On 21st September 1964, the science-fiction writer and futurologist Arthur C. Clarke was interviewed by the BBC as part of a new science series called ‘Horizon’. During the show he reflected:
“Trying to predict the future is a discouraging, hazardous occupation, because the prophet invariably falls between two schools: If his predictions sound at all reasonable, you can be quite sure that in 20, or at most 50 years, the progress of science and technology has made him seem ridiculously conservative. On the other hand, if by some miracle a prophet could describe the future exactly as it was going to take place, his predictions would sound so absurd, so far-fetched that everybody would laugh him to scorn.”
This revered creator of incredible, imagined worlds warns us that looking to the future is often a dangerous pursuit. At the same time, the fact that ‘science fiction’ often becomes ‘science fact’, tells us that only looking to the past may not be enough.
Whatever we may believe about 'future-gazing’ however, every so often it does us good to do a bit of ‘blue sky thinking’, despite the near certainty that we will fall well short of making accurate predictions. In doing so we may at least help inform our direction of travel or trigger new ways of thinking.
So that is what this opinion piece is about: More of a glimpse towards the future of lighting rather than an attempt to stare it directly in the face. A search for the questions we may need to ask to help move us forward rather than bold assertions of what is most likely to happen.
But it is not intended to be a radical vision in the way science fiction writers might have it. I guess ‘radical’ might be to suggest that we bio-engineer our eyes so we all have night-vision or eliminate electric light altogether, going back to a pre-electric world. Somehow neither sounds that attractive. It is about how we might think about light and lighting in the future… in some cases building on the past and in others visualising the small incremental moves that we might make, particularly in a world that is threatened by the existential crisis that is climate change, and to which lighting makes a contribution.