Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke, one of my favorite authors, passed away yesterday at 90. Not only did he write some of the most influential books of the last century (even sharing an Oscar nomination with Stanley Kubrik for 2001), but he was an extremely gifted academic and futurist as well.
The NYTimes has prepared a better obituary than I could ever write.
(Incidentally, I recently learned that these obits are written years in advance. While I suppose that makes sense, still... creepy.)