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arthur c. clarke Quotes

Arthur C. Clarke Quotes

Birth Date: 1917-12-16 (Sunday, December 16th, 1917)
Date of Death: 2008-03-19 (Wednesday, March 19th, 2008)



    • I can never look now at the Milky Way without wondering from which of those banked clouds of stars the emissaries are coming. If you will pardon so commonplace a simile, we have set off the fire alarm and have nothing to do but to wait. I do not think we will have to wait for long
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • We stand now at the turning point between two eras. Behind us is a past to which we can never return ... The coming of the rocket brought to an end a million years of isolation ... the childhood of our race was over and history as we know it began.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • They will have time enough, in those endless aeons, to attempt all things, and to gather all knowledge ... no Gods imagined by our minds have ever possessed the powers they will command ... But for all that, they may envy us, basking in the bright afterglow of Creation; for we knew the Universe when it was young.
    • Yet now, as he roared across the night sky toward and unknown destiny, he found himself facing that bleak and ultimate question which so few men can answer to their satisfaction. What have I done with my life, he asked himself, that the world will be poorer if I leave it.
    • Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal.
    • 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.
    • Behind every man now alive stand 30 ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.
    • One of the biggest roles of science fiction is to prepare people to accept the future without pain and to encourage a flexibility of mind. Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories. Two-thirds of 2001 is realistic - hardware and technology - to establish background for the metaphysical, philosophical, and religious meanings later.
    • Perhaps our role on this planet is not to worship God - but to create Him.
    • The Ramans do everything in threes.
    • 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.
    • All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landings there.
    • I wanted to kill myself. I would have done it, too, if I had owned a gun. I was considering the gruesome alternatives - pills, slitting my wrists with a razor blade, jumping off a bridge - when another student called to ask me a detailed question on relativity. There was no way, after fifteen minutes of thinking about Mr. Einstein, that suicide was still a viable option. Divorce, certainly. Celibacy, highly likely. But death was out of the question. I could never have prematurely terminated my love affair with physics.
    • Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be!
    • 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.
    • Reading computer manuals without the hardware is as frustrating as reading sex manuals without the software.
    • The fact that we have not yet found the slightest evidence for life - much less intelligence - beyond this Earth does not surprise or disappoint me in the least. Our technology must still be laughably primitive, we may be like jungle savages listening for the throbbing of tom-toms while the ether around them carries more words per second than they could utter in a lifetime.
    • The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.
    • 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.
    • The dinosaurs disappeared because they could not adapt to their changing environment. We shall disappear if we cannot adapt to an environment that now contains spaceships, computers - and thermonuclear weapons.
    • It is later than you think. May it not be true for this Sundial.
    • I'm sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It's just been too intelligent to come here.
    • Finally, I would like to assure my many Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim friends that I am sincerely happy that the religion which Chance has given you has contributed to your peace of mind (and often, as Western medical science now reluctantly admits, to your physical well-being). Perhaps it is better to be un-sane and happy, than sane and un-happy. But it is the best of all to be sane and happy. Whether our descendants can achieve that goal will be the greatest challenge of the future. Indeed, it may well decide whether we have any future.
    • There is the possibility that humankind can outgrown its infantile tendencies, as I suggested in Childhood's End. But 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? I mean, that's insane. ...Though I sometimes call myself a crypto-Buddhist, Buddhism is not a religion. Of those around at the moment, Islam is the only one that has any appeal to me. But, of course, Islam has been tainted by other influences. The Muslims are behaving like Christians, I'm afraid.
    • Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.
    • It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.
    • The intelligent minority of this world will mark 1 January 2001 as the real beginning of the 21st century and the Third Millennium.
    • We should be less concerned about adding years to life, and more about adding life to years. I have been very fortunate to have witnessed some of humanity's greatest achievements during the 20th century that is nearing its end. Yet we must admit that it has also been the most savage century in the history of our kind. If I can have one more wish, I want to see lasting and meaningful peace achieved in Sri Lanka as early as possible. But I am aware that peace cannot just be wished; it involves hard work, courage and persistence. As we welcome 2001, let us harness our collective energies to create a culture of peace and a land of prosperity.
    • The danger of asteroid or comet impact is one of the best reasons for getting into space : I'm very fond of quoting my friend Larry Niven: 'The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don't have a space program, it'll serve us right!'
