Hal 9000, the creepy supercomputer from the book and movie "2001: A Space Odyssey", was Arthur C. Clarke's most famous fictional character and most recognizable icon from his long body of work. But there was so much more to Clarke, who died this week at the age of 90 at his home in Sri Lanka.
Clarke had been the king of sci-fi for decades, but his greatest contributions were his often dead-on visions of the future and his humanity. It starts out slow, but the video of Clarke reflecting on his life last December on his 90th birthday is worth watching.
Clarke predicted satellite communications 25 years before it became reality. Getting back to 2001, which actually debuted in theaters back in the 60's, Hal was artificial intelligence capable of face and speech recognition; and also murder. (Thankfully, computers haven't come that far yet). But Hal is looking less and less like science fiction, isn't he?
Just as Jules Verne wrote of submarine adventures before such vessels were invented, Clarke's visions and fantastical yarns inspired generations of scientists to literally reach for the stars. Here on earth, we have benefited from the technology created in its wake.
I don't believe we credit visionaries like Clarke enough today. But, I'm happy to report they are all around us. Just look at how the Internet has changed our world in a little over a decade. Literally half of the world's population now has a cell phone. My first car had an eight track tape player that couldn't get through "Stairway to Heaven" without making that ka-chunk sound between tracks. Now iPods can hold up to 40,000 songs. This is more than innovation and savvy business (although it's that too). Every one of these examples began with a vision; an incredible burst of human imagination.
Clearly, we are still a world full of dreamers and we are all the better for it.