Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Clarke's three laws
- 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.
Clarke's Law, later the first of the three laws, was proposed by Arthur C. Clarke in the essay "Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination", in Profiles of the Future (1962). The second law is offered as a simple observation in the same essay; its status as Clarke's Second Law was conferred on it by others. In a revised edition of Profiles of the Future (1973), Clarke acknowledged the Second Law and proposed the Third in order to round out the numbers, adding "As three laws were good enough for Newton, I have modestly decided to stop there."
Other writers have since proposed corollaries (not all of them actually corollaries, technically speaking) to Clarke's laws:
- Isaac Asimov's Corollary to Clarke's First Law: When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion — the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right. ("Asimov's Corollary", F&SF, Feb. 1977)
- Gregory Benford's Corollary to Clarke's Third Law: Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced. (Foundation's Fear, 1997)
Alternative version: Benford's Modified Clarke Law: Any technology that does not appear magical is insufficiently advanced.
- Raymond's Second Law: Any sufficiently advanced system of magic would be indistinguishable from a technology.
- Sterling's Corollary to Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced garbage is indistinguishable from magic.
- Langford's application of Clarke's Third Law to science fiction: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a completely ad-hoc plot device. ("A Gadget Too Far", New Worlds 2, 1992)
- Terry Pratchett refers to the law in his Discworld books by having wizard Ponder Stibbons state that "Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology."
- Ben Zealley's transhumanist corollary to Clarke's Third Law: If you cannot distinguish my technology from magic, you are insufficiently advanced.
- Rosenbaum's Corollary (formed in response to Harry Potter); "Any magic, sufficiently debased, is indistinguishable from technology."
- Richard Factor 's corollary to Clarke's Third Law; "Any sufficiently advanced technology [of communication] is indistinguishable from noise."
Sometimes referred to as one of Clarke's Laws is Amara's law that "We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run." which was put forth by Roy Amara of The Institute for the Future .
- The origins of the Three Laws
- Humorous corollary to Clarke's Third Law (from the web comic Freefall)
- "What's Your Law?" (lists some of the corollaries)
- "A Gadget Too Far" at Infinity Plus
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