“British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke formulated three adages that are known as Clarke’s three laws, of which the third law is the best known and most widely cited. They are part of his ideas in his extensive writings about the future. These so-called laws are:
- When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
- The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
One account claimed that Clarke’s ‘laws’ were developed after the editor of his works in French started numbering the author’s assertions. All three laws appear in Clarke’s essay ‘Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination’, first published in Profiles of the Future (1962). However, they were not all published at the same time. Clarke’s first law was proposed in the 1962 edition of the essay, as ‘Clarke’s Law’ in Profiles of the Future.The second law is offered as a simple observation in the same essay but its status as Clarke’s second law was conferred by others. It was initially a derivative of the first law and formally became Clarke’s second law where the author proposed the third law in the 1973 revision of Profiles of the Future, which included an acknowledgement. It was also here that Clarke wrote about the third law in these words: ‘As three laws were good enough for Newton, I have modestly decided to stop there’. The third law is the best known and most widely cited. It was published in a 1968 letter to Science magazine and eventually added to the 1973 revision of the ‘Hazards of Prophecy’ essay. …”
Guardian: Profiles of the Future by Arthur C Clarke – review