Robots and UFOs
(1) A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
(2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
(3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
~Isaac Asimov, “The Three Laws of Robotics,” in I, Robot (1950), Frontispiece. Isaac Asimov (born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov; Russian: Исаак Юдович Озимов; 1920 – 1992) was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. His works have been published in nine out of ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System.
A number of years ago, when I was a freshly-appointed instructor, I met, for the first time, a certain eminent historian of science. At the time I could only regard him with tolerant condescension.
I was sorry of the man who, it seemed to me, was forced to hover about the edges of science. He was compelled to shiver endlessly in the outskirts, getting only feeble warmth from the distant sun of science- in-progress; while I, just beginning my research, was bathed in the heady liquid heat up at the very center of the glow.
In a lifetime of being wrong at many a point, I was never more wrong. It was I, not he, who was wandering in the periphery. It was he, not I, who lived in the blaze.
I had fallen victim to the fallacy of the “growing edge”; the belief that only the very frontier of scientific advance counted; that everything that had been left behind by that advance was faded and dead.
But is that true? Because a tree in spring buds and comes greenly into leaf, are those leaves therefore the tree? If the newborn twigs and their leaves were all that existed, they would form a vague halo of green suspended in mid-air, but surely that is not the tree. The leaves, by themselves, are no more than trivial fluttering decoration. It is the trunk and limbs that give the tree its grandeur and the leaves themselves their meaning.
There is not a discovery in science, however revolutionary, however sparkling with insight, that does not arise out of what went before. ‘If I have seen further than other men,’ said Isaac Newton, ‘it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.’
~Isaac Asimov, Adding A Dimension: Seventeen Essays on the History of Science (1964), Introduction.
An atom-blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways.
~Isaac Asimov, The Foundation Trilogy (1951), Vol. 2, p. 207.
You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.
~Heraclitus, Fragment 41, quoted by Plato in Cratylus.
Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better.
~Richard Hooker, as quoted in the preface of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755).
There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in travelling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.
~Washington Irving, Tales of a Traveler (1824), Preface, p. 7.
Technology has advanced more in the last thirty years than in the previous two thousand. The exponential increase in advancement will only continue.
~Niels Bohr. Niels Henrik David Bohr (1885 – 1962) was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. He developed the model of the atom with the nucleus at the center and electrons in orbit around it, which he compared to the planets orbiting the sun. He worked on the idea in quantum mechanics that electrons move from one energy level to another in discrete steps, not continuously. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in Copenhagen. He was part of the British team of physicists working on the Manhattan Project. Bohr married Margrethe Nørlund in 1912, and one of their sons, Aage Bohr, was also a physicist and in 1975 also received the Nobel Prize.
A physicist is just an atom’s way of looking at itself.
Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution. It forces us to change our thinking in order to find it.
Science in the modern world has many uses; its chief use, however, is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich.
~G. K. Chesterton. Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG (1874 – 1936) was an English writer. He wrote on philosophy, ontology, poetry, plays, journalism, public lectures and debates, literary and art criticism, biography, Christian apologetics, and fiction, including fantasy and detective fiction. Chesterton is often referred to as the “prince of paradox.” Time magazine, in a review of a biography of Chesterton, observed of his writing style: “Whenever possible Chesterton made his points with popular sayings, proverbs, allegories—first carefully turning them inside out.”
We have lost the art of living, and in the most important science of all, the science of daily life, the science of behavior, we are complete ignoramuses. We have psychology instead.
~D.H. Lawrence. David Herbert Lawrence (1885 – 1930) was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanizing effects of modernity and industrialization. In them, Lawrence confronts issues relating to emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, and instinct.
Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.
~Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the general theory of relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and the most influential physicist of the 20th century. While best known for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2 (which has been dubbed “the world’s most famous equation”), he received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.” The latter was pivotal in establishing quantum theory.
Songs and Poems
God, if Thy will be so,
Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace,
With smiling plenty and fair prosperous days!
~William Shakespeare, Richard III (c. 1591), Act V, scene 5, line 32. William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptized) – 23 April 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon.” His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, two epitaph s on a man named John Combe, one epitaph on Elias James, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
In states unborn and accents yet unknown.
~William Shakespeare, Julius Cæsar (1599), Act III, scene 1, line 111.