08 January 2008

Arthur C. Clarke's prophecy

The author Arthur C. Clarke turned 90 last December and to mark the occasion, released a video of himself on YouTube. In 1 December issue of the New Scientist there was also an interview with him. Clarke, who is apparently as addicted to email as everyone else, has a somewhat dismal prognosis for our cultural future, which he calls the "fractal future".

"Although everybody is ultimately connected to everybody else, the branches of the fractal universe are so many orders of magnitude away from each other that really nobody knows anyone else. We will have no common universe of discourse. You and I can talk together because we know when I mention poets and so on who they are. But in another generation this sort of conversation may be impossible because everyone will have an enormously wide but shallow background of experience that overlaps by only a few per cent."

I don't quite agree with him on that. As a person who adopted Sri Lanka, a developing, non-western country, as his home, he certainly wouldn't be expecting everyone to be familiar with only the Western culture. If anything, the Internet may be helping people to be more familiar with all the other cultures on earth. And along those lines, the Internet, by connecting people with overlapping experiences and interests who would otherwise never have a chance to interact with each other, may be creating virtual cultures where the backgrounds of experience of the participants may be overlapping almost completely.

Besides, most people worldwide have had shallow backgrounds of experience—whatever that means—since times immemorial anyway. And that's not going to change.

1 comment:

Dave Coulter said...

I'd also add that the internet was a tool that was quite helpful in directing aid to Sri Lankan tsunami victims. I admire Arthur Clarke - he's an amazing man. Only time will tell what the internet will become to mankind. Like food, you can either eat well or eat junk food...it's all on the menu!

(By the way, I found your blog via Bug Girl...looks pretty cool!)