Isaac Asimov was a chemist by training, a scientist in general, and a novelist and science fiction writer. He coined the term ‘robotics’ in 1941. In 1988 he was interviewed by Bill Moyers, by which time he had written 391 books including 1950’s I, Robot (later adapted for the film starring Will Smith) and the Hugo Award winning works The Gods Themselves and The Bicentennial Man.
Here’s an excerpt of the 1988 interview, followed by quotes of his incredible insight.
Though atheist, this man was a prophet:
Moyers: “Can we have a revolution in learning?”
Asimov: “Yes, I think, not only we can but I think we’re going to have to.
“As computers take over more and more of the work that human beings shouldn’t be doing in the first place — because it doesn’t utilize their brain, it stultifies and bores them to death — there’s going to be nothing left for human beings to do but the more creative types of endeavor. And the only way we can indulge in the more creative types of endeavor is to have brains that aim at that from the start.
“You can’t take a human being and put him to work at a job that under-uses the brain and keep him working at it for decades and decades and then say, “Well, that job isn’t there [anymore], go do something more creative.” You have beaten the creativity out of him. But if from the start, children are educated into appreciating their own creativity, then probably we can, almost all of us, be creative.
“Just as in the old days very few people could read and write — literacy was a very novel sort of thing and we felt that most people just didn’t have it in them. But when we indulged in mass education it turned out that most people could be taught to read and write.
“In the same way, instead of having mass education as we now have — must have, with a curriculum — once we have outlets, computer outlets in every home, each of them hooked up to enormous libraries where anyone can ask any question and be given answers, be given reference material, in something you’re interested in knowing, from an early age — however silly it might seem to someone else… and you can do it in your own home at your own speed in your own direction on your own time, then everyone will enjoy learning.
“Nowadays what people call learning is forced on you and everyone is forced to learn the same thing on the same day at the same speed, in class, and everyone is different. For some it goes too fast, and some too slow, and for some in the wrong direction.”
As Asimov aptly predicted, the internet has democratized information in a similar manner as the printed word hundreds of years ago. His vision of individualized education is already coming to light.
The infrastructure has arrived. Our education system has some evolving to do.