Monday, December 17, 2012

I, Robot

Book: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

Description: 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 orders givein to 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.

With this, Asimov changed our perception of robots forever when he formulated the laws governing their behavior. In I, Robot, Asimov chronicles the development of the robot through a series of interlinked stories: from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future--a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete.

Here are stories of robots gone mad, of mind-read robots, and robots with a sense of humor. Of robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world--all told with the dramatic blend of science fact & science fiction that became Asmiov's trademark. (from

This was a really though-provoking book. Asimov trying, really, to create ideal men with his robots, something made rather clear as Dr. Calvin listed the three things humans should do--and they were in the opposite order as the 3 Laws of Robotics, ie what should be important to humans was actually important to robots. I must say that I rather objected to the fact that humans were capable of creating such perfect beings--as fallen creatures, I doubt that we have it in us. Also, of course, creating is God's job, not ours. But... although the robots felt very human, does having a bit of a personality make them human? It makes them appear human, but...

The overall feel of these stories was rather creepy, which was odd, because not sure it was meant to be creepy, and none of the other robots were. There was very much a sense of controlled danger with robots, considering that they had the power to get rid of humans. At the same time, there was also very much a sense of 'progress is always good.' The Fundamentalists, who who were against technology in general (including robots), were seen as essentially ostriches who were ignoring reality. So there was a really interesting interplay between those two  ideas.

Donovan and Powell were by far the most entertaining characters--their stories reminded me of something out of Star Wars, complete with the kindly scoundrels and the throwing around of technical terms and the large amount of dangerous situations. Most of the other characters were good--Dr. Calvin was awesome. Loved her! My big problem with the characters was that they were all too good--I know optimism was running high in the 50s, but I really can't see humans all binding together on a planetwide basis. It's just not in our fallen nature (and would we really want to? Asimov's imagination of a peaceful world was also an almost entirely homogenous world, and God loves our uniqueness, too). And almost everyone was ultimately good, a bit creepily so. Even the obnoxious company executives or whatever just seemed slightly misguided but ultimately well-meaning.

There was also some subtle hostility to religion: Like the robot who believed that a bigger robot was a god who had created him--he just looked silly. But actually a rather good metaphor for human existence in a way--we don't understand everything because of our limited human perspective, and therefore often can't see God and His hand and His truth, even when it's really obvious from a different perspective. 

This was a gripping, thought-provoking read that I enjoyed and would highly recommend. 

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