Future is all in the past, says Clarke

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The Independent Online
A technology that was barely nascent 25 years ago let the scientist and author Arthur C. Clarke (right) sit at home in Sri Lanka yesterday and offer his vision of the next quarter-century to a conference in London.

Via a satellite video link, Dr Clarke, 79, predicted Dick Tracy-style high quality wristwatch video telephones by the end of this century, and a computer at least in every village - if not every home - in the developed world.

The key to understanding the future was the evidence of the past, he told the Convergence 97 conference, whose theme is the convergence of computing, media and communication industries. "Twenty years ago most offices did not have a fax machine, and still used typewriters. Now the fax machine is being replaced by e-mail and the typewriter is almost redundant," he said. "But all this is just a beginning. Everyone will soon have access to everyone else."

However, he said he feared some of the consequences of changing technology - especially the information explosion and what he called "information pollution".

Dr Clarke is best known for the book and film 2001: A Space Odyssey, and its sequels. The latest book, 3001, is published at the end of this month.

He is famous for predicting satellite communication back in the 1940s, and has published numerous serious scientific papers dealing with emerging and anticipated technology, as well as dozens of best-selling science fiction novels and his well-known "Clarke's Laws"..

He ended his speech yesterday with a light-hearted warning to conference delegates, telling them: "Maybe our successors, the computers and intelligent machines, which will be running the world for us, will get fed up with humans and get rid of us. If they do, it will serve us right."