Isaac Asimov's View of the Future of Mankind
Isaac Asimov, being one of the chief contributors of science literature and science fiction, has resulted with Isaac Asimov becoming "one of the greatest Science Fiction authors" of modern time with, of course, an enormous amount of work (Asimov I, Robot 1). One of the chief contributions that Asimov gave, do to his prolific expertise in many fields, was the modern definition of hard science fiction, presently means in technical terms the inventing or invention of stories, plays, and novels using "exclusively" pure science which has already been proven and without surpassing any known laws of Science. In following this belief, Isaac Asimov produced a large number of books and novels concerning the immediate and distant future of mankind which can be analyzed by comparing his life, criticism from professional critics, and personal criticism of Asimov's science reasoning, characters, and sophisticated technology.
Isaac Asimov's enduring history cannot be explained in short nor can be summarized without textbook. Henceforth, the elaboration of Asimov's life is quite needed. Born on January 2, 1920, Asimov lived a "dispersed childhood", such as an editor bluntly stated:
"Isaac Asimov was born in the Soviet Union to his great surprise. He moved quickly to correct the situation. When his parents immigrated to the United States, Isaac (three years old at the time) stowed away in their baggage. He has been an American citizen since the age of eight. Brought up in Brooklyn, and educated in its public schools, he eventually found his way to Columbia University... [and received] Ph.D. in Chemistry. " (Asimov The Currents of Space introduction)
But before this, young Asimov was thrust into the world of science fiction, while in his father's candy store, by being submerged with science fiction magazines (Asimov In Memory Yet Green 63). In his early teen years, Asimov published his first short story, Marooned off Vesta, in a popular science fiction magazine called Amazing Stories with only the help of a close friend and editor, John W. Campbell. Since then, John Campbell, who was an amateur in science fiction writing, helped Asimov shape his future as a writer by helping to proofread and sometimes entirely rewriting Asimov's stories (Asimov In Memory Yet Green 197). At the young age of 19, Asimov a received degree in chemistry at the Columbia University. This was just the starting point of Asimovís high scientific education which contributed itself in his writings. Asimov was then drafted into the Army during World War II. In the army, Asimov was confronted with a paradox or an oxymoron, where he was taught that the Russians were not allies but closer to his enemies than anything else. Thus being from a Russian family, this made him "self conscious", that later became more evident in some of his early writings. As a result, Asimov used a unique point of view from the enemy's "eyes" or side. After the war, Asimov returned to Columbia University for his Ph.D. Throughout this time, Asimov continued to be writer with the exclusive help of Editor John Campbell (Asimov Pebble in the Sky back of book). But Isaac Asimov had other influences in his life, other than his military training and education. As hinted before, Asimov lived through many climaxes in science technology, such as the nuclear and space races. Throughout these races, there were many other leaps in technology, such as futuristic inventions and fascinating discoveries. All in all, Asimov had plenty of events throughout his life, which contributed to his elaborate stories as knowledge, realism, and experience.
Asimov, like an increasing number of science fiction writers, wrote purely using "science and reasoning unlike most writers before." Asimov also uses his vast knowledge as a scientist to contrive stories both scientific and interesting, that most writers cannot do (Jonas book cover). Thus making a new "pivot [point] of modern science fiction" unlike most fiction writers before him, who rarely used science and reasoning (Wolheim 37). In following this belief, Asimov wrote five series of books, as following in order: Robots, Galactic Empire, Foundation, Robot's City, and Robots and Aliens. The first of these series was the Robots series of four books which initiated Asimovís fame (Asimov In Memory Yet Green 680). In this particular series, Asimov concluded scientifically that the immediate future of mankind includes the construction of positronic brains which enable robots to think. To add a twist and reality to his stories, Asimov created a number of Robotic Laws which govern how robots do and act (Patten 104). The second series was the Galactic Empire series; this series explored the growth of mankind throughout the stars, "tens of thousands of years" in the future (Wolheim 38). Asimov actually created this series by mocking the Roman Empire to their very last detail, including the Empire's fall to extinction (Jonas book cover). Which is the beginning of the next series, called the Foundation Trilogy, followed by the Robot's City Series, and finally the Robots and Aliens series, which Asimov concluded the end of mankind with unforeseen circumstances (Asimov In Memory Yet Green 315). Back to the Foundation Trilogy which consisted