    • I've been saying for a long time that I'm hoping to find intelligent life in Washington ... I'm reasonably sure there must be life in this solar system, on Mars or on Europa, and other places. I think life is probably going to be ubiquitous, though we still don't have any proof of that yet - and still less, any proof of intelligent life anywhere. But I hope that will be coming in the next decade or so through radio astronomy or, perhaps, the discovery of objects in space which are obviously artificial. Astronomical engineering - that may be the other thing to look for.
    • I don't pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about..
    • The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information - in the sense of raw data - is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.
    • There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum.
    • The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.
    • SETI is probably the most important quest of our time, and it amazes me that governments and corporations are not supporting it sufficiently.
    • I don't believe in God but I'm very interested in her.
    • 2001 was written in an age which now lies beyond one of the great divides in human history; we are sundered from it forever by the moment when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out on to the Sea of Tranquility. Now history and fiction have become inexorably intertwined.
    • Clarke's First Law: 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.
    • Clarke's Second Law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
    • Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    • Clarke's Law of Revolutionary Ideas: Every revolutionary idea - in science, politics, art, or whatever - seems to evoke three stages of reaction. They may be summed up by the phrases: (1) 'It's completely impossible - don't waste my time'; (2) 'It's possible, but it's not worth doing'; (3) 'I said it was a good idea all along.'
    • As quoted in Seeds of Peace : A Catalogue of Quotations (1986) by Jeanne Larson, Madge Micheels-Cyrus, p. 244
    • Our age is in many ways unique, full of events and phenomena that never occurred before and can never happen again. They distort our thinking, making us believe that what is true now will be true forever, though perhaps on a larger scale. Because we have annihilated distance on this planet, we imagine that we can do it once again. The facts are otherwise, and we see them more clearly if we forget the present and turn our minds towards the past.
    • When the pioneers and adventurers of our past left their homes in search of new lands, they said good-bye forever to the place of their birth and the companions of their youth. Only a lifetime ago, parents waved farewell to their emigrating children in the virtual certainty that they would never meet again. And now, within one incredible generation, all this has changed.
    • We have abolished space here on the little Earth; we can never abolish the space that yawns between the stars. Once again, as in the days when Homer sang, we are face-to-face with immensity and must accept its grandeur and terror, its inspiring possibilities and its dreadful restraints.
    • To obtain a mental picture of the distance to the nearest star, compared to the nearest planet, you must imagine a world in which the closest object to you is only five feet away - and there is nothing else to see until you have travelled a thousand miles.
    • Space can be mapped and crossed and occupied without definable limit; but it can never be conquered. When our race has reached its ultimate achievements, and the stars themselves are scattered no more widely than the seed of Adam, even then we shall still be like ants crawling on the face of the Earth. The ants have covered the world, but have they conquered it - for what do their countless colonies know of it, or of each other? So it will be with us as we spread out from Earth, loosening the bonds of kinship and understanding, hearing faint and belated rumors at second - or third - or thousandth hand of an ever dwindling fraction of the entire human race. Though the Earth will try to keep in touch with her children, in the end all the efforts of her archivists and historians will be defeated by time and distance, and the sheer bulk of material. For the numbers of distinct human societies or nations, when our race is twice its present age, may be far greater than the total number of all the men who have ever lived up to the present time. We have left the realm of comprehension in our vain effort to grasp the scale of the universe; so it must ever be, sooner rather than later.
    • When you are next out of doors on a summer night, turn your head towards the zenith. Almost vertically above you will be shining the brightest star of the northern skies - Vega of the Lyre, twenty-six years away at the speed of light, near enough to the point of no return for us short-lived creatures. Past this blue-white beacon, fifty times as brilliant as our sun, we may send our minds and bodies, but never our hearts. For no man will ever turn homewards beyond Vega, to greet again those he knew and loved on Earth.
    • 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.
    • We cannot predict the new forces, powers, and discoveries that will be disclosed to us when we reach the other planets and set up new laboratories in space. They are as much beyond our vision today as fire or electricity would be beyond the imagination of a fish.
    • The rash assertion that 'God made man in His own image' is ticking like a time bomb at the foundation of many faiths, and as the hierarchy of the universe is disclosed to us, we may have to recognize this chilling truth: if there are any gods whose chief concern is man, they cannot be very important gods.
