Remembering Arthur C. Clark
March 19th, 2008 - By Eric 'Renderking' Fisk
Our pal Indy Benson posted the news on our forum that Arthur C. Clarke Passed Away . Right now I'm having a hard time typing as I'm overwhelmed with the daunting task of trying to put his life in perspective for this rant. When I went into The Electric Speakeasy to find the internet address for the banner above "Explore Together," I was struck by the sense of melancholy... since I was inspired by the words used by the Monolith beings in a message sent to earth at the end of his book: "2010: Odyssey Two..."
All These Worlds Are Yours Except Europa.
Attempt No Landing There.
Use Them Together. Use Them in Peace."
"I'm completely operational, and all my circuits are functioning perfectly."
So here I am, a few short years into the dawn of the new millennium and living some aspects of the future that Mr. Clarke envisioned. As I type, the words are being saved temporarily on a "Random Access Memory" chip while simultaneously being projected on a liquid crystal display monitor, not on paper that's in the platen of a manual typewriter. Hitting "Control" and "S" at the same time, the words I type are "permanently" saved on to my hard drive for my own use and only I have access to it. In a minute or two I can switch my program to a mode where I can copy the information from my hard-drive to our Internet Service Provider using "File Transfer Protocol" and with in less then a few short seconds this article can be read by anyone on any place in the world that has Internet Access.
With-in the time it takes for me to write this, edit it and store it on our host's sever- thousands of people around the world could soon be reading this. It's pretty daunting, and there are moments when I feel as if I'm back in elementary school I'm standing up in front of the class in a school play, trying not to rush through my lines.
Just as I'm typing - I got an "Instant Message" popping up asking me if I heard the news about Mr. Clarke's passing...
The description of this process is pretty dry, and boring for some since this is an every-day routine. This is something that we're used to, it's a part of who we are now. We debate about what type of computer is the best, who makes the best internet browser... but years ago this was a magical fantasy beyond our grasp.
Mr. Clarke is most famous for his Science Fiction, writing about the first steps man would take into the cosmos and what we would encounter. He wrote about alien "Sentinels" being buried on the moon and alerting those beings about our progress, computers who would be both our adversaries and our companions, and the realities of interplanetary space flight for the foreseeable future using the technology we currently have...
Mr. Clarke was one of the first people to predict that "Rocket Stations" - Communication Satellites - would be responsible for faster global communication. He wrote an article for "Wireless World Magazine" 1945 about how such devices would be used to allow faster and more efficient communication around the world 12 years before the launch of Sputnik, and idea that the editors of the magazine thought was crazy and labeled Mr. Clarke a crack pot...
In 1984, that very same "crack pot" was one of the first writers to use electronic-mail to converse with a director during the making of a motion picture, which was during the production of "2010," a screen version of his novel which was the sequel to "2001 - A Space Odyssey."
As the years pass, we are moving closer and closer towards the world many writers imagined. Because someone dared to dream and inspired others to explore what was possible, others were inspired to discover thoughts and ideas that before were beyond our imagination...
A Fish's Concept of Fire.
|"The analogy I often use is this: if you had intelligent fish arguing about why they should go out on dry land, some bright young fish might have thought of many things but they would never have thought of fire and I think that in space we will find things as useful as fire." - Arthur C. Clark in an interview with The BBC.|
Back in the 1980's - I read a lot of Science Fiction and I think I borrowed every novel the high school library and more then half of the ones in the public library down-town. When I wasn't reading that, I was hitting the magazine isle with publications like "Discovery" and "Omni," reading about what the future was supposed to be. There was this illusion that seemed very real that we were on the cusp of another Space Race and the dawn of wonderful things that were to come thanks to more spin-off technology. There was the impression that many of us had (or were given) that there could be a time when One-Tenth of American (if not western) industry would be devoted towards new space technology as we put a permanent space station in orbit that would soon lead to a lasting presence on the moon before we venture forth to Mars and beyond. - I'm not an engineering expert and I only got good grades in physics when I tried really hard, but it's pretty obvious that this vision of the future materialized. It's truly sad, I would have like to board a Pan-Am Flight and have a convention with a few hundred of my favorite fellow Retro's in orbit in above the Earth.
Mr. Clarke's greatest contribution to the cause of Human Spaceflight wasn't just his Science Fiction, he was one of the constant and consistent voices for real exploration. He had two really good points that he made when explaining why human beings need to colonize space.
The first was pretty obvious: What would happen to civilization in the event that something happened that made Earth uninhabitable? Easy answer, right? If our planet was devastated by an ecological, technological cataclysm, and the only place we inhabit is this single planet - human society might of well never existed since nobody would be around to remember us... if the Earth dies and it's the only planet we live on - humanity will cease to exist.
