Study Guide

Childhood's End Technology and Modernization

By Arthur C. Clarke

Technology and Modernization

Cool tech has been a staple of science fiction since its inception. Jules Verne's Captain Nemo had his baller submarine, the Nautilus, and H.G. Wells's alien invaders from War of the Worlds came to wreck civilization's face with some fantastical war machines. Even today, science fiction continues to be dominated by cool toys, such as Gibson's artificial intelligence in Neuromancer.

And did we mention lightsabers? Because, yeah, lightsabers.

While Childhood's End has some really cool tech, it isn't about technology being cool—it's about how that technology is used. Karellen has some nifty gadgets at his disposal, but he often uses simple tools to meet his manipulative ends. Likewise, the people of Athens pick and chose their technology to create a society that is potentially better for mankind than the high-tech wonderland the Overlords made for our species.

Questions About Technology and Modernization

  1. What kinds of technology does the Athens colony allow? What kinds of tech are a no-go? What does this suggest about this theme to you?
  2. How does technology aid humanity throughout the story? How does it hinder people? Based on your answers, would you ultimately say technology is a positive or negative force in the novel?
  3. What does the super-advanced technology of the Overlords tell you about the relationship between technology and power? Don't forget to consider how the Overlords use their technology as well.

Chew on This

In Childhood's End, the power of technology is found in its usefulness. The two-way mirror is something humans had long before the Overlords arrived, but it's the way Karellen uses it that makes it a very powerful tool.

Don't let the Athens colony fool you: Bicycles are technology, just like aircars. Hammers are technology, too. The tech choices in Athens are just as deliberate—and just as much tech—as the choices the Overlords make.