Survival

And in between everything else, in stolen hours, I’ve re-read Asimov’s  The Robots of Dawn. It is stilted, and it is dated, and yet Asimov’s themes keep fascinating me: in urbanisation lies our survival. If I live to be 90, more than half of all the people on earth will live in cities, and the Cities Asimov describes so lovingly will have come a bit closer. I’m already living in Randstad – we only need to give up the pretence that Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam are separate entities. Kept separate by rigid planning laws and political expediency.

Anyway, Asimov couldn’t wait for Cities to happen. Man was an claustrophobic himself, which may account for the vividness of his characters’ distress when caught Outside. Outside, where the wind blows uncontrolled and unprocessed, where water rains down with neither faucet nor handle, where the light comes and goes according to the whimsy of the clouds.

‘Daneel,’ said Baley. ‘ Í don’t want any of that. I want no stars, no clouds, no sounds, no trees, no wind – no scents  either. I want darkness – featureless darkness. Could you arrange that?’ [page 201]

The airfoil did not skim the ground for long. It came to a halt, swaying a bit, and Baley felt the usual odd tightening of his stomach. That small unsteadiness told him he was in a vehicle and it drove away the temporary feeling of being safe within walls and between robots. Through the glass ahead and on either side (and backward, if he craned his neck) was the whiteness of sky and the greenness of foliage, all amounting to Outside – that is, to nothing . He swallowed uneasily. [page 273]

Baley felt cool air curling about his foot and a sprinkle of cool water. It was a frightningly abnormal thing to sense, yet he could not allow the door to close, for he would then not know how to open it. (How did the robots open those doors? Undoubtedly, it was no puzzle to members of the culture, but in his reading on Auroran life, there was no careful instruction of  just how one opens the door of a standard airfoil. Everything of importance is taken for granted. You are supposed to know, even though you are, in theory, being informed.) 

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