    • As I approach my 90th birthday, my friends are asking how it feels like, to have completed 90 orbits around the Sun. Well, I actually don't feel a day older than 89!
    • I now spend a good part of my day dreaming of times past, present and future. As I try to survive on 15 hours sleep a day, I have plenty of time to enjoy vivid dreams. Being completely wheel-chaired doesn't stop my mind from roaming the universe - on the contrary!
    • In my time I've been very fortunate to see many of my dreams come true! Growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, I never expected to see so much happen in the span of a few decades. We 'space cadets' of the British Interplanetary Society spent all our spare time discussing space travel - but we didn't imagine that it lay in our own near future: I still can't quite believe that we've just marked the 50th anniversary of the Space Age! We've accomplished a great deal in that time, but the 'Golden Age of Space' is only just beginning. Over the next 50 years, thousands of people will travel to Earth orbit - and then, to the Moon and beyond. Space travel - and space tourism - will one day become almost as commonplace as flying to exotic destinations on our own planet.
    • Communication technologies are necessary, but not sufficient, for us humans to get along with each other. This is why we still have many disputes and conflicts in the world. Technology tools help us to gather and disseminate information, but we also need qualities like tolerance and compassion to achieve greater understanding between peoples and nations. I have great faith in optimism as a guiding principle, if only because it offers us the opportunity of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. So I hope we've learnt something from the most barbaric century in history - the 20th. I would like to see us overcome our tribal divisions and begin to think and act as if we were one family. That would be real globalisation:
    • If I may be allowed just three wishes, they would be these. Firstly, I would like to see some evidence of extra-terrestrial life. I have always believed that we are not alone in the universe. But we are still waiting for ETs to call us - or give us some kind of a sign. We have no way of guessing when this might happen - I hope sooner rather than later! Secondly, I would like to see us kick our current addiction to oil, and adopt clean energy sources. ... Climate change has now added a new sense of urgency. Our civilisation depends on energy, but we can't allow oil and coal to slowly bake our planet: The third wish is one closer to home. I've been living in Sri Lanka for 50 years - and half that time, I've been a sad witness to the bitter conflict that divides my adopted country. I dearly wish to see lasting peace established in Sri Lanka as soon as possible.
    • I'm sometimes asked how I would like to be remembered. I've had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter and science populariser. Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer - one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well.
    • I don't believe in astrology; I'm a Sagittarian and we're sceptical.
    • My favourite definition of 'Intellectual' is: 'A person whose education surpasses their intelligence.'
    • The intelligence of the planet is constant, and the population is growing.
    • We should always be prepared for future technologies, because otherwise they will come along and clobber us.
    • Our lifetime may be the last that will be lived out in a technological society.
    • One of the English science-fiction writers once said, 'Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case the idea is quite staggering.' ... I must say I agree with him.
    • In 'Credo,' an essay published in 1991, Clarke lays out a belief system by distinguishing between two views of God: Alpha, who 'rewards good and evil in some vaguely described afterlife,' and Omega, 'Creator of Everything ... a much more interesting character and not so easily dismissed.' Clarke writes, 'No intelligent person can contemplate the night sky without a sense of awe. The mind-boggling vista of exploding supernovae and hurtling galaxies does seem to require a certain amount of explaining.'
    • When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion - the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right.
    • When an official declares something false, chances are that it is. When he or she says it is absolutely false, chances are it is true. ... The overemphasis sticks out like Pinocchio's nose.
    • Clarke's Third Law doesn't work in reverse. Given that 'any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,' it does not follow that 'any magical claim that anybody may make at any time is indistinguishable from a technological advance that well come some time in the future.' ... There have admittedly been occasions when authoritative, pontificating skeptics have come away with egg on their faces, even within their own lifetimes. But there have been a far greater number of occasions when magical claims have never been vindicated. An apparent magical claim might eventually turn out to be true. In any age there are so many magical claims that are, or could be, made. They can't all be true; many are mutually contradictory; and we have no reason to suppose that, simply by the act of sitting down and dreaming up a magical claim, we shall make it come true in some future technology. Some things that would surprise us today will come true in the future. But lots and lots of things that would surprise us today will not come true ever.
    • Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from doubletalk.
    • Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.
    • Any sufficiently retarded magic is indistinguishable from technology.
    • Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature.
    • Any sufficiently advanced chaos is indistinguishable from Usenet.
    • Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.
    • arthur c. clarke

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