July 20, 2019 - CHAPTER 1 - Introduction
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Author:  KindaSkolarly [ Fri Jul 26, 2019 10:50 pm ]
Post subject:  July 20, 2019 - CHAPTER 1 - Introduction

The book's introduction is made up of two parts: a two-page preface and then the "Letter from Clavius." The preface offers a quote that says, "There are two futures," so off the bat Clarke was admitting that his book is a crapshoot.

The "Letter from Clavius" has Clarke himself writing in the year 2019, 102 years after his birth. He's made it to the moon, where the reduced gravity is a lot easier on his old frame. He's watching the 50th Anniversary celebration of the first lunar landing, and he laments that it took a generation to return to the moon after the Apollo missions. He likens the gap in activity to that which followed Amundsen reaching the South Pole. That was in 1911, and it was decades before the Antarctic was populated by scientists.

In a couple of places Clarke quotes from his first novel, Prelude to Space. I hope he tosses in bits from his prior works throughout this book. I've always liked his writing.

A couple of times in the introduction he's interrupted by "Hal" and told to stay on topic. HAL was the computer in Kubrick/Clarke's movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Apparently the computer is a writing aid that's monitoring Clarke in the introduction.

The chapter ends with a quote from a resolution that Ronald Reagan signed in 1984. In the resolution, the US pledged to work cooperatively with the Soviet Union on space exploration.

Yes, the book will be dated but, to me, that will be part of the enjoyment.

Author:  LanDroid [ Sat Jul 27, 2019 5:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: July 20, 2019 - CHAPTER 1 - Introduction

I was about to set up Chapter 1 and you beat me to it. I must say well done - much better than I would have summarized it. Feel free to lead this discussion as much as you want. :-D

At first I had two problems with this chapter, but resolved both. The first is the subtitle "Letter from a Lunar Inhabitant." I thought oh no, Clarke is gonna be waaaay off on all these predictions and this book is going to be ridiculous. Then I noticed this comment on his previous book Profiles of the Future.
And to my displeasure, I've just noticed that the cover of the revised 1984 edition refers to Profiles as "prophetic," which is just what it isn't. As the subtitle carefully explained, it's "An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible." And that's all that any book on the future - including this one - can ever hope to be.

OK so we should probably try to keep this in mind: Clarke is not attempting to predict the future with great accuracy, he is pointing out what could be accomplished if we really set our minds and resources to it.

The second thing that bothered me was the rambling and disorganized nature of some of the writing, totally unlike anything else Clarke has written. Then as KS references about "Hal," I realized this confusion was deliberate - Clarke demonstrates how artificial intelligence that is aware of all you have written and understands what you are writing in context might assist in the writing process.
I'll be only 102 in 2019, which by then will be no unusual age.

Ooops. Well Clarke did make it to 90. We are still a long ways off from when it will not be unusual to live beyond 102.

Question: When will we know that man has "really conquered space?"

Author:  KindaSkolarly [ Sat Jul 27, 2019 7:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: July 20, 2019 - CHAPTER 1 - Introduction

I think the phrase "conquer space" may have been contrived by a PR firm to generate team spirit, to give us a goal to work toward. But space is infinite, so good luck with conquering it. Still though, the expansion that Clarke describes in the introduction seems pretty modest. He may have split the difference between what he thought what was possible and what was probable. I expect he died disillusioned; aside from a space station we've made NO real progress in manned space exploration. We're still stuck on the global plantation, held here by overseers who don't like the idea of runaway humanity. Or so I would argue.

I'll start a thread, with a subject line modeled after this one, whenever I finish reading a chapter. I'll be able to do 1-2 per week. Or I can add my thoughts to the appropriate thread if one already exists.

Forgot to mention that my copy of the book is really well made and designed. Like a coffee table book, with lots of photos. A nice piece of work.

Author:  LanDroid [ Sat Jul 27, 2019 9:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: July 20, 2019 - CHAPTER 1 - Introduction

Question: Do you agree with Clarke that any book on the future can only be an inquiry into the limits of the possible?

Author:  KindaSkolarly [ Wed Jul 31, 2019 10:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: July 20, 2019 - CHAPTER 1 - Introduction

Well, you could write a book about an impossible future, but as you imagine it, it becomes possible.

"Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve." ― Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

Clarke was a mathematician and physicist, so he stayed within some pretty strict bounds. But he wrote wonderful stories within those bounds.

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