Back when I was in high school during the 1980’s, Isaac Asimov was a hero of mine. I adored the fact that he was capable of writing so authoritatively on so many topics. Over the span of those years, I read as many of his books as I could. Science fiction was my favorite genre of literature. It may have been entirely coincidental that I didn’t have a date throughout that whole span, save for prom. Then again, it may have been my pimples, braces and my disdain for neat attire. Who knows?
I liked Dr. Asimov’s work because he had such a rational view of everything going on in the world at that time. He was a brilliant man who could take the most complex subject and break it down that even the most basic layperson could have an extremely good chance of grasping at least the basic nuances. His books on astronomy were favorites of mine.
The thing about him though, was that he was sounding the alarm, even back then, about the culture of ignorance that was beginning to pervade the United States and other countries. He worried about people starting to turn their backs on science – especially at such a critical time in the world’s history. He and other scientists already had begun to see the dangers that global climate change presented. While Dr. Asimov was a proponent of progress – he often wrote of robots and other technology, after all – but he viewed certain parts of industrialization, like coal, as being extremely damaging to our environment in the long run.
His most important message to all of us was that we should band together as humans… race, religion, and nationality be cast aside… in order for us to give ourselves the best chance of surviving and moving to other worlds besides ours.
I recently read a collection of his essays and it provoked the following thought:
So let’s imagine that something that might occur in one of his stories happened…. it’d be really interesting to see how, if we were somehow able to revive him today – he died in 1992 and would be 100 in 2020 if he’d lived that long – and be able to gauge his reaction at the state of the world. Chances are that he’d take one look at the headlines about Trump being president, and after being convinced that we weren’t all playing a prank on the formerly-deceased author, probably state that he’d prefer death than living in this world.
Well, maybe not. But imagine how a man who’d first written about computers that were the size of rooms and used vacuum tubes would us walking around with cell phones that have more processing power than all the computers of the 20th century? Would he be amazed at this? He’d probably be asking us to explain Twitter and Facebook just ONE more time and probably show unmitigated disgust at the fact that reality TV is so prevalent.
So, Asimov would then leave the hospital/laboratory and walk out into a world that’s quite different than what he saw before his death. People would be milling around, all intently staring at their phones. No, they wouldn’t be reading the latest intellectual book… they’d be looking at Instagram feeds. Then he’d take a look at what Trump and his cabinet have done to departments like the EPA. Then we’d likely see him aghast at how unchecked pollution might be making its way through the skies again. He’d also shake his head at the gullibility of so many people who fell for planted stories from other countries.
Once he made it back to his home – imagine the surprise on Janet Asimov’s face – and then he’d likely turn on the television and take a look at what Trump and his cabinet have done since his inauguration… and he’d shake his head at all of it. I’d like to think that he’d be particularly angry at the installation of Scott Pruitt as the head of the EPA. This was a man who was sounding the alarm bells about the environment for so long… and now this wolf is in the henhouse of one of the most important departments in one of the most powerful nations in the world.
After all this, it’s obvious what Asimov would do next. He’d sit down and write. This was a man who would burp out a 1,000-word essay in 15 minutes. There would be reams of paper worth of his thoughts about this world. It’s really a shame that he died when he did… though there’s no saying that he would have had all his faculties into his late 90’s. Given his brain, chances are good that he would have, though.
Then again, in this culture of ignorance, he might as well have thought it better to go back to his eternal rest than continually banging his head against the wall of stupidity. The world could use another Asimov right now…