Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Power and Wealth (1984)

The late, great Sir Arthur C. Clarke wrote about hope in the 1984 introduction of his book, Profiles of the Future. Specifically, Clarke wrote of his hope for a future without concern for politics and economics. An excerpt from his introduction appears below.
I also believe - and hope - that politics and economics will cease to be as important in the future as they have been in the past; the time will come when most of our present controversies on these matters will seem as trivial, or as meaningless, as the theological debates in which the keenest minds of the Middle Ages dissipated their energies. Politics and economics are concerned with power and wealth, neither of which should be the primary, still less the exclusive, concern of full-grown men.

See also:
Negro President by Year 2000 (1965)
2008 Presidential Campaign (1908)
Lyndon B. Johnson on 2063 A.D. (1963)
Hubert H. Humphrey's Future (1967)
Hubert H. Humphrey's Year 2000 (1967)
Governor Knight and the Videophone (Oakland Tribune, 1955)
Edmund G. Brown's Californifuture (1963)
Television: Medium of the Future (1949)
Fruition of Ideals of Democracy (1923)


Chris said...

...Also from Profiles of the future, 1962 ed. comes my favorite quote ever:

"Looked at dispassionately, it is an incredible device, which no sane society would tolerate. If anyone before 1900 could have seen the approaches to a modern city on a Monday morning or a Friday evening, he might have imagined that he was in Hell - and he would not be far wrong.

Here we have a situation in which millions of vehicles, each a miracle of (often unnecessary) complication, are hurtling in all directions under the impulse of anything up to two hundred horsepower. Many of them are the size of small houses and contain a couple of tons of sophisticated alloys - yet often carry a single passenger. They can travel at 100 mph, but are lucky if they average twenty. In one lifetime they have consumed more irreplaceable fuel than has been used in the whole previous history of mankind. The roads to support them, inadequate though they are, cost as much as a small war; the analogy is a good one, for the casualties are on the same scale."

Cory Gross said...

With respect to Clarke, he seems to have gotten his wish about people ceasing to be interested in politics. Unfortunately, the politics keep going without them.

I agree that power shouldn't be a motivation, but I think we would be better off if more people took ownership in their governance.

Anonymous said...

@Chris: Weird, I didn't know Arthur Clarke had been on my city of São Paulo before! Where I spend 1 hour to drive 25km... /outside/ of the rush hours!

Really. Cars are so wrong. My city is doomed.

Mark Plus said...

Regarding futurists and politics, H.G. Wells a century ago wrote that:

I know of no case for the elective Democratic government of modern States that cannot be knocked to pieces in five minutes. It is manifest that upon countless important public issues there is no collective will, and nothing in the mind of the average man except blank indifference; that an electional system simply places power in the hands of the most skilful electioneers; that neither men nor their rights are identically equal, but vary with every individual, and, above all, that the minimum or maximum of general happiness is related only so indirectly to the public control that people will suffer great miseries from their governments unresistingly, and, on the other hand, change their rulers on account of the most trivial irritations. The case against all the prolusions of ostensible Democracy is indeed so strong that it is impossible to consider the present wide establishment of Democratic institutions as being the outcome of any process of intellectual conviction.

Wells concluded that a technocratic elite drawn from the most accomplished scientists, physicians and other high achievers would function better as a world government than a democracy.

Anonymous said...

Wells spent his last years as a volunteer air raid warden, warning his fellow Londoners against the depredations of just such a group of self-professed elite technocrats and -- indeed! -- genetic supermen.

Unknown said...

And even before Wells, Plato, in democratic Athens, suggested that society would be better off if it was ruled by Philosopher Kings, which is pretty much the same idea in an ancient Greek setting. Apparently the idea that "in the future, the problems of politics will/should be solved" is a pretty old one.

Cory Gross said...

And then you get into guys like Jerry Mander and Jacques Ellul who argue that such a technocratic state would, by necessity, be a ruthless dictatorship, since there's no other way to force "progress" on people.

But it is interesting how scientist-philosopher types think they should be in charge of everything. Military-types tend to think they should be in charge of everything too. And business people think that economists should be in charge.

. said...

Raven, notice that Wells didn't advocate a leadership comrpised just of scientists. You're correct that military leaders feel they should be in charge, and businessmen feel economists should be in charge. With Wells' model, they would be, in part. You'd have economists, military tacticians, physicists, medical experts and so on. It would draw accomplished individuals from *all* fields. Do you still feel the same way about it?

Mark Plus said...

Quoth cory the raven:

"Military-types tend to think they should be in charge of everything too. And business people think that economists should be in charge."

Actually a lof of business people would like having "military-types" in charge also. Look at all the free-market advocates in the U.S. who developed a crush on General Augusto Pinochet for way he ran Chile.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see Heinlein's Starship Troopers government tried somewhere: only honorably discharged veterans of a volunteer government service corps (which includes the military, but also CCC-type public works) could vote, because only those people had demonstrated self-sacrifice on behalf of the greater good.