We’re far behind Issac Asimov’s vision for 2019
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We’re far behind Issac Asimov’s vision for 2019

Asimov hoped humanity would have figured out more and better ways to deploy its technological prowess, his predictions are a moral compass, showing us where the path could have led, and where we might yet strive to go

editorials Updated: Jan 07, 2019 15:03 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
As a professor of biochemistry and a prolific science fiction writer, Asimov was always at the cutting edge of science, technology and their possible future applications(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

George Orwell’s famous dystopian novel, 1984, turned 35 in the year 1984. To mark the occasion, the Toronto Star asked another famous writer to indulge in some predictions for what the world might be like 35 years from then. Isaac Asimov, one of the world’s most famous science fiction writers, wrote about what he thought 2019 would look like at the start of that Orwellian year; and, as it turns out, he wasn’t all that much off the mark. Even if Earth has not managed to “live under the faint semblance of a world government by co-operation” or solve the industrial waste problem by shifting industry “in a wholesale manner” out of the earth’s surface to space, many of his predictions are almost eerily on point.

Thirty five years ago, he appears to have clearly foreseen the human race’s increasing reliance on computers and the “mobile computerized object” penetrating the home. He predicted a “vast change in the nature of education” and the need to teach everyone on the planet how to deal with a ““high-tech” world.” The “consequences of human irresponsibility” are another thing Asimov saw clearly. Writing about waste and pollution, he saw how these consequences would have become “more apparent and unbearable” by now; but he optimistically believed that humans would have figured out a way to deal with it. He had hoped that by 2019, our technologies would have helped not just reduce, but reverse the deterioration of the environment. Asimov writes, “Waste would not even remain in Earth’s vicinity, but would be swept outward far beyond the asteroid belt by the solar wind.” He believed that human beings would have found ways to “defeat overpopulation, pollution and militarism” by 2019; and that education would have been so revolutionised that it would “become fun because it will bubble up from within and not be forced in from without.” The other big miss, of course, is that Asimov’s famous robots (he is credited with having coined the term “robotics”) are not nearly as ubiquitous as he may have foreseen.

As a professor of biochemistry and a prolific science fiction writer, Asimov was always at the cutting edge of science, technology and their possible future applications. And as 1984 was dawning, the Cold War between the US and the USSR raged on, and nuclear war was a real threat. This meant that even if the communist dystopia of George Orwell’s novel had been averted, another kind of dystopia seemed imminent. Today, 35 years since Asimov hoped humanity would have figured out more and better ways to deploy its technological prowess, his predictions are a moral compass, showing us where the path could have led, and where we might yet strive to go.

First Published: Jan 07, 2019 14:55 IST