Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke said there were three basic laws about speculating on the future.
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.
In 1903, astronomer Simon Newcomb was quoted as saying, “Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.” Two months later, Orville and Wilbur Wright flew their first airplane.
In 1956, British Astronomer Royal Richard van der Riet Woolley told Time Magazine, “[Space travel] is utter bilge. I don’t think anybody will ever put up enough money to do such a thing… What good would it do us? If we spent the same amount of money on preparing first-class astronomical equipment we would learn much more about the universe… It is all rather rot.” One year later, Sputnik launched. Five years later, the Apollo program was underway. Thirteen years later, humans landed on the moon.
In 1932, Albert Einstein announced, “There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” Over the next decade, nuclear energy was put to use by German chemists and Austrian physicists, and the first man-made reactor was created in the United States in December 1942.
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,” said Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, in 1943. As of April 2002, the world’s billionth personal computer was shipped out. Boy was he ever wrong!
Who would have thought that electricity was possible, or that every American household would have a working radio and television? The point is: we live in a world where the “impossible” is possible. All around us new technology is being invented and exciting breakthroughs are being made. Animals have been cloned! The entire human genome has been mapped! People are accessing the Internet through their cell phones! People are able to move robotic limb attachments with their minds! No matter what you do in life, success lies where imagination meets persistence.