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Profession by Isaac Asimov

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“Profession” is a 1957 science fiction novella by Isaac Asimov. It is about a young man in the 65th century who dreams of being a computer programmer.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

“Profession” follows George Platen, a young man who believes he has figured out the best profession to be in. The society in which he lives, however, will decide what he will be. When George was eight he was “taught” to read instantly by having a computer transfer that knowledge directly to his brain. Now that he is eighteen he prepares for “Education Day” – that time when it is decided what he will be and the knowledge will be transferred – only there seems to be a little problem with his tests, a problem that will cause him much anguish.

“Are you afraid, George?”

“No, sir.”

“Good. Now I’ll tell you exactly what we’ll do first. I’m going to put these wires on your forehead just over the corners of your eyes. They’ll stick there but they won’t hurt at all. Then, I’ll turn on something that will make a buzz. It will sound funny and it may tickle you, but it won’t hurt. Now if it does hurt, you tell me, and I’ll turn it off right away, but it won’t hurt. All right?”

George nodded and swallowed.

“Are you ready?”

George nodded. He closed his eyes while the doctor busied himself.

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • I am a huge Asimov fan, so my opinion is most likely colored here, but I really enjoy his style! I like the 1950’s feel, I like the dialog, I like Asimov’s idea of outer planets looking to Earth to provide the best and the brightest. This story is pure, classic Asimov – and that is good stuff!
  • I have always thought that it would be cool to be instantly educated. “Profession” explores that idea in some intriguing depth.
  • Ah, in true Asimov-ian style the ending contains a nice little twist! Ya gotta love that baby!

• The bad:

  • It is long, so give yourself plenty of time to read it. (But it is definitely worth it!)
  • As I stated above, this is a classic example of Asimov’s story telling style – if you don’t like that then you’d best move on.

Fact Sheet:

• Page Count: 42
• Word Count: 20,428

Where you can find “Profession”:

Some Interesting Links:

  • Did you know that Isaac Asimov was part of the Baker Street Irregulars, a group of avid Sherlock Holmes fans that held an annual banquet to celebrate Holmes’ birthday? Yep. You can learn more about this amazing science fiction author at
  • For another short review of “Profession” check out this page by JH Jenkins.
  • The Sci-Fi Dude ranks this story # 3 in his “Science Fiction Classics” series.

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like Star Light, Star Bright, about a boy who has some amazing knowledge, by Alfred Bester.

2 thoughts to “Profession by Isaac Asimov”

  1. Hey Rusty,

    I have to thank you.
    You have ignited my love for Asimov’s short stories.
    I never really paid a lot of attention to Asimov (although I knew he was a good author, unfortunately, I didn’t know anything else about him).

    Thanks to you and this story review, I have read it and immediately jumped to as many other short stories of his as I could get my hands on.

    The best one I’ve read so far was “The Last Question”, it was simply brilliant.
    However, I just hope that wasn’t the pinnacle of his work, I’d hate it if it went downhill from there on. But I’m rather certain that I will find many more excellent stories by Isaac Asimov.

    So once again, thank you!

    Best regards,

    P.S.: Right now I’m reading “Nine Tomorrows”, but I still have “Earth Is Room Enough” and “I, Robot” lying here to be read. 🙂

  2. Thanks Anplak!

    I agree that Isaac Asimov is a great writer, though I’ve read far more of his novels than his short stories.

    I have some more Asimov short stories lined up to review, so be sure to check back.

    It’s always good to know that someone else likes the same stories that I do.


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