“The problem with reincarnation is that it’s hard to imagine what the storage medium for past lives would be. Not to mention the input-output device. I hesitate to rule it out completely, but I’d need pretty definite proof.”
–Arthur C. Clarke, 1999
Clarke is testing that input-output device right now, if there’s any justice in the afterworld. He died in Sri Lanka today (or tomorrow, fittingly, in the western hemisphere) at age 90. He had lived on the island since 1956.
Clarke was one of those multi-talented guys: He helped develop radar in World War II, thought up geosynchronous satellites, then settled down and wrote 100 books of fiction and non-fiction. He was knighted in 1998.
Most famously he collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on the classic sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey, based on Clarke’s 1951 short story The Sentinel. The film was released in 1968, one year before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. It also introduced one of filmdom’s great creepy villains, the supercomputer Hal 9000.
Clarke was a freethinker and an optimist. The quote above came from an interview with Free Inquiry magazine, in which he also was asked, “Have you been disappointed by the lack of progress in the space program since the 1960s?” Clarke’s reply:
“Good heavens no! I’ve seen far more than I ever imagined would happen. I mean, I never dreamed we would have explored the solar system as we have. It’s the most exciting time… I’ve got this beautiful panoramic three-dimensional painting of Mars based on Martian photos. It’s 30 feet wide. You can pick out every pebble on the Martian landscape. And who’d have dreamed you could do that?”