Friday, March 16, 2012

Asimov PP 2/1990: "Business as Usual"

I'm going through Isaac Asimov's F&SF essays in reverse order by date to share the Personal Paragraphs with which he invariably opened each essay.

Note I post these PP every other day.
I love giving talks, but I can't give as many as I would like. For one thing, the business of my life is writing, and I cannot sacrifice too much writing time for the pleasure of talking-even at the high lecture fees I routinely extort. In the second place, I don't like to travel, so I don't accept engagements that are more than a few hours distance from my home, especially in the winter months.

But if the talk is close to home and comes at a time when I can spare an evening, I refuse to turn it down simply because I don't know anything about the subject. After all, I can always brush up on it quickly, and since I like to think of myself as a person of infinite resource and sagacity, I am always sure that I can think of some approach I can handle.

Thus, it came about earlier this year that I was asked to give a talk on the future of "smart cards."

I drew a complete blank. Smart cards?

However, the fee was right, the place was right, the time was right, so I had no intention of refusing. I wrote the people a letter and said, "I'll be glad to oblige, but tell me-What are smart cards? Card that play poker by themselves?"

I was promptly deluged with material on the subject. Smart cards are objects very much the size and shape of credit cards, but are so thoroughly computerized that they carry enormous amounts of information about you and your affairs and can greatly simplify the financial transactions you might wish to undertake.

That was a relief. After all, I had written a brief essay on the subject back in 1975, strictly out of my head. I just didn't know the things were called "smart cards". So I gave the talk with confidence and it was very successful, I'm glad to say.

In the process, though, I had to do some thinking along lines I had not ppreviously dealt with much, and I would like to share some of those thoughts with you, for what they're worth.

Asimov then goes on to talk about the history of the development of money.

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