Monday, March 24, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke Dead at 90

Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer, technology visionary and Business Resiliency Futurist died last week in Sri Lanka. Sir Arthur C. Clark was 90 and the last surviving member of the “Big Three” science fiction writers (along with Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov).

During his lifetime, he authored over 100 books and thousands of technical papers, was nominated for a Nobel Prize and predicted the existence of artificial satellites in geosynchronous orbit – Also known as the “Clarke Orbit” – and that man would land on the moon by 1970.

It was in 1945 when “Wireless World”, a UK periodical, published Clarke’s technical paper "Extra-terrestrial Relays" in which he first set out the principles of satellite communication with satellites in geostationary orbits – an idea that was finally implemented 25 years later. He was paid £15 for the article.

Having grown up with Clarkes works, I cannot say that I have a favorite. I believe that his most popular works were those books of the 2001 series. beginning with 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968.

Interestingly enough, though, I am partial to the Rendezvous with Rama series, the first book of which was published in 1972. The following is copied from the Wikipedia:

“Rendezvous with Rama is a novel by Arthur C. Clarke first published in 1972. Set in the 22nd century, the story involves a thirty-mile-long cylindrical alien starship that passes through Earth's solar system. The story is told from the point of view of a group of human explorers, who intercept the ship in an attempt to unlock its mysteries.
This novel won both the Hugo and Nebula awards upon its release, and is widely regarded as one of the cornerstones in Clarke's bibliography. It is considered a science fiction classic, and is particularly seen as a key hard science fiction text.”

In this book, the strongest underlying philosophy is the basic resilience of the alien starship. Not only are all systems replicated and completely redundant, but these systems and processes are all implemented in groups of threes. In fact, it is eventually discovered that critical systems are designed utilizing three complete sets of threes.

Just as Arthur C Clarke illustrated 36 years ago, three can be a very significant number in the information technology field today. Not only should you have (at a minimum) three copies of your data: The local copy, the onsite backup and an offsite backup, but certain advanced replication techniques also utilize a minimum of three copies. These would be the local data, the local synchronous copy and the remote (asynchronous) copy. And just like the Ramans, there should be additional copies of mission critical data.

Many lessons can be taken from the Rama books and other of Sir Clarke’s writings and applied to help strengthen Business Resilience and Business Continuity principles today.

But for now, a friend is gone.

On his 90th birthday last December, he listed three wishes for the world: To embrace cleaner energy resources, for a lasting peace in his homeland of Sri Lanka, and for evidence of extraterrestrial beings.

"Sometimes I am asked how I would like to be remembered," Clarke said. "I have had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer and space promoter. Of all these I would like to be remembered as a writer."

In an interview with The Associated Press, Clarke said he did not regret having never followed his novels into space, adding that he had arranged to have DNA from strands of his hair sent into orbit.

"One day, some super civilization may encounter this relic from the vanished species and I may exist in another time," he said. "Move over, Stephen King."

Until then…
Mission completed. Close the pod bay doors, Hal......

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice post, thanks.

BTW, in case you might be interested, SciFi just posted a "never-before-seen interview" with Arthur C Clark that was originally conducted in ... (oddly enough) 2001. You can see it