Clarke's three laws

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Clarke's Three Laws are three "laws" of prediction formulated by the British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. They are:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that ... something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Origins[edit]

Clarke's First Law was proposed by Arthur C. Clarke in the essay "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination", in Profiles of the Future (1962).[1]

The second law is offered as a simple observation in the same essay. Its status as Clarke's Second Law was conferred by others. In a 1973 revision of Profiles of the Future, Clarke acknowledged the Second Law and proposed the Third. "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, and appears in Clarke's 1973 revision of "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination". It echos a statement in a 1942 story by Leigh Brackett: "Witchcraft to the ignorant, ... simple science to the learned".[2] Even earlier examples of this sentiment may be found in Wild Talents (1932) by the author Charles Fort, where he makes the statement: "...a performance that may some day be considered understandable, but that, in these primitive times, so transcends what is said to be the known that it is what I mean by magic."

A fourth law has been added to the canon, despite Sir Arthur Clarke's declared intention of not going one better than Sir Isaac Newton. Geoff Holder quotes: "For every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert" in his book 101 Things to Do with a Stone Circle (The History Press, 2009), and offers as his source Arthur C. Clarke's Profiles of the Future (new edition, 1999).

Snowclones and variations of the third law[edit]

There exist a number of snowclones and variations of the third law

  • Any sufficiently advanced act of benevolence is indistinguishable from malevolence.[3] (referring to artificial intelligence)
  • Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. (Grey's law)[citation needed]
  • Any sufficiently advanced troll is indistinguishable from a genuine kook. (Poe's law)
  • Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.[4]

and its contrapositive:

  • Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced. (Gehm's corollary)[citation needed]

The third law can be reversed in fictional universes involving magic:

  • Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science![5][6]

The law can also be used to show similarities in contrasting instances, and vice versa (where 'ignorant' is unlearned, and 'stupid' is inability to learn):

  • "Any sufficiently ignorant person is indistinguishable from stupid."[7]

The law can also refer to the lost advances of the past, unexplained archaeology and reconstructions of folk mysticism :

  • "Any sufficiently ancient recovered wisdom or artifact is also indistinguishable from magic"[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "'Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination'" in the collection Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible (1962, rev. 1973), pp. 14, 21, 36.
  2. ^ "The Sorcerer of Rhiannon", Astounding February 1942, p. 39.
  3. ^ Rubin, Charles T. (5 November 2008). "What is the Good of Transhumanism?". In Chadwick, Ruth; Gordijn, Bert. Medical Enhancement and Posthumanity. Springer. p. 149. ISBN 9789048180059. Archived from the original on 16 October 2014. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
    Rubin is referring to an earlier work of his:
    Rubin, Charles T. (1996). "First contact: Copernican moment or nine day’s wonder?". In Kingsley, Stuart A.; Lemarchand, Guillermo A. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) in the Optical Spectrum II: 31 January-1 February 1996, San Jose, California, Band 2704. Proceedings of SPIE - the International Society for Optical Engineering. Bellingham, WA: SPIE—The International Society for Optical Engineering. pp. 161–184. ISBN 9780819420787. 
  4. ^ http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/3418.html
  5. ^ http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20081205
  6. ^ http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SufficientlyAnalyzedMagic
  7. ^ http://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/2dsqij/report_armed_men_attack_liberia_ebola_clinic/cjsty2b

External links[edit]