I enjoyed reading this San Francisco Chronicle story, which looked back at predictions made by science fiction writer and biochemistry professor Isaac Asimov in The New York Times, following the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
Asimov was trying to guess what the world would look like in 2014.
The final section on the future of jobs was particularly interesting. Asimov predicted increasing automation by machines, but not to the point where people could fully step away from the controls. He thought we would become “largely a race of machine tenders.”
Mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences…
The lucky few who can be involved in creative work of any sort will be the true elite of mankind, for they alone will do more than serve a machine.
I don’t know if we’ve necessarily become a race of machine tenders. But I do agree that those of us who get to do creative work are the lucky ones.
I also see plenty of boredom out there—as well as mental, emotional, and sociological issues. There is something satisfying to making something from scratch—whether that be knitting a jumper, building a table, or baking a pavlova. While automation and machines make our lives easier (especially with boring household tasks), pressing a button is still inherently less satisfying than making something with your own hands.
It will be interesting to reflect on this prediction in perhaps 5-15 years time, when I imagine we will see more self-driving cars, more 3D printing, and even more automation around the home and work (the internet of things).
Check out the article for yourself to see how Asimov’s predictions stack up against reality on gadgetry, robots, food, cars, and the world’s population.