Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I, ROBOT by Isaac Asimov

How many years has it been?  According to Wikipedia, Gnome Press first published Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot as a book in 1950.  Before that, it had been a series of short stories in popular science fiction magazines of the late forties. 

So it must be forty years since I read the book. 

I, Robot is still good reading.

Cast as a series of interviews with Dr. Susan Calvin, the now-elderly premier robot psychologist of the time, the stories in the book trace robot evolution to the point where robots take over the world.

Anyone who has read the book or seen the movie is familiar with 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 given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

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

Given those laws, how could robots quietly revolt and run the world?  These stories propose a way.

The short stories are, by and large, parts of the interview with Dr. Calvin.  She tells the story of her first robot, Robbie. 

Along the way, she tells the story of another robot for which inventors modified the First Law taking out the part after the initial comma.  That change causes special problems.

Then there is the robot who, with the help of its maker, successfully disguises itself as a human being.

And at the close, there are the Machines who have robbed our freedom.  They run our government and economic system even to the point of being able to do what seems, at least, to be moderate harm to human beings. 

I was amazed at how well-written these stories are.  Only the last one, with its tedious discussion of world economics, bored me. 

I had remembered this book to be hard reading.  Now I found it easy.  Maybe being older does have some advantages!

I enjoyed rereading a book I first read four decades ago.

I checked out this ebook from the local library.   I don’t recall ever having seen the movie.


Richard R. said...

Joe, this one is a favorite of mine, though I've not read it in a decade or two. Your review captures the spirit of the book and I'll add my own recommendation. As for the film, it suffers the usual Hollywood rewriting and over-dramatization, so while it's somewhat entertaining, it certainly isn't to be considered a substitute for reading the book.

Also, Naked Sun is part of the series.

Joe Barone said...

After she had reread this book, my wife and I sat and talked about Asimov's other Robot books. We also enjoyed those.

Todd Mason said...

Also of interest, perhaps, are the works the Asimov helped inspire, particularly John Sladek's work.

Joe Barone said...

I have not read these. Thanks!