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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Saturday self-promotion - "Technological Meliorism and the Posthuman Vision: Arthur C. Clarke on the Ultimate Future of Intelligence"

This article, on the work of Arthur C. Clarke, was first published in the New York Review of Science Fiction back in 2001. At one level, that seems like a lifetime ago, but I'm sufficiently proud of the piece to put it back into circulation - hey, and for free! - for any who might be interested.

Clarke was undoubtedly one of the great classic practitioners of what we could call "professional science fiction". That is, his work is part of the classical canon of science fiction written for a specific SF market. In that respect, contrast work that was regarded as "science fiction" retrospectively (such as that of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells) and/or work that meets various plausible formal criteria of science fiction, but is related only tenuously to the field when considered from a more sociological perspective. Obviously, there are plenty of complexities and grey areas once we make these distinctions, but at any rate there's no doubt that Clarke's novels and stories are central to the SF field as it evolved during the middle decades of the twentieth century.

In "Technological Meliorism and the Posthuman Vision", I try to analyse Clarke's picture (in his SF and some of his non-fiction writing, specifically Profiles of the Future) of the possible future of mentality. I'm also interested in how this fits into what I take to be Clarke's overall science-based worldview, which is more or less the worldview that dominated SF through most of last century (and to a large extent still does, at least if we concentrate on prose fiction). Is there a consistent picture here, recognisable across Clarke's work? Well yes, to a considerable extent I think there is.

That's what the article is about. If you have access to it, have not already read it (e.g. when it was first published), and have an interest in Clarke (or in SF, or in ideas about the human future), do have a look!

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