2019: Isaac Asimov on the Future of the World

Thirty-five years ago, science fiction writer and thought leader Issac Asimov (Foundation, I, Robot) looked into the future. His observations were trenchant, it’s just possible that he had no idea just how self-serving and oblivious human could become. Writing for The Toronto Star on December 31, 1983, Asimov looked at the questions that might dominate human thought three decades on.

First: Population will be continuing to increase for some years after the present and this will make the pangs of transition even more painful. Governments will be unable to hide from themselves the fact that no problem can possibly be solved as long as those problems continue to be intensified by the addition of greater numbers more rapidly than they can be dealt with.

Efforts to prevent this from happening by encouraging a lower birthrate will become steadily more strenuous and it is to be hoped that by 2019, the world as a whole will be striving toward a population plateau.

Second: The consequences of human irresponsibility in terms of waste and pollution will become more apparent and unbearable with time and again, attempts to deal with this will become more strenuous. It is to be hoped that by 2019, advances in technology will place tools in our hands that will help accelerate the process whereby the deterioration of the environment will be reversed.

Third: The world effort that must be invested in this and in generally easing the pains of the transition may, assuming the presence of a minimum level of sanity among the peoples of the world, again not a safe assumption, weaken in comparison the causes that have fed the time-honoured quarrels between and within nations over petty hatred and suspicions.

The full piece is lengthy, fascinating and it’s here.

And for those who are interested in such things, just how did The Star get Asimov to play along? They asked.

“Asimov was popular at the time” for his science fiction, [then Insight editor Vian] Ewart says, “so I simply phoned him at his New York home and asked him. He loved the idea of a 1984 series and was pleased to be ‘the lead-off writer.’ He was a very gracious man and charged $1 a word.”

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