The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego bridges from the scientific method and engineering design to the speculative arts and cultural study to grasp and enhance the phenomenon of imagination. Our four areas of exploration are:

  1. The neuroscience of imagination
  2. Science fiction and speculative culture
  3. Space and the cosmos
  4. Art and science as tools of the imagination

A tribute to the futurist Arthur C Clarke, the Clarke Center communicates globally, explores space and the cosmos, nurtures science fiction, and celebrates diversity.

Director's Message

Erik Viirre, M.D./Ph.D., Director

Dr. Viirre with Sir Arthur C. Clarke in Sri Lanka, 2002.

In November of 2002, I had the great privilege of meeting Arthur C. Clarke at his home in Sri Lanka. It was a signal event of my life and an incredible experience. We talked about the latest technology and science, had some laughs, and marveled on the state of humans in the universe. Clarke had been the chancellor at International Space University, giving the commencement speech to my class in 1988. Most importantly, he was the visionary in my early adult life who stimulated my mind with his stories, essays, movies, mysteries, and inventions.

That inspiration continues to this day. Millions of others have partaken of his ideas, and generations have grown directly or indirectly under his influence. A scientific innovator who invented the idea of geostationary satellites, a science fiction visionary, a role model for those with disabilities (he required the use of a wheelchair later in life due to post-polio syndrome), an early environmentalist, and a queer person coming of age in restrictive early 20th century England yet imagining more inclusive futures—Sir Clarke continues to inspire in countless ways.

Because of this, it is a great privilege for me to become the Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at the University of California San Diego, and to help build new visions in the spirit of Sir Clarke’s legacy. We will be continuing the work started here in 2012 to better understand humanity’s greatest gift: imagination.

We do this through our Imagination Lab, which studies the neurological basis for visual imagination, and with collaborators from a range of fields, from neuroscience to speculative futures studies and from engineering to astrophysics—leading thinkers who address the big questions of culture, consciousness, and cosmos and who prototype tomorrow’s tools of the imagination.

Our programs bring brilliant minds and ideas to life for a broad public. Last year alone we hosted lectures by mathematician Sir Roger Penrose, physicist Freeman Dyson, and Cixin Liu, the Clarke of contemporary Chinese science fiction, among others. We also cultivate conversations about the future, as in our yearlong San Diego 2049 project. Our research has extended this year from our labs at UC San Diego to the International Space Station with the BOARDS (Brain Organoid Advanced Research Developed in Space) Mission to send “mini-brains” into micro-gravity for study—with implications for humankind’s ability to live elsewhere in the solar system and beyond. It’s an exciting time at the Clarke Center, with more to come.

As a hub for imaginative, interdisciplinary collaboration, the Clarke Center continues to be the place where, in the spirit of Clarke’s third law, we discover the limits of the possible by venturing a little way past them into the impossible. I invite you to join us on this thrilling journey of discovery, play, and exploration, in the service of imagining a better future for humanity.


Erik Viirre, M.D./Ph.D.

Director, Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and Professor, Department of Neurosciences

What We Do

We undertake research at the neural, behavioral and social level into how imagination occurs.  We look to develop more effective ways of using imagination in education and learning, and enhance the application of imagination in confronting humanity's problems.

The center organizes public programs, both on campus and with our growing network of global partners.  We provide seed grants for research and creative projects, workshops and conferences, and give administrative and advisory support to faculty and affiliates to write grants on imagination related topics. See our RESEARCH page for an account of some of current research themes and a list of projects underway among center faculty.

The study and support for new forms speculative culture and science fiction is a large part of our center.  Of particular note is The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop which we host at UCSD.

Support our Vision

The Clarke Center was formed through a competitive award from the Arthur C Clarke Foundation in 2012. The center's growth depends on research grants, alliances, strategic partnerships and the support of an interested public. Support can take many forms: from participation in our many public programs to partnerships to contributions.

Major Affiliates

Arthur C. Clarke Foundation

The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation was established in 1983 in Washington, D.C., as part of World Communications Year celebrations at the United Nations, an international event sponsored by the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU).


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UC San Diego

UC San Diego is made up of world-renowned faculty, bright students and dedicated staff, celebrating a culture of innovation. Their interdisciplinary collaborations span the globe. The University's Mission is to advance knowledge through excellence in education and research. 

UCSD Affiliates

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