As I was reading “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” a weird fictional book, “Encyclopedia Galactica,” kept popping up in my mind. Intrigued, I decided to do a random Google search to see what would turn up. Lo and behold, I discovered that this fictional book actually originated from another fictional sci-fi series that began with the novel “Foundation.”

Written by Isaac Asimov, this book was first released in 1952 and has remained a classic ever since. It’s funny that hardly anyone knows who the author is nowadays, and if you’d asked me a year ago I wouldn’t have recognized it either. However, if you’ve seen the movie “I, Robot” with Will Smith, you should know who Asimov is; the movie is modeled after his sci-fi novel, and it’s his crazy imagination of robots and chaos that has made him famous for decades.

“Foundation” is a seven-novel series that spans the centuries. I’ve only read two so far, but the main plot involves a man in a wheelchair named Hari Seldon who uses a new science called “psychohistory” to predict a 30,000-year-long Dark Age and thus tries to minimize the damage. Although he dies shortly into the story, his image lives on in a holographic version much like the aging Peter Weyland in the movie “Prometheus.” He’s a wise old man whose message is meant to guide those who follow.

For anyone interested, the book is like a PG-rated sci-fi version of “Game of Thrones.” It’s all about politics, double-crossing and manipulation. But what makes this book stand out is that the plot relies almost entirely on dialogue. In most other books of its genre, the authors instead spend much of their time building worlds — where every visual aspect builds up to one big picture of the universe.

This got me thinking. If Isaac Asimov were to include me and my friends in this futuristic, dialogue-heavy novel, how would we turn out? I imagined all of my friends conversing as much as his characters, and that’s when I came to the conclusion that something was completely wrong.

iPhones. With the mindset of a 1950s thinker, Asimov never included anything close to the kind of digital communication we have today. It made me laugh thinking about Asimov’s dialogue if after every line there was written, “Then he or she looked down to check BuzzFeed and tweet about his or her feelings,” until I realized just how sadly accurate this depiction of my daily conversations was. How can anything progress if when you’re with friends the only future you’re focused on is the one when you should post an Instagram picture that can guarantee the most likes?

In the end, I decided it was up to me to make a change. Even when Hari Seldon, the genius scientist, mapped out the next several millennia, people had to decide for themselves what to do when things developed out of their control. Just because events seem inevitable doesn’t mean that none of us have a choice. Whether it’s a mutant man named Mule who can distort your emotions without physically harming you or an iPhone text message that has virtually the same effect, it’s up to the individual to find the willpower to spur change.

When I went out to dinner with my friends, five of seven girls had their iPhones out, myself included. Sure there were moments when we bonded and shared pictures that we had on our phones, but for the most part we’d break away mid-conversation to text people back and check out our newsfeeds. When we returned to my friend’s house to chat and catch up about how college was going, it was the same thing.

So we decided to break the cycle. One moment we were sitting around watching random videos on Vine, and the next moment we chose to play a board game instead. I know it sounds corny, but hey, “Settlers of Catan” is a pretty epic game. Instead of glancing at our phones we were glancing at our cards, and those endless text messages were soon replaced by the kind of humorous and close-knit conversation that you remember most about your friends and can only exist with that kind of personal, face-to-face contact.

Where Isaac Asimov used dialogue to drive along his entire series, I used it to strengthen the high school friendships that never quite felt the same over Facebook. Playing a board game might’ve been a small step, but it showed me that face-to-face encounters continue to be irreplaceable. At the end of the day, we are all capable of taking a little bit away from Asimov’s series and spending even just a moment building relationships for the future without social media.

Hannah Kaufman is a rising sophomore in the College. Back to Futures Past appears every other Monday at

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