ARTHUR C. CLARKE'S JULY 20, 2019
LIFE IN THE 21ST CENTURY (OMNI BOOK)
The date is the 50th anniversary of the moonwalk, 17 years ago (ergo, 33 years hence). The theme is what life will be like. The coverage is pure Clarke: heavy on the high tech; light on the arts. The tone, more Brave New World and Clockwork Orange than paradise gained. Take the chapter "An Afternoon on the Couch." Patient has been vaccinated against schizophrenia, taken her pills for mood control, is cued into a Rogerian analyst. Patients in 2019 are not your crazies and depressives, but suffer "inadequate worldviews," "subclinical anomie." Neurochemical and electrical workups tell it all, cure it all. Or the one on the bedroom--more mechanized orgasms, brain implants, push-button pleasure. . .with the promise that the best sex awaits zero-gravity undulations in space. As for school, work, home life, Clarke invokes what you might expect in the way of supercomputers and laserdiscs that will respond to your voice command and place the world's learning at your fingertips. Meanwhile, lovable robots will do the drudge work, provide companionship, and allow you leisure to pursue entertainments like movies that outdo each other in special effects or sports that will be based on a new breed of brainy/steroid-built superjocks. Had enough? Wait. Clarke also supplies his versions of hospital days and death-defying regimens. The scenarios here smack of Coma with illicit dealing in organ transplants, aborted babies as source of brain cells and so on. Clarke also hypothesizes war in 2019--an affair that starts as a rebellion in East Germany and escalates. An epilogue laments the decline in the United Nations, but sees hope in further developments of one of Clarke's own favorite: projects: satellite communications. It will make earth a global family yet, he predicts. This note of optimism and a long, Clarke-at-his-best description of life in a 2019 space station (based on present experience) lift the book out of the veil of joyless hardware.