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Caves of Steel: The Robot Series #1 by Isaac…
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Caves of Steel: The Robot Series #1 (original 1954; edition 1991)

by Isaac Asimov (Author)

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5,755991,076 (3.95)2 / 195
Member:mfagan
Title:Caves of Steel: The Robot Series #1
Authors:Isaac Asimov (Author)
Info:Random House (1991), 272 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:None

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The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (1954)

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English (94)  Italian (3)  French (1)  Slovak (1)  All languages (99)
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
A detective story set in Asimov’s future, where humans have started to spread across the galaxy but billions are still stuck on an overcrowded earth and rarely leave the fully enclosed mega-cities - the caves of steel. It’s the first story pairing Detective Elija Baley with Robot Daneel Olivaw. I love all Asimov’s robot stories, including this series. It’s interesting how crowded Asimov thinks earth will be at 8 billion, living on cultured yeast and never seeing the sun - when we are 7.6 billion now! ( )
  Griffin22 | Aug 28, 2018 |
This book had a decent mystery. I love a book that keeps you guessing and this book did that very well. If that was all this book had to it, it would have easily gotten four or more stars.

I once heard someone describe Asimov's writing as "when he remembers to add female characters, you wish he hadn't". That's very true with this book. There is one female character. She is a nag and a betrayer. She has perfectly good motivation for what she does (rare in Asimov's books for women) but these motives are dismissed by the main characters because what man could understand women?

The robots in this series are an allegory for immigrants. People treat them terribly and are worried that they will take their jobs. The robots are also not as smart as the humans and can only follow simple instructions, something that bothers me when viewed through the allegorical lens. The main character, a police officer, is partnered with a robot and this robot is smart and helpful. The main character slowly learns to accept robots. Thus, the reader is urged to accept immigration on these arguments. The allegory tends to break down when you look to closely at it but the message is positive overall, especially when written in the '50s.

The setting is fun and interesting. It is set on Earth in the future (I've heard ranges of the year 2950-4950). The Earth is over populated with 8 billion people on, forcing everyone to crowd into giant enclosed cities. This makes for an interesting setting and Asimov expertly explores it by introducing taboos and customs in amusing ways.

I would recommend reading this book once, if only for the setting and mystery.

CW: sexism, racism (allegorical) ( )
  BobbyCutiePie | Aug 21, 2018 |
I enjoyed listening to this audiobook which I had read long ago. The book was written in 1954 and really hits on our problems in today's world concerning population and worries over robotics. I'm set to go through the series again. ( )
  ajlewis2 | Jul 11, 2018 |
"There were infinite lights, the luminous walls and ceilings that seemed to drip cool, even phosphorescence; the flashing advertisements screaming for attention; the harsh, steady gleam of the 'lightworms' that directed:
THIS WAY TO JERSEY SECTIONS, FOLLOW ARROWS TO EAST RIVER SHUTTLE, UPPER LEVEL FOR ALL WAYS TI LONG ISLAND SECTIONS.
Most of all, there was the noise that was inseparable from life. The sound of millions talking, laughing, coughing, calling, humming, breathing."

In "The Caves of Steel" by Isaac Asimov

Set 2,000 years in the future, "The Caves of Steel" shows us contrasting pictures of Earth and the Outer Worlds - colonized planets throughout the Galaxy. Although the inhabitants of the Outer Worlds trace their origins to Earth, they are separated from it by much more than mere distance, now calling themselves Spacers and ruling the decaying mother planet as benevolent despots. In his earlier novels, Asimov mastered the translation of speech into its written equivalent; but to recreate the speech of a human being is a problem every novelist faces. Credible robotic speech is a much less common challenge, and in "The Caves of Steel" Asimov developed a form of dialogue for Daneel that is completely believable. Daneel's speech, while possessing the rather formal lilt one might expect from a machine, also possesses a gentle, tempered quality that allows him to pass for human. I was always conscious of a slight mechanical flavour as well.

No zeroth law yet here...it'd have made allowed some interesting variations. In "Robots and Empire", Asimov's robots do indeed find a cunning way around the three laws - they invent a Zeroth Law which states that "no robot can injure humanity or through inaction allow humanity to come to harm" which doesn't directly contradict the First Law, so their brains will accept it, but has the interesting effect in moral philosophical terms of turning them from Kantians to utilitarians. So rather than being guided by an absolute "thou shalt not kill" imperative they become able to kill or harm humans if and only if they have calculated it's for the greater good. Rather than becoming brutal overlords because of this (as the other laws still apply) they end up guiding the development of humanity quietly from the shadows, taking on a role not a billion miles from Banks's AIs. As I say, it was a billion years since I read Asimov but I had hell of a blast re-reading this first volume in the Robot Series.

