Remember When Asimov Predicted the Future at IC?

In 1983, famed science fiction writer and biochemistry professor Isaac Asimov was the keynote speaker during Commencement. The next day, the Syracuse Herald-Journal ran an article that recapped some of his remarks.

Perhaps not surprising for a man with such a long view of where science and technology were leading, some of his predictions were remarkably spot on. A world knowledge bank accessible by computers that lets someone learn anything from home? Sounds familiar.

As for humanity finally passing through infancy and entering into adulthood: He might think differently if he saw what passes for discourse on social media these days!

Below is the full transcript of the article, written by reporter Grant Podelco:

Robots Won’t Replace Humans in Job Market, Asimov Assures Graduates

ITHACA—Prolific science-fiction author Isaac Asimov on Sunday allayed the possible concerns of Ithaca College graduates that robots could replace humans in the job market, and embraced the notion of an increasing utilization of the machines.

“Will this mean that human beings will be worth nothing?” asked Asimov, author of over 275 books on a variety of subjects. “No. On the contrary, humanity will step upward.”

Asimov spoke to some 5,000 graduates, faculty and family at Sunday’s commencement ceremonies in the Ben Light Gym at Ithaca College.

A professor of biochemistry at the Boston University School of Medicine, Asimov, in addition to science fiction, has written extensively in the areas of history, geography and literature, and is well-known for helping the layman to understand science.

“There is no need for human beings to do the work that stultifies their minds and makes them less than human,” Asimov said.

Best known for his sci-fi best-sellers “I, Robot” and the Hugo Award-winning “Foundation Trilogy,” Asimov believes that robots will, for the first time in history, allow humans to accomplish purely human deeds, such as thinking and creating.

“Why trouble a human to do what a machine can do?” Asimov asked.

Human beings cannot teach robots to do what they themselves don’t know how to do, he noted.

While a ball-point pen or a word processor can be used to write a book, Asimov said, “I can’t use either one if I can’t make up the words. And I don’t know how I make up the words. And if I can’t tell you, how am I going to tell a machine?”

Robots that could display uniquely human characteristics, such as insight, creativity and inspiration, said Asimov, wouldn’t be cost-effective since human beings do it much more easily.

Asimov foresees a time in the not-too-distant future when home computers will have access to world knowledge banks and it will be possible for humans to learn anything they want in their own homes at their own convenience.

“What is it human beings are especially adapted to do?” asked Asimov. “Learning. It’s what we were meant to do. And thanks to computers, you will find pleasure in it.”

Humanity is entering the threshold, Asimov said, when it will become adult for the first time and pass out of its infancy.

“I can only see it in my imagination,” Asimov told the graduates. “You will live through it.”