Friday, May 19, 2017

Isaac Asimov and science fiction


Isaac Asimov (1920-1994) was an influential writer and biochemist best known for writing science fiction books with an emphasis on scientific accuracy. Computer scientist Simson Garfinkle says,
...the true value of Asimov's insight is his reflections on his life - and, in his mind, Asimov was first a genius, second a prolific writer, and only thirdly a sci-fi writer. (Asimov the Explainer Explains Himself, 1994)
This post is a collection of quotes from Asimov talking about science.

Philosophy of science


"Science doesn't purvey absolute truth. Science is a mechanism. It's a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature. It's a system for testing your thoughts against the universe and seeing whether they match. And this works, not just for the ordinary aspects of science, but for all of life." (Interview on Bill Moyers, 1988)

"I believe that every human being with a physically normal brain can learn a great deal and can be surprisingly intellectual. I believe that what we badly need is social approval of learning and social rewards for learning." (Quoted in Newsweek, 1980)


Futurism


"The machine is only a tool after all, which can help humanity progress faster by taking some of the burdens of calculations and interpretations off its back. The task of the human brain remains what it has always been; that of discovering new data to be analyzed, and of devising new concepts to be tested." (I, Robot, 1950)

"Well, I hope [the shuttle program] does get off the ground. And I hope they expand it, because the shuttle program is the gateway to everything else. By means of the shuttle, we will be able to build space stations and power stations, laboratory facilities and habitations, and everything else in space." (Quoted in Southwest Airlines magazine, 1979)

"All we need is the political go-ahead and the economic willingness to spend the money that is necessary [referring to space travel]. It is a little frustrating to think that if people concentrate on how much it is going to cost they will realize the great amount of profit they will get for their investment." (Quoted in Southwest Airlines magazine, 1979)

Philosophy of art


"The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers." (The Roving Mind , 1983)

"Books... hold within them the gathered wisdom of humanity, the collected knowledge of the world's thinkers, the amusement and excitement built up by the imaginations of brilliant people. Books contain humor, beauty, wit, emotion, thought, and, indeed, all of life. Life without books is empty." (Puzzles of the Black Widowers, 1990)

"Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not." (How Easy to See the Future, 1975)

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