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Quotes of the day: Arthur C. Clarke

Published Wednesday, March 19, 2014 @ 12:00 AM EDT
Mar 19 2014

Arthur C. Clarke (December 16, 1917 - March 19, 2008) was one of the world's best-selling authors of science fiction and was widely considered one of the masters of the genre. Deemed on par with authors like Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein, he was especially identified with his novels Childhood's End, Rendezvous with Rama, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke's fiction is credited with combining flawlessly accurate technical details with such philosophically expansive themes as "spiritual" rebirth and the search for man's place in the universe. The recipient of at least three Hugo Awards and two Nebulas, as well as a host of other acknowledgements, he was also well recognized as an inventor, an editor, and a science commentator.

Of his various technical and scientific papers, one of them, "Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?" (Wireless World, 1945) introduced the concept that geostationary satellites could make excellent telecommunications relays. So influential was this work that Clarke is credited as the inventor of the first communications satellite, a scientific development which earned him the gold medal of the Franklin Institute, the Lindbergh Award, the Marconi Award, the Vikram Sarabhai Professorship of the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, and the Fellowship of King's College, London. In addition, the geostationary orbit (at 42,000 kilometers above Earth) is named "The Clarke Orbit". In 1954, almost ten years after this development, Clarke's correspondence with Dr. Harry Wexler (then chief of the Scientific Services Division, US Weather Bureau) led to a new branch of meteorology that utilized rockets and satellites for weather forecasting. (Click here for full article)


A country's armed forces can no longer defend it; the most they can promise is the destruction of the attacker.

A faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.

A hundred years ago, the electric telegraph made possible- indeed, inevitable- the United States of America. The communications satellite will make equally inevitable a United Nations of Earth; let us hope that the transition period will not be equally bloody.

All explorers are seeking something they have lost. It is seldom that they find it, and more seldom still that the attainment brings them greater happiness than the quest.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be!

As every researcher just out of college knows, scientists of over fifty are good for nothing but board meetings, and should at all costs be kept out of the laboratory!

As our own species is in the process of proving, one cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying.

At the present rate of progress, it is almost impossible to imagine any technical feat that cannot be achieved- if it can be achieved at all- within the next few hundred years.

Before you become too entranced with gorgeous gadgets and mesmerizing video displays, let me remind you that information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, and wisdom is not foresight. Each grows out of the other, and we need them all.

CNN is one of the participants in the war. I have a fantasy where Ted Turner is elected president but refuses because he doesn't want to give up power.

Even educated people need some emotional crutch, and it is nice to feel that somebody up there is looking after your concerns. It is harmless unless it becomes an obsession.

For much of history, religion may have been a necessary evil, but why has it been more evil than necessary?

How inappropriate to call this planet 'Earth,' when it is clearly 'Ocean.'

Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal.

I am an optimist; anyone interested in the future has to be, otherwise he would simply shoot himself.

I don't believe in God but I'm very interested in Her.

I don't pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about.

I have great faith in optimism as a guiding principle, if only because it offers us the opportunity of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I think it's probable that as we develop, we'll move our minds into our machines. You could experience anything, be anywhere, you see. Get an infinite number of real universes as well as imaginary universes.

I would defend the liberty of consenting adult creationists to practice whatever intellectual perversions they like in the privacy of their own homes; but it is also necessary to protect the young and innocent.

I'm appalled by what we all see on the news every day- massacres, atrocities, injustices, outrages of all kinds. When I see what's happening, I sometimes wonder if the human race deserves to survive.

I'm sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It's just been too intelligent to come here.

I'm sure we would not have had men on the Moon if it had not been for Wells and Verne and the people who write about this and made people think about it. I'm rather proud of the fact that I know several astronauts who became astronauts through reading my books.

I've been saying for a long time that I'm hoping to find intelligent life in Washington.

I've combined all my beliefs into this phrase I've been circulating: 'Religion is the most malevolent of all mind viruses.'

If I was a religious person, I would consider creationism nothing less than blasphemy. Do its adherents imagine that God is a cosmic hoaxer who has created that whole vast fossil record for the sole purpose of misleading mankind?

If our wisdom fails to match our science, we will have no second chance. For there will be no one to carry our dreams across another Dark Age, when the dust of all our cities incarnadines the sunsets of the world.

If the house is to be demolished tomorrow anyhow, people seem to feel, we may as well burn the furniture today.

