We Can Never Run Out of Energy or Matter. But We Can All Too Easily Run Out of Brains

Arthur C. Clarke? Gerard K. O’Neill? Apocryphal

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke was optimistic concerning the ability of human ingenuity to transcend current limitations. He believed that future technologies would overcome raw material shortages. The only constraint he feared was a lack of engaged human brains. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Arthur C. Clarke’s 1962 collection of essays titled “Profiles of the Future” presented bold predictions about future capabilities. For example, he suggested that “translating machines” would be available by 1970. 1 Yet, the research prototypes constructed during the 1970s were severely limited and flawed. Nevertheless, Clarke’s underlying optimism has been justified. Machine translation today is still imperfect, but it is a valuable tool that is employed by millions online every day.

Also, in 1962 Clarke described a wide variety of speculative ideas including strategies for obtaining power from the sun and raw materials from the sea and asteroids. 2 He suggested that “space mining” would be possible by 2030. 3 His forward-looking approach helps to explain his exuberance: 4

This survey should be enough to indicate—though not to prove—that there need never be any permanent shortage of raw materials.
. . .
In this inconceivably enormous universe, we can never run out of energy or matter. But we can all too easily run out of brains.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading We Can Never Run Out of Energy or Matter. But We Can All Too Easily Run Out of Brains

Notes:

  1. 1967 (First publication 1962), Profiles of the Future by Arthur C. Clarke, Section: Chart of the Future, Quote Page 233 to 235, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1967 (First publication 1962), Profiles of the Future by Arthur C. Clarke, Chapter 12: Ages of Plenty, Quote Page 141 to 155, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with scans)
  3. 1967 (First publication 1962), Profiles of the Future by Arthur C. Clarke, Section: Chart of the Future, Quote Page 233 to 235, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1967 (First publication 1962), Profiles of the Future by Arthur C. Clarke, Chapter 12: Ages of Plenty, Quote Page 155, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with scans)