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Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible [Hardcover]

Arthur C. Clarke
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Nov 1982

This book originally appeared in 1962, and was based on essays written during the period 1959 ¿ 1961. Since it was concerned with ultimate possibilities, and not with achievements to be expected in the near future, even the remarkable events of the last decade have dated it very little. But Arthur Clarke has now gone over the book making corrections and comments where necessary in order to bring it right up-to-date.

The author, amongst many fascinating excursions into what the future may hold, discusses the fourth dimensional and the obsolescence of the law of gravity, the exploration of the entire solar system and the colonisation of some of it; seas will mined for energy and minerals, and asteroids will be pulled to Earth to supply needed materials; men, already bigger than they need be, may be bred smaller to be more efficient on less food.

Arthur Clarke writes with a light, deft touch, realising that almost anything is possible in this improbable world we live in.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; 2nd Revised edition edition (1 Nov 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575032103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575032101
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 14.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,882,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Somerset in 1917, Arthur C. Clarke has written over sixty books, among which are the science fiction classics 2001: A Space Odyssey, Childhood's End, The City and the Stars and Rendezvous With Rama. He has won all the most prestigious science fiction trophies, and shared an Oscar nomination with Stanley Kubrick for the screenplay of the film of 2001. He was knighted in 1998. He died in 2008 at his home in Sri Lanka.

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Amazon Review

Arthur C Clarke says this is his most important non-fiction, noting it is impossible to predict the future and all attempts to do so in any detail appear ludicrous within a very few years. This book does not try to describe the future, but to define the boundaries within which possible futures must lie. Extensively revised in 1999 from the original 1962 edition, ideas here also found their way also into 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Fountains of Paradise. Often Clarke leaves the original text then comments on how knowledge has grown over 37 years, making for a fascinating reflection on the rapidity of our changing futures. He explores the range of science and technology, defining the inability to envision how the future might be in terms of failures of either nerve or imagination... refusal to accept the implications of science as it already is, or to see how it might one day be. He then systematically, in accessible, non-technical language, sets out what may be theoretically possible--manufacturing and medicine to transport and communications--within the laws of physics. And following Clarke's Second Law

The only way of finding the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.

states the cases for and against the most fantastical science fiction, including time travel, invisibility and matter transmission. Essential for layman, scientist and science-fiction reader alike. --Gary S. Dalkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A new revision of this fascinating collection of essays speculating on future technological and scientific possibilities by the master of science and science fiction. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
In this book Arthur C. Clarke considers the future development of human technology, focusing on the ultimate limits of what is possible rather than on what the near future is likely to bring. Originally published in 1962, Clarke has added comments where developments have substantially modified his earlier views. He addresses a wide range of questions: transport, colonising space, novel sources of energy, artificial intelligence, a universal machine that can produce any specified artefact, as well as more fanciful possibilities such as time-travel, teleportation, and invisibility. He suggests we should be slow to pronounce anything "impossible" as the technology of the future may be as hard for us to imagine as ours would have been for people of earlier ages. (He also quotes a number of "authorities" who denied the possibility of heavier than air flight or the rocket shortly before they became realities!) Sadly, my enjoyment of this book was somewhat spoiled by Clarke's style which is inclined to be rather laboured and pompous. A pity, as this is otherwise a first rate read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is the second edition of Clarke's meditation on the likely consequences of the potential and probable scientific and technological breakthroughs during the course of the 20th and 21st centuries. The study is predicated on a key insight: the fact that certain scientific and technological breakthroughs could never have been predicted by earlier thinkers. Whereas the internal combustion engine would have been comprehensible to Galileo or the ancient Greeks, the simplest electronic device operates on principles that were completely unknown to such classical thinkers. For Clarke, the science of Maxwell, Einstein and Heisenberg has enabled us to understand of the fundamental forces that govern the universe, and as a result the anything that is scientifically possible, will become technologically possible for human civilisation in just a few generations.

Some of the ideas contained in the survey that follows look quaint and even embarrassing to the reader in the early 21st century. Particularly cringe worthy is the chapter almost totally dedicated to the hovercraft and the revolutionary implications that it will have. Clarke seems to fall for a pitfall of many futurists: just because a technologcal innovation becomes possible it does not follow that it will see widespread adoption, as it may not fit into any social or economic niche (the videophone exists, but doesn't fit human needs well enough for general adoption). In other areas Clarke is insightful and prescient. His vision of a human-colonised galaxy as a scattering of isolated ant hives is both chilling and inspiring. In particular, his thoughts on satellite communications were visionary for his time - Clarke invented the concept of the geo-stationary satellite some years earlier.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't take it too seriously. 30 July 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are looking for a book with scientific facts, I don't think you will find much to your liking. But if you are interested in human imagination (more or less based upon facts), this might be something for you.

Arthur C.Clarke is an English scientist and Science-Fiction writer. 'Profiles of The Future' was first published in 1962. There are nineteen chapters each with a different subject. Arthur C.Clarke calls it 'An inquiry into the limits of the possible.'

One of the chapters is the future of transport. In the future cargo will be stowed in some kind of a submersible container. They could be linked together as the wagons of a train and pulled by a submarine. The idea is that ships are too heavy and loose too much time and energy during a storm. Up until now I'm wondering whether A.C.Clarke is joking or not.
In the chapter 'The Obsolescence of Man' he discusses the future of the Homo Sapiens. Much of this chapter is used for the film '2001: A Space Odyssey'.

At the end of the book there is a 'Chart of the Future'. It's a list of discoveries in the future as far as 2100. (Remember that 'Profiles of the Future' was first published in 1962). To name a few: in 2000, colonising planets (The optimism of the sixties !).In 21OO, immortality (!?).

As you can see, don't take this book too seriously. But it's a engrossing read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
In this book Arthur C. Clarke considers the future development of human technology, focusing on the ultimate limits of what is possible rather than on what the near future is likely to bring. Originally published in 1962, Clarke has added comments where developments have substantially modified his earlier views. He addresses a wide range of questions: transport, colonising space, novel sources of energy, artificial intelligence, a universal machine that can produce any specified artefact, as well as more fanciful possibilities such as time-travel, teleportation, and invisibility. He suggests we should be slow to pronounce anything "impossible" as the technology of the future may be as hard for us to imagine as ours would have been for people of earlier ages. (He also quotes a number of "authorities" who denied the possibility of heavier than air flight or the rocket shortly before they became realities!) Sadly, my enjoyment of this book was somewhat spoiled by Clarke's style which is inclined to be rather laboured and pompous. A pity, as this is otherwise a first rate read.
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