Arthur. C. Clarke’s July 20, 2019: Life in the 21st Century
I had been passingly aware of Arthur C Clarke’s 1986 book Arthur. C. Clarke’s July 20, 2019: Life in the 21st Century for some time. This book was one of his many books in his later career where Clarke played the futurologist, pointing his audiences towards the possibilities of the future. It was only when I saw this winter a copy in near-mint condition in The Junction’s Pandemonium that I took particular note: The date of the title was closing. Surely it merited some exploration. Sadly, when I popped into Pandemonium I was told that someone had bought that copy just a few minutes before my arrival. Off to Amazon I went.
The significance of the title July 20, 2019 comes of course from this date being the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. It does indeed begin with an imagined address to the reader by the Arthur C. Clarke of 2019 himself, a resident of Clavius City, a base in the Moon’s Clavius Crater home to a only a thousand people. From that lofty perspective, Clarke sets out from this lofty perspective the framework for these great changes in humanity. The subsequent chapters, written with a wide variety of collaborators, go on to look at different areas of the human future: education, health, robotics, space and transportation, sex and work, crime and war, all get explored in turn.
The one overriding theme that July 20, 2019 gets perfectly right is the extent to which what we in actual 2019 would call is transformative. The new generation of computers and associated technologies that were only beginning to emerge in 1986, capable not only of collecting vast amounts of data but of drawing meaningful conclusions from these, would make many things possible. It would become possible, for instance, for modern medicine to provide finely tailored recommendations as to what patients should do to enjoy the best possible health, to finally make psychiatry a science wit effective interventions to deal with the ills of the human mind.
It would allow people to become life-long students, to continue to expand their skills and to learn more about the world.