January 3: Robots and UFOs

January 3
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

future 2mb

December 13: Scientists

December 13



The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

~Isaac Asimov, Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations, 1988



Not fact-finding, but attainment to philosophy is the aim of science.

~Martin H. Fischer



The bomb that fell on Hiroshima fell on America too. It fell on no city, no munition plants, no docks. It erased no church, vaporized no public buildings, reduced no man to his atomic elements. But it fell, it fell.

~Hermann Hagedorn, “The Bomb That Fell on America“

future 2mb

November 30: Writers

November 30



The metaphysical doctrine of determinism simply asserts that all events in this world are fixed, or unalterable, or predetermined. It does not assert that they are known to anybody, or predictable by scientific means. But it asserts that the future is as little changeable as is the past. Everybody knows what we mean when we say that the past cannot be changed. It is in precisely the same sense that the future cannot be changed, according to metaphysical determinism.

~Karl Raimund Popper. Karl Raimund Popper and William Warren Bartley (ed.), The Open Universe: an Argument for Indeterminism (1991), p. 8.


The mystery of life is certainly the most persistent problem ever placed before the thought of man. There is no doubt that from the time humanity began to think it has occupied itself with the problem of its origin and its future which undoubtedly is the problem of life. The inability of science to solve it is absolute. This would be truly frightening were it not for faith.

~Guglielmo Marconi, address (10 September 1934) to the International Congress of Electro-Radio Biology, Venice. In Associated Press, “Life a Closed Book, Declares Marconi,” New York Times (11 Sep. 1934), p. 15


Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today, but the core of science fiction − its essence − has become crucial to our salvation, if we are to be saved at all.

~Isaac Asimov

September 28: Computers and Software

September 28
Computers and Software

Around computers it is difficult to find the correct unit of time to measure progress. Some cathedrals took a century to complete. Can you imagine the grandeur and scope of a program that would take as long?
~SIGPLAN, Association for Computing Machinery (1992) “Epigrams in Programming,” September 1982

Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.
~Isaac Asimov in “Change!” (1983), quoted in Reader’s Digest (1987), 131, Nos. 783-787, p. 1

We are beginning to see intimations of this in the implantation of computer devices into the human body.
~Ray Kurzweil

future 2mb

June 8: Humor

June 8

UNIX is basically a simple operating system, but you have to be a genius to understand the simplicity.
~Dennis Ritchie

Computer dating is fine, if you’re a computer.
~Rita May Brown

All sorts of computer errors are now turning up. You’d be surprised to know the number of doctors who claim they are treating pregnant men.
~Isaac Asimov

To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer.
~Paul Ehrlich

future 2mb

June 2: Science Fiction Writers

June 2
Science Fiction Writers

I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.
~Isaac Asimov in David S. Bradford, In the Beginning: Building the Temple of Zion? (2008)

Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not.
~Isaac Asimov, “How Easy to See the Future” in Asimov on Science Fiction (1981), p. 86

future 2mb

March 18: Science Fiction Writers

March 18
Science Fiction Writers

The greatest problem of the future is civilizing the human race.
~Arthur C. Clarke, “Aladdin’s Lamp“ (1962)

Do you see, then, that the important prediction is not the automobile, but the parking problem; not radio, but the soap-opera; not the income tax but the expense account; not the Bomb but the nuclear stalemate? Not the action, in short, but the reaction?
~Isaac Asimov, “Future? Tense!“ (1965)


future 2mb

January 19: Robots and UFOs

January 19
Robots and UFOs

I visualize a time when we will be to robots what dogs are to humans, and I’m rooting for the machines.
~Claude Shannon, The Mathematical Theory of Communication

Let’s start with the three fundamental Rules of Robotics. We have: one, a robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Two, a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. And three, a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
~Isaac Asimov, Astounding Science Fiction, Mar. 1942

The danger of the future is that men may become robots. True enough, robots do not rebel. But given man’s nature, robots cannot live and remain sane, they become “Golems.” They will destroy their world and themselves because they cannot stand any longer the boredom of a meaningless life.
~Erich Fromm, The Sane Society


future 2mb

August 2: Science Fiction Writers

August 2
Science Fiction Writers

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny . . . .’
~Isaac Asimov, in Ashton Applewhite, William R. Evans and Andrew Frothingham, And I Quote (2003), p. 467

Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal.
~Arthur C. Clarke, “Maelstrom II“ (1965)future 2mb

Elon Musk donates $10mn to stop AI from turning against humans

Elon Musk donates $10mn to stop AI from turning against humans

“It’s best to try to prevent a negative circumstance from occurring than to wait for it to occur and then be reactive,” Musk said, according to The Verge. “This is a case where the range of negative outcomes, some of them are quite severe. It’s not clear whether we’d be able to recover from some of these negative outcomes. In fact, you can construct scenarios where recovery of human civilization does not occur. When the risk is that severe, it seems like you should be proactive and not reactive.”

I. Asimov

Set forth Three Laws,

Good starting point

For Elon’s cause.