Friday, July 23, 2004

I, Robot: A Review

Friday, July 23, 2004
"I, Robot" is the classic science fiction novel by Isaac Asimov.  It kicks off the best selling Robot/Foundation series, though when "I, Robot" was first published it was not intended to be a part of any larger series, nor were Robot and Foundation originally connected.  While the format of "I, Robot" is loosely a novel, it is truly a collection of short stories that is bridged by a common thread and text that connects all stories together. 

The tie that connects these stories together is Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist.  At the start of the book, Calvin is retiring from her position at U.S. Robotics.  A reporter is trying to get her thoughts on the history of robotics, but not the official position, more of her personal impressions.  Calvin was at U.S. Robotics when the first truly "thinking" robots were released for sale and was at the forefront of figuring out why some robots were acting the way they were.  The format of "I, Robot" is such that Calvin is essentially giving a little bit of background which moves into the short story, giving an episodic feel to the book. 

As the stories move in chronological order, the reader is presented with the evolution of robots, starting with "Robbie", which deals with the relationship a little girl has with her robot, Robbie.  Robbie was designed as a playmate for a little girl and her parents feel that she has become too attached to the robot and has forsaken real friends.  Robbie is an earlier design robot: large, clunky, and without the ability to speak.  The subsequent stories show the development of robots and include: a mind reading robot, a robot who does not believe it is possible that a human could create a robot, and one that may even end up ruling the world.

Through these stories, Asimov has set up the Three Laws of Robotics, which are:

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.

These Three Laws are the driving force within each of the stories.  What is interesting here is that all of the stories are something of a "whodunit".  Something is not working exactly right with a robot and it is up to Susan Calvin, or the team of Martin and Donovan to figure out why a robot is not working how it is expected to.  Each time, it has something to do with the Three Laws and everything makes sense within the confines of the Three Laws: Calvin, Martin, and Donovan just have to figure out what. 

The writing style here is simple, and easy to read.  Despite the fact that there is little "action" happening in the stories, they move along quickly.  These are stories of humanity and science and the robots seem to fit into both categories at the same time.  "I, Robot" is rightly considered a classic of science fiction and these are simple little gems with a depth of complexity that makes everything fit together. 

0 comments:

 
◄Design by Pocket Distributed by Deluxe Templates