Sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov wrote or edited more than 500 books. He is widely considered a master of the science-fiction genre and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, was considered one of the "Big Three" science-fiction writers during his lifetime. He penned numerous short stories, among them "Nightfall", which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story. He also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as a great amount of nonfiction. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.
Most of Asimov's popularized science books explain scientific concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. He often provides nationalities, birth dates, and death dates for the scientists he mentions, as well as etymologies and pronunciation guides for technical terms. Examples include his Guide to Science, the three volume set Understanding Physics, and Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery.
Asimov was a long-time member and Vice President of Mensa International, albeit reluctantly; he described the members of that organization as "intellectually combative". He took more joy in being president of the American Humanist Association. The asteroid 5020 Asimov, the magazine Asimov's Science Fiction, and two different Isaac Asimov Awards are named in his honor.
Much of Asimov's fiction dealt with themes of paternalism. His first robot story, "Robbie", concerned a robotic nanny. "Lenny" deals with the capacity of robopsychologist Susan Calvin to feel maternal love towards a robot whose positronic brain capacities are those of a 3-year-old. As the robots grew more sophisticated, their interventions became more wide-reaching and subtle. In "Evidence", the story revolves around a candidate who successfully runs for office who may be a robot masquerading as a human. In "The Evitable Conflict", the robots run humanity from behind the scenes, acting as nannies to the whole species.
Later, in The Robots of Dawn and Robots and Empire, a robot develops what he calls the Zeroth Law of Robotics. The End of Eternity, features a similar conflict and resolution. The significance of the Zeroth Law is that it outweighs and supersedes all other Laws of Robotics: if a robot finds himself in a situation whereby he must murder one or more humans (a direct violation of the First Law of Robotics) in order to protect all of humanity (and preserve the Zeroth Law), then the robot's positronic programming will require him to commit murder for humanity's sake. Only highly advanced robots (such as Daneel and Giskard) could comprehend this law.
In The Foundation Series (which did not originally have robots), a scientist implements a semi-secret plan to create a new galactic empire over the course of 1,000 years. This series has its version of Platonic guardians, called the Second Foundation, to perfect and protect the plan. When Asimov stopped writing the series in the 1950s, the Second Foundation was depicted as benign protectors of humanity. When he revisited the series in the 1980s, he made the paternalistic themes even more explicit.
Foundation's Edge introduced the planet Gaia, obviously based on the Gaia hypothesis. Every animal, plant, and mineral on Gaia participated in a shared consciousness, forming a single super-mind working together for the greater good. In Foundation and Earth, the protagonist starts searching for the Earth, thinking that there he could find the answer of why he decided, in Foundation's Edge, that Galaxia was the right choice to take. Gaia is one of Asimov's best attempts at exploring the possibility of a collective awareness, and is compounded further in Nemesis, in which the planet Erythro composed primarily of prokaryotic life has a mind of its own and seeks communion with human beings.
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