Tuesday, March 24, 2009


"Speech, originally, was the device whereby Man learned, imperfectly, to transmit the thoughts and emotions of the mind. By setting up arbitrary sounds and combinations of sounds to represent certain mental nuances, he developed a method of communication - but one which in its clumsiness and thick-thumbed inadequacy degenerated all the delicacy of the mind into gross and guttural signaling." - Isaac Asimov, Second Foundation

I must say, that passage (along with others that are similarly insightful), jumped out to me even as I read it. How clearly it describes the human condition. He goes on to explain that essentially all the misunderstandings in history from small squabbles between friends to full on wars could be traced to this very problem: we don't understand each other. If we could read each other's thoughts, the need for subterfuge - the need to be deceptive - would be eliminated as moot. Instead, we are left with ambiguity, uncertainty, confusion, and so much more. Would the world be a better place if we could see into each other's thoughts? I'm not sure, but I can at least see why Asimov admired the idea of telepathy as an improved form of communication. I wonder if that was what it was like before the Tower of Babel confounded the language of man. Indeed, is that what it will be like in the afterlife?

Perhaps this post begins to show why I am loving these books. They are very insightful, and extremely thought provoking. Certainly, there are some anachronistic elements given the era in which the books were written, but I am amazed at how well his story holds up even with fifty years of scientific development in the interim that would change the way he saw the future. Again, I regret having taken so long to join his fan club, but at least I'm there now.

-- Robert


Melissa said...

See? I knew you would like him. It's a fascinating study in society disguised as a sci-fi book.

Robert said...

Shh.... don't say it too loud. Ellie might actually start to read him and like him, too...