Living in Asimov’s World?

Remembering Isaac Asimov’s ‘The Fun They Had’ in our world

By Imtiyaz Ahmad Shah

“EVOLUTIONS are imperative in every domain, but scholastic refinements should be limited to physical classrooms where students could interact with instructors comprehensively. If we do not succeed in preserving physical classrooms, there is the possibility of technological productivity.”

Isaac Asimov was a great science-fiction writer and an erudite clairvoyant who pushed science fiction beyond its rims. He rationalized everything quite realistically about future schools and virtual classes. Everything is going according to what he had predicted. In the world we live in, our kids have become victims of the virtual realm. There is no doubt that the world is advancing rapidly as far as the technological revolution is concerned, but at the same time, things are worsening and ameliorating our customary intellectualism to zero. We went to a lot of trouble to regain awareness of our artistic recreations, understanding dexterity, and the essence of the teacher-student relationship. While interacting with students of grade 9 — I came through a lesson formulated by Issac Asimov under the title ‘the fun they had’ and the lesson took me far from my governed vision because opportunism, certainty, and plausible declarations are sufficient for us to know the general realities. Having taught the whole lesson and to my great amazement, the students were startled to know what would happen in the future. Prior to this, they had no idea what forthcoming academics and classrooms would look like? With the emergence of COVID-19 students confessed that they are comfortable with online, or virtual lectures but after genuine results, there was a terrible decline in traditional intelligence and exemplary excellence. The scent of physical classrooms cannot ever be replaced with virtual classrooms. Asimov spoke about the reality of futuristic schools and how mechanical teachers could easily replace physical teachers. The schools would resemble abandoned structures, faded rainbows, and wild as wounded barracudas. Students would become hefty tech-savvy products of the mechanical world. Not only that, there will be no books or libraries. The social connection would disappear and there would be no friendship on earth. Students would hardly recognize each other apart from their brothers and sisters. It is clear that we will face drastic changes in almost every area, particularly in the education sector. There are widespread disappointments in mechanical and virtual classrooms. As always, in class, we interact with various students and ask them for help. We laugh, yell and travel with them whenever the bell rings. In a futuristic school, each camp would be governed by gadgets and robots of high technology. The lessons would be stored according to the level of the student, and there would be virtual libraries where students could have access to millions of books in one fell swoop. I still remember the way Margie thought about old times when there were teachers in the form of humans. She remembered how her grandfather’s grandfather played with the kids in the neighborhood and the good thing was they recognized themselves. This is a serious concern that may take us nowhere. At present, we feel worthy and stable under the protection of technological savagery, but it could soon prove us wrong. We are in danger of losing our natural understanding and purity as we become associated with mechanical teachers. We have programmed these mechanical teachers, and they can never be our promising teachers, friends and caretakers. These gadgets can never comprehend our natural programming. We have invented such gadgets, and we empower them to govern us. We are providing them opportunities to teach us, doesn’t it sound nasty?

The world can prove Asimov just at some point in the future, or we can say that we are advancing to chaos and descent. Things are evolving rapidly and we are merely spectators. We need to stop and begin to conserve our natural and traditional institutions. We must revive physical classes and teach our children more about physical classes instead of virtual classes. Let us not allow Asimov win the race, let not his prophecies govern us. In conclusion, we have to look at this as a matter of priority.

  • The writer is a student of English Literature and an independent scholar

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