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What Asimov Predicted For 2019: Computerization And Lunar Life


Thirty-five years ago, the Toronto Star asked science fiction writer Isaac Asimov to predict what the year 2019 would be like. Many of Asimov's predictions were off base, like the forecast of an up and running mining operation on the moon or the prediction that countries would work together under what he called the faint semblance of a world government by cooperation. The sci-fi writer was closer to reality when he predicted robots taking over repetitive assembly line jobs and the massive retraining needed for those left out of work.

EUGENE FIUME: He had a very utopian view of how computers would change work, but he had also a kind of warning.

ELLIOTT: That's computer scientist Eugene Fiume of Simon Fraser University. Fiume says that despite his concern about the need for rapid re-education, Asimov was an optimist in his predictions.

FIUME: What he predicted was that computers themselves would allow people to become researchers and scientists and artists - this idea of replacing that low-level intellectual work and allowing people to improve themselves by looking at higher level intellectual work.

ELLIOTT: It's hard to say how many laid-off factory workers have moved on to pick up paintbrushes, but Fiume says that Asimov's 1983 essay envisions how, left to their own devices...

FIUME: People will seek to improve themselves and avail themselves of tools to gain an increased understanding of the world and the cosmos. I love how that is a central aspect of his predictions.


ELLIOTT: Eugene Fiume, a computer scientist at Simon Fraser University.

(SOUNDBITE OF ZOE KEATING'S "FORTE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.