Isaac Asimov and the Future of Learning

Isaac Asimov is something of a hero for me. He passed away in 1992, but his writing lives on, alive as ever.

I wondered if there were any interesting Asimov interviews on YouTube, so I did a search and found one he did with Bill Moyers in 1988. It’s wide-ranging, but a recurring theme is how people naturally want to learn about things that catch their fancy, and how computers of the future will enable them to do so.

(If you don’t have time to watch all three parts [ten minutes each], watch the beginning of Part 2.)

Asimov talked about the future ability to look up just about any information from home, using computers. This was a year before Tim Berners-Lee invented HTTP and HTML, the key protocols which define the World Wide Web.

It’s certainly true that you can get a lot of information on the web today. Sites like Wikipedia, Wolfram|Alpha and Project Gutenberg are great, and there are lots of specialized niche sites with good information. However, most books are not yet available online, either because they’re not yet available in digital form, or because their copyright-owners have incentives to restrict access.

There are services like Netflix, Rdio and Safari Books Online, which give subscribers access to any movie, song, or book in their collection, on demand. I suspect that model (subscribing for access) will become more common.

2 thoughts on “Isaac Asimov and the Future of Learning

  1. I don't expect libraries to disappear, just to expand their scope. They're far more than the collections of books that they used to be. Many offer reading sessions for preschool children, research assistance, classes for adults, author readings, community events, meeting rooms, a cafe… plus books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, books on CDs, video games… Providing public access to ebooks, online databases, and other online services will be a growing part of what they do, but certainly not all.

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