His second and I think more practical point is the endless possibilities to discover new ways of doing things - developing new technologies by solving new and unforeseen problems. If we try to do new things, or we're in a position where we must accomplish something new in order for explorers to survive, that will be the impetus for our scientists, engineers and builders to innovate and create new things. We have no idea now what we will invent and discover in the future as we try to solve the unforeseen problems we will encounter.
It's like a fish's concept of fire... taking into account that the theory of evolution might be correct and that we all started out as primitive organisms swimming in the ocean. No matter how intelligent, a fish has no idea of what fire is, much less electricity or atomic energy. Until that fish went out on land and began to evolve into something else, neither it or any of it's ancestors had any idea what any what was possible. Once that evolving organism began to push forward and struggled to survive, it did encounter scary concepts that were at the time magical and uncontrollable but became the crux of knowledge and technology.
Fire is a basic, if not primitive concept for us now. It's a technology that we've mastered and taken for granted, we burn fuel in a controlled fashion to either get stay warm and comfortable, or harness that energy to move from place to place. We use fire to get work done and build things.
It's the Prometheus Factor: the discovery of fire led to other inventions and innovations. With our mastery of fire we were then able to fashion tools to master other energies - namely electricity and atomic energy. With-in our own solar system and in the heavens beyond will will find new ways of doing things. There are a few ideas of what might be possible but for now is indistinguishable from magic, but for future generations those technologies that will arise due to problem solving will be common place and taken for granted.
The exploration of space is going to lead to new concepts, new thoughts and ideas that won't come to us by sticking to the same routine here on Earth. Those who built ships for explorers who sailed to The New World in the North and South American Continents were some of the best and brightest innovators of their day, just as those who sailed on those ships had to find new ways of doing things as they traveled. The same will be true when the next wave of explorers set out to sail across space bound for literally new worlds.
What I write here isn't anything new to those people who read Science Fiction or non-fiction books or magazine articles. It's not new for anyone who has listened or read interviews of Mr. Clarke - these were his philosophies on Space Travel and Exploration. This was one of his many passions - that we would learn to work together and solve many problems. He desperately wanted to see the end of Nation-States fighting against each other and cooperate. If there was to be rivalry between countries, it should be a friendly one as we compete to reach goals...
Having Breakfast With The Future: March 20th, 2008
As I finish this rant - I've known about the passing of Arthur C. Clarke for more then a whole day. I had to pause for a while to get my head straight and finish some other stuff unrelated to writing this. I sat down with my sons and flipped around the dial looking for other news on this topic. There was the usual canned obituaries and brief tributes. But wasn't it tribute enough to know that while I'm flipping around the dial using DirectTV, I was using technology that he once speculated about many years ago?
For me, one of the saddest aspects of his death is that he didn't get to see one of his most desired dreams come true: the evidence of life existing beyond our own world. In one of the many articles about him, he was quoted as saying that one of the things he wants to see before he died is evidence of extra-terrestrial life. He had no doubts that it exists, but he just wanted the proof.
Something that I would like to see before I die is to see the concept of Science Fiction become obsolete. That might sound harsh and mean spirited - but let me explain... I would like there to come a time in my life - or during the lives of my sons - when people are actually out there doing something that's beyond our current imagination and the confines of earth, and then writing about what they're doing. I want to see a time come when we no longer have to try and imagine what space travel would be like.
Rather then having people post about how great it would be to visit other worlds, I would love for someone to post on The Fedora Chronicles forum about the trip they took to another world orbiting around a near-by start and the beings they met. I would like to have someone post pictures of the space craft they rode to get to their destination and rate the trip and the service.
How soon will it be before the dreams of The Golden Era's Science Fiction Writers will become something more then blue-prints of our future, and become the footsteps of our past? If I can take for granted news and entertainment being beamed down from a satellite a few miles in orbit as the world keeps getting smaller, then it's possible that someone in my family might casually lament about how the food on space-flights are getting worse with each passing trip and that a Light Year isn't as far as it used to be...
Here's to Arthur C. Clarke - a visionary who lived a full life but passed before his time.
If we are due to be bound to this world, I would still like to see many of the ideas that have been popular in Science Fiction become well-established tools we use every day... such as what Mr. Clarke talked about when he discussed our civilization no longer relying on fossil, carbon-based fuels.
I would also like to see that space technology put to use to prevent other fedora's from tapering. If we can travel back and forth to other worlds with in the span of time that equals the length of an extended vacation... I would think someone would be able to apply that knowledge base towards making a felt-like material that will hold it's shape forever... is that too much to ask?
Gadfly OnLine: "2010: A space sequel that's not as bad as you thought," By Daniel Kraus
BBC News: "Arthur C Clarke still looking forward," By Martin Redfern - BBC Radio Science Unit.
Ren's Flicks To Hold You Over: "2001: A Space Odyssey" - (Revised - January 2006)
Find Arthur C. Clarke on "Simply Audiobooks"
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