I, Robot

My old, second-hand 'I, Robot' coverI, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

206 pages long.




The Three Laws Of Robotics:

1 - A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction allow a human being to come to harm.

2 - A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3 - A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Handbook of Robotics,
56th Edition, 2058 A.D.

Held as a classic for science fiction this is the book that allowed other books about robots to be written. Short in length it packs a punch for those who may be used to ray guns and spaceships. This is a book about science that is set in a science fiction setting of the near future, of course this was the near future of 2064 compared to when it was written around the 1950's.

Comprising the short stories Asimov had written for various science fiction magazines of the time, it became the novel which charts the memories and reflections of a famous robo-psychologist, Doctor Susan Calvin; the interviewer writing a feature article on Dr. Calvin for the Interplanetary Press. She had lived through the major years of robotic development and had made major contributions to their development.

After an initial introduction to Dr. Calvin, the book then follows her memories as separate stories which together highlight the problems and boundaries crossed in the make up of robots and how Earth depends upon them. These then build into a theme of dependency upon the robots and their functionality.

The book was fun to read and quick, it contains elements of humour, tension and a little thought is needed to fully appreciate what Asimov is doing here. This is essentially a theoretical exploration of robots and their thought processes following a logical course of proposed events and outcomes. It seems to be a collection of Asimov's ideals and idle thoughts concerning the growth of artificial intelligences and the uses Earth will put them too. Like his Foundation series, it is in the manner of conversation and discussed action. Few words describe bangs or the fiery destruction of spaceships here, but the empathy and emotions of people and robots as they learn to coalesce.

I came by the end of the book to respect Dr. Susan, as what I think was the aim. After seeing such films as AI and many other sci-fi films dealing with robots or artificial intelligences going wild etc. it is extraordinary to realize these were thoughts laid down by a man over half a century ago, this is what now makes I Robot a masterpiece, not its style, skill or even its narrative, but the prediction and guidance it has given thinkers to this day. Would AI; Stanley Kubrick's last film proposal, taken over by Steven Spielberg, have existed without this work? I think not!

Enjoyment: 5, Depth: 8, Readability: 7, Layout: 9, Value: 10.

The story entitled 'Robbie' was first published as 'Strange Playfellow' in Super Science Stories, copyright 1940 by Fictioneers, Inc. The following stories from Astounding Science Fiction, 'Reason', 'Liar!', 'Runaround', 'Catch That Rabbit', 'Escape!', 'Evidence', 'Little Lost Robot', 'The Evitable Conflict', are respectively copyright, 1941, 1941, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950 by Street and Smith Publications, Inc.

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Last updated: 30th April 2002