Science-fiction writer's predictions are playing out in West Virginia

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Science-fiction writer's predictions are playing out in West Virginia
Arthur C. Clarke appears on the set of "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 1965. (Photo courtesy U.S. Library of Congress)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In a black-and-white video now available on Youtube.com, science fiction writer predicted the remote-work immigration affecting West Virginia.

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Clarke, who may best be known as the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, proposed that advances in communications technology would allow workers to leave cities for rural areas.

The Mountain State is benefitting as a result, says David Sibray, a real estate agent and the publisher of West Virginia Explorer Magazine.

 

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"What we're seeing in West Virginia is entirely a result of the work-from-home revolution coupled with the state's discovery during the pandemic," Sibray said.

"If Arthur C. Clarke was right, this is the beginning of a new age in West Virginia."

According to Clarke, who is perhaps most widely known as the co-writer of "," advances in communications would allow people to work from nearly anywhere on the planet.

He speculated in a 1968 interview that in the early 21st century, residents of metropolitan areas would leave for less populated areas.

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"It will be possible in that age, perhaps only 50 years from now, for a man to conduct his business from Tahiti or Bali just as well as he could from London," Clarke said.

"In fact, if it proves worthwhile, almost any executive skill, any administrative skill, even any physical skill could be made independent of distance."

Sibray said the accuracy of Clarke's prediction is supported by the recent change in population in West Virginia, which witnessed many years of outmigration, though that trend is now reversing.

Economist John Deskins, of , reported in December 2022 that than are leaving the Mountain State.

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Sibray said Clarke's predictions are not necessarily good news for cities, however, and could spell future trouble for rural regions that must accommodate new residents.

"When that time comes, the whole world will have shrunk to a point, and the traditional role of the city as a meeting place for man will have ceased to make any sense," Clarke said. "In fact, men will no longer commute: they will communicate. They won't have to travel for business anymore. They'll only travel for pleasure.

"I only hope that when that day comes and when the city is abolished, the whole world isn't turned into one giant suburb."

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Sibray said West Virginia Explorer Magazine reaches a daily average of more than 10,000 readers and has since the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic when residents from surrounding cities began to venture into the state on weekend getaways.

Since that time, he says many of the same people have moved to West Virginia, and as well as a publisher, he's seeing firsthand how the dramatic trend is playing out.


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