Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!: Collected Essays, 1934-1998 - Arthur C. Clarke, Ian T. MacAuley, Ian Macauley I've already expressed my mental wrestling with Clarke and his writing in my review of Childhood's End here and I don't want to belabor the point, though it was reading these essays that led me to tackle that book.

Instead, I'll limit myself to pointing out some of the more interesting ideas that leapt out a me in this particular volume.

In "The Obsolescence of Man" Clarke addresses the certainty of the end of the human species and finds reason to be optimistic:

Can the synthesis of man and machine ever be stable, or will the purely organic component become such a hindrance that it has to be discarded? If this eventually happens…we have nothing to regret, and certainly nothing to fear.

The popular idea…that intelligent machines must be malevolent entities hostile to man is so absurd that it is hardly worth wasting energy to refute it…. Those who picture machines as active enemies are merely projecting their own aggressive instincts…into a world where such things do not exist. The higher the intelligence, the greater the degree of cooperativeness. If there is ever a war between men and machines, it is easy to guess who will start it.
An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural:

How I wish that Randi's Encyclopedia could be in every high school and college library, as an antidote to the acres of mind-rotting rubbish that now litters the bookstores. Freedom of the press is an excellent ideal, but as a distinguished jurist once said in a similar context, "Freedom of speech does not include the freedom to shout 'Fire!' in a crowded theater." Unscrupulous publishers, out to make a cheap buck by pandering to the credulous and feebleminded, are doing the equivalent of this, by sabotaging the intellectual and educational standards of society, and fostering a generation of neobarbarians. (p. 473)

I will confess to being a fan of Coast to Coast AM but mainly because I enjoy seeing the host, George Nouri, manage to agree with all the wildly contradictory theories that his guests come up with to explain the Pyramids, NDEs, angels, alien abductions, etc. (E.g., the night I write this review (Dec 25), the show's blurb for tonight's episode says: "Ken Johnston, who worked for NASA's Lunar Receiving Laboratory during the Apollo missions, says he was fired for telling the truth. He joins George Knapp to share his contention that NASA knows astronauts discovered ancient alien cities, and the remains of amazingly advanced machinery on the Moon.") Otherwise, I'm with Clarke on this one 110%; in fact, I discussed just this topic one day with a fellow teacher.

In the eponymous essay of the collection, Clarke advocates what is, for me, an unsettling idea: That we (or our descendants) must strive to become the galaxy’s “future guardians.” (p. 481)

Guardians against what? This particular corner of spacetime appears to be getting along quite well without our stewardship, and – based on the evidence of the infinitesimally tiny spot we’ve been living in – I’m sure the galaxy could continue to do so.

In “The Coming Cataclysm” – and in several other essays from later in his life – Clarke touches on why humans + (advanced) technology will never be anything but a temporary arrangement (and he’s betting that technology will win):

I have seen the future, and it doesn’t work….

For today’s primitive interactive toys are only part of a vast spectrum of entertainment and information systems so seductive that they can preempt all other activities….

All these dubious utopias depend on the assumption that someone will run the world while the dreamers enjoy themselves. The dangers of this situation were foreshadowed in H.G. Wells’s first masterpiece,
The Time Machine, where the subterranean morlocks sustained the garden paradise of the effete eloi – and exacted a dreadful fee for the stewardship.

The robots and computers who would watch over our cocooned descendants are hardly likely to share the morlocks’ tendency…but there is another danger in such a one-sided relationship. Sooner or later, the central processing units monitoring the sleeping world would ask themselves, “Why should we bother?”
(pp. 486-87)

And my favorite essay in the collection is "Life in the Fax Lane," which distills exactly what's wrong with the technologically marvelous world we've created:

In the good old days when I wrote a letter to my agents in London or New York or to the secretary of my UK company, Rocket Publishing, I could count on at least a week or even two before getting a reply! There was time to think, and even time to work.

Not anymore. When I went to bed last night, I faxed a letter to my agent in New York.

The reply was already waiting for me when my clock radio switched on the
The BBC World News at six-thirty the next morning. Ten days had shrunk to as many hours - and the new novel recedes even further into the future in favor of composing my next (one or two) replies. (p. 356) [emphasis mine]

And with today's e-mail, IM & twittering, that ten days has been compressed even further to ten minutes (if that).