If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run- and often in the short one- the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative.

Isn't killing people in the name of God a pretty good definition of insanity?

It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.

It is amazing how childishly gullible humans are. There are, for example, so many different religions, each of them claiming to have the truth, each saying that their truths are clearly superior to the truths of others. How can someone possibly take any of them seriously?

It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.

It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God, but to create him.

It may be that the old astrologers had the truth exactly reversed, when they believed that the stars controlled the destinies of men. The time may come when men control the destinies of stars.

It must be wonderful to be seventeen, and to know everything.

It was the mark of a barbarian to destroy something one could not understand.

My objection to organized religion is the premature conclusion to ultimate truth that it represents.

New ideas pass through three periods: it can't be done, it probably can be done, but it's not worth doing, and I knew it was a good idea all along!

One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion. So now people assume that religion and morality have a necessary connection. But the basis of morality is really very simple and doesn't require religion at all.

Perhaps we should thank the Taliban for finishing the task the Crusades began nine hundred years ago- proving beyond further dispute that Religion is incompatible with Civilization.

Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories.

Reading computer manuals without the hardware is as frustrating as reading sex manuals without the software. In both cases the cure is simple though usually very expensive.

Religion is a disease promoted by starvation, because hungry people hallucinate, and then pray for food. This is why so many religions encourage fasting: it weakens the mind.

Science can destroy religion by ignoring it as well as by disproving its tenets. No one ever demonstrated, so far as I am aware, the non-existence of Zeus or Thor- but they have few followers now.

Science fiction seldom attempts to predict the future. More often than not, it tries to prevent the future.

Science is the only religion of mankind.

Technology is really civilization, let's face it.

The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.

The greatest problem of the future is civilizing the human race.

The information age has been driven and dominated by technopreneurs. We now have to apply these technologies in saving lives, improving livelihoods and lifting millions of people out of squalor, misery and suffering. In other words, our focus must now move from the geeks to the meek.

The inspirational value of the space program is probably of far greater importance to education than any input of dollars... A whole generation is growing up which has been attracted to the hard disciplines of science and engineering by the romance of space.

The more wonderful the means of communication, the more trivial, tawdry, or depressing its contents seemed to be.

The Muslims are behaving like Christians, I'm afraid.

The only real problem in life is what to do next.

The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

The psychologist who famously remarked that chastity was the rarest of all sexual perversions might have added that Religion was the most common.

The Solar System is rather a large place, though whether it will be large enough for so quarrelsome an animal as homo sapiens remains to be seen.

The statement that God created man in his own image is ticking like a time bomb in the foundations of Christianity.

The universe must be full of voices, calling from star to star in a myriad tongues. One day we shall join that cosmic conversation.

There is a special sadness in achievement, in the knowledge that a long-desired goal has been attained at last, and that life must now be shaped toward new ends.

There is a time to battle against Nature, and a time to obey her. True wisdom lies in making the right choice.

There is a type of mind that will believe anything if it is sufficiently fantastic, and it is a waste of time arguing with it. No one has ever received much thanks for exposing credulity.

There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum.

This is the first age that's ever paid much attention to the future, which is a little ironic since we may not have one.

Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.

Unfortunately, most people do not understand even the basic elements of statistics and probability, which is why astrologers and advertising agencies flourish.

Utopia is very dull. That's the problem with science fiction. Smashing things is more interesting.

We have to abandon the idea that schooling is something restricted to youth. How can it be, in a world where half the things a man knows at 20 are no longer true at 40- and half the things he knows at 40 hadn't been discovered when he was 20?

We seldom stop to think that we are still creatures of the sea, able to leave it only because, from birth to death, we wear the water-filled space suits of our skins.

What is life but organized energy?

What we need is a machine that will let us see the other guy's point of view.

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

When you finally understand the universe, it will not only be stranger than you imagine, it will be stranger than you can imagine.

Why is it that almost every man, when confronted by an unhappy woman, immediately assumes that her unhappiness is somehow related to him?

You will find men like him in all of the world's religions. They know that we represent reason and science, and, however confident they may be in their beliefs, they fear that we will overthrow their gods. Not necessarily through any deliberate act, but in a subtler fashion. Science can destroy a religion by ignoring it as well as by disproving its tenets. No one ever demonstrated, so far as I am aware, the nonexistance of Zeus or Thor, but they have few followers now.