of five books. The first of these five books was the Foundation, Asimov's first Hugo winner, which consists mostly of group of short stories (Asimov In Memory Yet Green 313). These story stories created an intense plot, where Asimov again applied "past history with future history", this coincidence was coined psychohistory. Psychohistory of the "true science of social prediction" predicted the fall of the Galactic Empire or any other form of government for a large amount of time (Wolheim 37). The second and third book, Foundation and Empire and the Second Foundation linked the original book with the fall of the Empire in more detail. The last two books, Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth, brought together the Robot and Galactic Empire series by literally intertwining both series with the Foundation Trilogy (Asimov In Memory Yet Green 311). As a result, Asimov perceived large amount of publicity and criticism, both good and bad, years after he started to write these series. Donald Wolheim believed that Asimov wrote in "patterns similar ... [but more] intense," meaning that Asimov always followed the same historical theme but just glorified it (37). Such as the Foundation was derived from the "unified humanity" that the Nazis' believed in (Asimov In Memory Yet Green 313). Donald Wolheim also criticized Asimov for having "predestinations" for every main character, meaning that Asimovís characters had an unrealistic destiny (38). Also that "humanity follows in patterns", meaning that each of his characters has solid and deep characteristics, making the characters more "real-like" and believable (Patten 104). Asimov also gave too many intense explanations for technology, such as the mathematical and theoretical part of interstellar space travel, to his stories usually making them more than the average reader can handle (Wolheim 38). Through the eyes of critics, Isaac Asimov created his fame by glorifying the future of mankind by using past events in history as recurrences in the future.
Indeed, Asimov has had an enormous amount of criticism both exemplary and terrible, but not enough to do him justice. Asimov used a monotonous storyline which directly correlates the past history of mankind with the future of mankind, just like the Roman Empire and the Axis idealism. In unsuccessful attempts to make his stories interesting and non-repetitious, Asimov beautifully glorified the future of mankind with a high amount of praise and technological superiority but with the lack of originality. A fall back to our future technological superiority is that Asimov again attempts to simplify complicated technical advancements as his basis of his stories, but still being incoherent that his readers are not well enough educated in science as he was. Therefore, Asimov used his science education in creating stories which usually surpasses some of his readersí education. Last but not least, Asimovís characters have a tendency to rise above normal men. Even though Asimov has these "super beings" as characters, they still contain a "solid and deep rooted idealism" making the more realistic and believable, but not enough to appear as a normal and everyday person. Such as one of his characters made a deep perception, which is not humanly possible for the average person, by saying:
"In all human history, no other intelligence has impinged on us, to our knowledge. This need only continue a few more centuries, perhaps little more than one thousandth of the time civilization has already existed, and we'll be safe. After all, it is not as though we have the enemy already here and among us." (Asimov Foundation and Earth 494)
Henceforth, Asimov has had many exemplary works of fiction, but they usually lack unique and fresh plot or a simple story with realistic characters and understandable technology.
All in all, Asimov used many innovative ideas in his time, but now are redundant and less popular. Indeed, Asimov did create a new pivot point of from fantasy to hard science fiction; little or no appreciation has ever been given to him. But maybe after his death, will society recognize the great achievements Asimov had to endure to reach his high standing, which used both reality and science reasoning. On the brighter side, Asimov views of the future are still bright and hopeful. Unfortunately, there are and were many unknowns which deviate drastically from Asimov's optimistic future that Asimov was not aware of in his time. Henceforth, Asimov used to the best of his knowledge and his writing ability to create an optimistic view of the future.
- Asimov, Isaac. The Currents of Space. New York: Ballantine Books, 1952, Introduction.
- Asimov, Isaac. In Memory Yet Green. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1979, 63-680.
- Asimov, Isaac. I, Robot. Greenwich, Connecticut' Fawcett Publications Inc., 1970, 1.
- Asimov, Isaac. Foundation and Earth. New York: Ballantine Books, 1986, 494.
- Asimov, Isaac. Pebble in the Sky. Massachusetts: Robert Bentley Inc., 1982, Back of book.
- Jonas, Gerald. The New York Times Book Review. The New York Times Company, 1975, Book cover.
- Patten, Brian. Asimovís Laws. Books and Bookmen, July, 1973, 104. .
- Wolheim, Donald A. The Universe Markers. Harper and Row, 1971, 36-42.
by Phil for Humanity