The prominent science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke developed “Clarke’s laws” over time.
The ideas originally appeared in his 1962 essay, “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination” (in the collection Profiles of the Future: An Enquiry into the Limits of the Possible. They were reformulated as “laws” in the decades that follow.
The best-known of Clarke’s laws is: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Back in 2016, statistician Andrew Gelman offered some reflections and updates on Clarke’s laws on his blog. Of his updates, my favorite is: “Any sufficiently crappy research is indistinguishable from fraud.” But here are Clarke’s laws and Gelman’s updates:
Clarke’s first law: 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.
Clarke’s second law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
Clarke’s third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
My [that is, Gelman’s] updates:
1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that “You have no choice but to accept that the major conclusions of these studies are true,” don’t believe him.
2. The only way of discovering the limits of the reasonable is to venture a little way past them into the unreasonable.
3. Any sufficiently crappy research is indistinguishable from fraud.
For the literal-minded, it’s perhaps useful to note that just as Clarke was not claiming that sufficiently advanced technology is literally magic, Gelman is not claiming that sufficiently crappy research is literally fraud. In both cases, the claim is just that for an outside observer with limited knowledge, it’s impossible to tell the difference.
Timothy Taylor is an American economist. He is managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, a quarterly academic journal produced at Macalester College and published by the American Economic Association. Taylor received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Haverford College and a master's degree in economics from Stanford University. At Stanford, he was winner of the award for excellent teaching in a large class (more than 30 students) given by the Associated Students of Stanford University. At Minnesota, he was named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of Economics and voted Teacher of the Year by the master's degree students at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Taylor has been a guest speaker for groups of teachers of high school economics, visiting diplomats from eastern Europe, talk-radio shows, and community groups. From 1989 to 1997, Professor Taylor wrote an economics opinion column for the San Jose Mercury-News. He has published multiple lectures on economics through The Teaching Company. With Rudolph Penner and Isabel Sawhill, he is co-author of Updating America's Social Contract (2000), whose first chapter provided an early radical centrist perspective, "An Agenda for the Radical Middle". Taylor is also the author of The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works, published by the Penguin Group in 2012. The fourth edition of Taylor's Principles of Economics textbook was published by Textbook Media in 2017.