The death of Arthur C. Clark requires a response.

Arthur C. Clarke envisioned a transcendent possibility for humanity.  As exemplified in the classic science fiction film (with Stanley Kubrick), 2001:  A Space Odyssey, our technological advances are leading us toward contact with non-terrestrial entities of superior intelligence that will produce an evolutionary breakthrough which will accelerate us into a sort of black hole of being, a singularity which some seem to associate with a future that has no need for humanity, but which Clarke presented with greater ambiguity as a presence entailing neither body nor place.  Clarke’s astronaut returns to his home planet in a bubble reborn as a child and seeing with new eyes. 

Clarke worked with a number of central themes, such as telepathy and telekinesis becoming everyday human competences, but his imagination was boundless, and in this way his life has extraordinary relevance to the work of anticipatory leaders.  Anticipatory leaders weave a tremendous sense of the future’s myriad possibilities together with a strategy for action and a deep empathy for the needs and the pain of the human condition. 

As a visionary strategist, Clarke had few peers.  His crystalization of the idea of geostationary orbits created the possibility of cell phones.  Beginning in 1958, he established a set of predictions about the future, including his expectation of that a “global library” would be created in 2005, the  year that Google and Harvard Widener Library began a collaboration to bring all out-of-copyright works to the web. Yet to be realized, but very enticing is his notion of a “space elevator,” explored in Rendezvous with Rama, where a 30 mile long version of an O’Neill cylinder jettisons a craft into orbit without the expense entails in space launches. 

But, with all of his concentration on the wondrous possibilities of high technology, Clark demonstrated a profound humanity in his fight to save our cousins, the low land gorillas, which won him the UNESCO Kalinga Prize in 1962.  This sort of unique combination of a thirst for the future coincident with a compassion for those in pain in the present defines the distinctive character of the anticipatory leader.

Clarke combined mind with tech.  In Childhood’s End, he postulated the emergence of an interstellar hive mind that simultaneously promotes a golden era of existence combines with constraints on individual creativity.  In The Cities and the Stars and Against the Fall of Night, he presents a being of pure intellect, which seems to be the vision of many who are dissatisfied with the imperfections of corporality.  This is a man who must have known the compelling nature of desire.        

In Profiles of the Future Clarke explored and predicted a number of technological developments and constraints related to space transport, colonising space, novel sources of energy, artificial intelligence, a universal machine that can produce any specified artifact, as well as time-travel, teleportation, and invisibility.  He presented three laws that are worthy of consideration by anyone who thinks of himself as a futuristic leader:

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

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

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Clarke drew his inspiration for the notion of transcendence through evolution from the work of Olaf Stapledon, whose books, Last and First Men and Star Maker, present the notion of a supermind, a hive mind composed of many individual consciousnesses.  Clarke was an adamant atheist, who abjured the presentation of any religious symbolism with his death.  However, perhaps a true concentration of mind provides a reconciliation of  religion and atheism.  

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