediction of vanishing cities.

  2. Burt Likko says:

    Telecommuting is a reality now and will only get better and more useful. There are days that I telecommute to work even though my office is six miles and ten minutes’ drive away from my home. Tele-surgery still seems awkward, but it is hardly unthinkable.

    What Clarke overlooked was right there in front of him — just as travel would become an activity done primarily for pleasure rather than productivity, so too do people live in cities as a matter of preference rather than as a matter of necessity. Cities will continue to exist because a substantial number of people like them, not becasue they need them.

    He wasn’t exactly forward-thinking with regard to gender roles, but we’ll give him a pass on that becasue he was considering technology, not sociology.

  3. Bleev K says:

    It’s pretty close to what Clifford Simak wrote in City.