I always thought Asimov's setup with the Three Laws of Robotics had a bit of a problem when it came to defining 'injure'. Is psychological damage also injury? Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies but don't tell me the truth if my feelings are going to be impacted. The ignorance and avoidance of truth causes a lot of harm in this world. Asimov's laws would clearly not cope with that. You would need to resolve the inherent conflict in the first law and it strikes me that’s when you have to include a decision made regarding relative good (i.e., five lives = better than one life). But then you have to include other factors (e.g., are children 'better' than old people) which becomes subjective. And this is in a simple situation where the "knowns" are all there, not the unknown consequences.

How can we give robots morals? What is our best guide to morality in practical affairs? Cicero's "De Officiis”, surely. Throw in his "Academica", "De Finibus" and "De Natura Deorum", and the robots might have a better sense of what it is to be human, and what it means to be a good person, absent life after death. These are ideas that have stuck fast in the history of European literature and philosophy, and I reckon Cicero's practical style of philosophy is a better guide to acting morally than any work of fiction. But the whole point of AI surely is to create an intelligence which surpasses human capabilities. What could ethics, applied or otherwise, possibly mean at this level of cognition...? AI is meant to make in-roads into the 'paradoxes' of philosophy; paradoxes which we 'resolve' in practical affairs with the virtue of prudence, or practical wisdom. Asimov's robot collapses into a heap of motionless metal when confronted with such paradoxes, but it seems to me that AI might be capable, at one point, of dealing with them. The big question is how...? Would we be willing to cede moral judgments to a non-human intelligence, if it could not adequately convey its 'prudence' to us in our own language?

Obviously, we enter into the realm of speculation here. But I think it behooves us to speculate...

Bottom-line: One of Asimov's best novels. I'd be content with politicians having some morals actually too. It's not the robots we have to worry about...I'd also add that rather than teach robots to read literature so that they can become more human, we should teach literature students to read texts as featuring not 'ethical dilemmas' but concurrency or race hazard problems so that they can become less robotic when they in turn become pedagogues...It's important, however, that those Sex Robots coming off Japanese production lines are also kept well away from feminist stuff, though, I would have thought. I suppose that Fighter Robots might be programmed with only war stories. Obviously stuff about muskets and canon balls and stuff like that would need to be excluded from the reading lists as well. What would happen if Daneel started reading Enid Blyton? I think it's just encourage Daneel to wander about all day trying to solve mysteries, being beastly to travellers, having high tea and picnics with lashings of strawberry jam (which probably wouldn't be good for him). ( )
1 vote antao | Jun 16, 2018 |
2.5 stars

It had its moments, but Asimov was better off simply ignoring the female half of the human race in his characters, and I wasn't wowed by the ending. Maybe Ian just needs to explain to me why it's awesome. ( )
  natcontrary | May 21, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isaac Asimovprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dufris, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foss, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, SteveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
To my wife GERTRUDE and My Son DAVID
First words
Lije Baley had just reached his desk when he became aware of R. Sammy watching him expectantly.
Lije Baley acababa de sentarse a su mesa cuando se dio cuenta de que R. Sammy lo estaba mirando con expectación.
Quotations
But now, Earthmen are all so coddled, so enwombed in their imprisoning caves of steel, that they are caught forever. (p. 97)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553293400, Mass Market Paperback)

A millennium into the future two advancements have altered the course of human history:  the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain.  Isaac Asimov's Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together.  Like most people left behind on an over-populated Earth, New York City police detective Elijah Baley had little love for either the arrogant Spacers or their robotic companions.  But when a prominent Spacer is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Baley is ordered to the Outer Worlds to help track down the killer.  The relationship between Life and his Spacer superiors, who distrusted all Earthmen, was strained from the start.  Then he learned that they had assigned him a partner:  R. Daneel Olivaw.  Worst of all was that the "R" stood for robot--and his positronic partner was made in the image and likeness of the murder victim!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:24 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Fearing a violent confrontation between Earthmen and Spacers, Detective Baley and his new partner, a robot made in the image of the victim, investigate the murder of a Spacetown scientist.

(summary from another edition)

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