Saturday, May 21, 2005

Isaac Asimov on ... many things!

[Via Prof. B's guest blogger Por J]: Do read this sparkling lecture by Isaac Asimov, made to the students of Newark Engineering College in 1974. There are many strands in this lecture, and I will highlight just two:

The first one, of course, is chosen because of our recent interest in logic ;-). Asimov describes how he (sort of) got the idea for space travel, that an early story of his was based on. As a sociology apprentice at Columbia, he read a lot of stuff about technology, and learnt that every time a new technology came along (stage coach, railroad ...), people always resisted it; this happened so consistently, in fact, that he could make this syllogism:

[The syllogism] goes this way: Major premise: All technological changes meet resistance. Minor Premise: Space travel represents a technological change. Conclusion:

[group laughs]

This is the tricky one!

[group laughs]

There will be resistance to space travel.

And I said "Gee!". And I wrote the story and sold it. My first story, it's Astounding, and they printed it. And here I am, a genius at having foreseen this.

The second example is where he skewers academics about how they write 'learned books':

...Because you must understand how learned books are written in case you ever want to write a learned book. First thing you do is get a thousand references, chosen at random...

[group laughs]

You then put them into the book, in the order you reach them...

[group laughs mildly]

And stick two or three lines of your own between each of them to act as mortar...

[group laughs mildly]

And you're all set.

He made in 1974 rather interesting predictions about what should be happening about 30 years later -- that would be now! There are also many witty and wise things in the lecture about a lot of things, including evolution, human diversity and its importance, medical advances, space travel and colonizing space. Do read the whole lecture.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Thankoo sir. A v. good article indeed.