Sir Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author best known for 2001: A Space Odyssey, described the inherent folly of predicting the future in a 1964 BBC documentary, but then went on to do exactly that – with remarkable, unnerving accuracy. He talked about how the world would be in fifty years’ time (i.e. 2014) – about how the advancement of transistors and satellites would radically alter our understanding of physical space.
“These things will make possible a world in which we can be in instant contact wherever we may be. Where we can contact our friends anywhere on earth, even if we don’t know their actual physical location. It will be possible in that age, possibly 50 years from now, for a man to conduct his business from Tahiti or Bali just as well as he could from London.” Clarke then described how medicine might change. “One day, we might have brain surgeons in Edinburgh operating on patients in New Zealand.” Long-distance virtual surgery was pioneered in 2001 when California doctors performed 17 successful long distance kidney repair operations using surgical robots and video conferencing on patients in Rome. And Clarke also predicted that at some point science would invent a “replicating device” that would create an exact copy of anything. 3D-Printing anyone?