Categories: Arthur C. Clarke, Quotes of the day


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45 years ago today, things changed.

Published Tuesday, April 02, 2013 @ 12:42 AM EDT
Apr 02 2013

Remember when technology was fun?

The future ain't what is used to be...

(YouTube video: the official trailer for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which premiered 45 years ago, on April 2, 1968.)

A linear projection into the future of any science or technology is like a form of propaganda- often persuasive, almost always wrong.
-Pamela McCorduck

All scientifically possible technology and social change predicted in science fiction will come to pass, but none of it will work properly.
-Neil Gaiman

All technology should be assumed guilty until proven innocent.
-David Ross Brower

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.
-James Klass

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
-Arthur C. Clarke

Cheese in an aerosol can is the greatest advance in technology since fire.
-James Angove

Each fall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, football fans cheer for their favorite irrational number: “Cosine, secant, tangent, sine, three point one four one five nine!”
-Bruce Watson

Engineers are always honest in matters of technology and human relationships. That's why it's a good idea to keep engineers away from ustomers, romantic interests, and other people who can't handle the truth.
(From Engineers Explained)

Even though today's technology provides us with mountains of data, it is useless without judgment.
-Felix G. Rohatyn

Everyone has a right to a university degree in America, even if it's in Hamburger Technology.
-Clive James

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.
-Alice Kahn

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
-Richard P. Feynman

Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.
-Buckminster Fuller

I may be just an empty flesh terminal relying on technology for all y ideas, memories and relationships, but I am confident that all of that, everything that makes me a unique human being, is still out there, somewhere, safe in the theoretical storage space owned by giant ulti-national corporations.
-Stephen Colbert

If the Catholic church couldn't stop Galileo, then governments won't be able to stop things now.
(re: regulation of information technology.)
-Carlo de Benedetti

If we had a reliable way to label our toys good and bad, it would be easy to regulate technology wisely. But we can rarely see far enough ahead to know which road leads to damnation. Whoever concerns himself with big technology, either to push it forward or to stop it, is gambling in human lives.
-Freeman Dyson

If we had had the right technology back then, you would have seen Eva Braun on the Donahue show and Adolf Hitler on Meet the Press.
-Ed Turner

In the old days, writers used to sit in front of a typewriter and stare out of the window. Nowadays, because of the marvels of convergent technology, the thing you type on and the window you stare out of are now the same thing.
-Douglas Adams

[Information Technology] people are so hypnotized by the technology hey don't look for real results.
-Peter Drucker

Levitt's First Law of Information Technology:
If it's free, adopt it.

[N]either technology nor efficiency can acquire more time for you, because time is not a thing you have lost. It is not a thing you ever had.
-James Gleick

Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road.
-Stewart Brand

One can prove or refute anything at all with words. Soon people will perfect language technology to such an extent that they'll be proving with mathematical precision that twice two is seven.
-Anton Chekhov

Screams erupted at a nearby hotel, where Microsoft founder Bill Gates was addressing an education and technology conference.
(Associated Press report of a Seattle earthquake)

Technology [is] the knack of so arranging the world that we need not experience it.
-Max Frisch

Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.

Technology is really civilization, let's face it.
-Arthur C. Clarke

Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except over technology.
-John Tudor

Technology today is the campfire around which we tell our stories. There's this attraction to light and to this kind of power, which is both warm and destructive.
-Laurie Anderson

The Bible, it seems certain, was the work of sand-strewn men and women who thought the earth was flat and for whom a wheelbarrow would have been a breathtaking example of emerging technology.
-Sam Harris

The human race has today the means for annihilating itself-either in a fit of complete lunacy, i.e., in a big war, by a brief fit of destruction, or by careless handling of atomic technology, through a slow process of poisoning and of deterioration in its genetic structure.
-Max Born

The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.
-E.O. Wilson

There is an evil tendency underlying all our technology- the tendency to do what is reasonable even when it isn't any good.
-Robert Pirsig

We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.
-Douglas Adams

We have lots of information technology. We just don't have any information.
(New Yorker cartoon caption)
-Sydney J. Harris

We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
-Carl Sagan

While modern technology has given people powerful new communication tools, it apparently can do nothing to alter the fact that many people have nothing useful to say.
-Lee Gomes

Categories: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke, Quotes of the day, Stanley Kubrick, Technology, Video, YouTube


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