The Late Movies: Isaac Asimov’s “Visions of the Future”

Chris Higgins
The Late Movies
The Late Movies /

Tonight, a special treat for fans of Isaac Asimov: a TV pilot he created two years before his death. This 40-minute film is based on Asimov’s pilot for Visions of the Future, a series in which he planned to explain the effects of technology on humanity, predict some upcoming changes in technology, and sport his super-hardcore mutton chops. Now, to be frank, this is basically Asimov staring at the camera and talking for about a half hour, with a few minutes of introductory material about him. But if you’re anything like me, seeing Asimov ramble on for a half hour is actually pretty great.

Part 1

The first six minutes are not super exciting (they cover Asimov’s backstory) — if you skip ahead to 6:30 you’ll see the man himself start talking. Discussed: how the space race led to satellite technology, how science fiction and science fact blur together over time, and superconductors (remember when we were all super-psyched about superconductors in the early 90?s?).

Part 2

Genetic engineering, space, sailing vs. solar wind, and space telescopes.

Part 3

COMPUTERS AND ROBOTS! “We’ve discovered a machine that can substitute, at least in part, the human brain… We can look into a future when, for the first time, humanity in general will be freed of all kinds of work that’s really an insult to the complex human brain.” (The latter quote is spoken as DOS commands scroll by.)

Part 4

Superconductors! “We can perhaps use it to create nuclear fusion and give us a completely new source of energy.” Also, maglev trains.

Also, shout-out to the Higgs particle (later called “The God Particle,” which is also my rapper name).

(Via the seriously awesome Brain Pickings.)