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I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
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I, Robot. Is there a selection from the golden age of science fiction that better epitomizes the era?

There's no doubt that Isaac Asimov's I, Robot is a science fiction classic. Complete with the three laws of robotics, it casts a tall shadow over almost every work of science fiction, book or movie, and you hear echoes, loud and soft, anywhere on artificial intelligence or robotics appears.

Whether it is Bishop in Alien ( "It is impossible for me to harm, or, by omission of action, allow to be harmed, a human being."), C-3PO in Star Wars ("It's against my programming to impersonate a deity."), or the android Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, whose role in the show seems to be guided by examination of the themes in I, Robot, Asimov's laws have made an impression that place the novel firmly in the science fiction canon.

As I reread I, Robot recently, considering these themes and how Asimov told his tale, and what the I, Robot's legacy should be, I was struck with how much science fiction has changed, and yet owes a debt to Asimov. Even this year's winner of the Hugo for best novel, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, resonates with themes about artificial intelligence embodied and self-examining the rules and justifications for existence, not unlike I, Robot. But unlike Asimov's highly logical tales--I, Robot is structured more like a collection of stories that follow the introduction of robots and artificial intelligence to society--Leckie's novel is a space opera, focused more on existential drama and emotion than on hard science and logic. Anyone can enjoy Leckie's fiction--well, almost anyone--but Asimov's writing lends itself more to the devotee of the genre, to the engineer, to the aficionado of the hard sciences. He believed that the only constant in history was change, and that it was the role of science fiction to guess at what the future would be. "Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today — but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept around which it revolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all."

Meanwhile, much of today's science fiction seems to focus less on the science and more on the pet political issues of its writers. Asimov was no shrinking violet when it came to politics or religion (he was an atheist and dismissive of those who believed in divinity), but neither was he one to allow society to get in the way of the science in his fiction, including I, Robot. Looking at other Hugo winners, he would have enjoyed Mary Robinette Kowal's The Lady Astronaut of Mars, a tale about the first lady astronaut to go to Mars considering how to return to the stars, but Asimov would have scratched his head over John Chu's "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere," which is best described as two gay guys having sex on a couch when they magically take the ice bucket challenge.

(I think he would have been just fine with Charles Stross, a multiple Hugo nominee and recipient this year, especially since Stross explicitly cites and applies the three laws of robotics found in I, Robot in his Saturn's Children).

Looking at these Hugo winning selections, its easy to see some relationship to Asimov's influence and I, Robot, but also to see complete aversion to a hard science effort at fiction. Sure, readers expectations have shifted, writing styles have changed, and we've caught up to what was then the future in I, Robot. But what made Asimov resonate was a view to the future that was hopeful and expectant (mostly), believing that we could dream up ways to solve our problems with technology as our tools.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into Asimov. But I don't think so. There may not be the gripping and exciting action scenes or the touchy-feely interviewing of heavy-handed political messages (I'm looking at you, Nancy Kress and your After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall), but it's hard to walk away from I, Robot without wanting to then stop by the Radio Shack and pick up a few gadgets and gizmos to maybe try putting together a robot or two of your own. That's the kind of science fiction I like, and that's the kind I hope more modern writers will write. ( )
  publiusdb | Sep 25, 2014 |
The beginning of the book was good to me. The lead up wasn't fast enough for me though, I didn't really enjoy it or understand it. ( )
  AriannaBiggens | Sep 11, 2014 |
The way the stories lead up to humans relying on robots is very interesting. The concept of the stories being told in an interview with a robopsychologist is innovative. ( )
  SebastianHagelstein | Sep 7, 2014 |
Let's just say that I'm not the biggest fan of science fiction and picking this book as my first (second, to be honest) experience with sci-fi just because I liked the movie wasn't necessarily a good idea.
Notice that I'm not saying that the book is NOT good. People who like futuristic scenarios might enjoy the book at its fullest, but this just... wasn't for me.
Unlike the movie, the book tells several different shorter stories that connect to each other in some way or another, always having as focus the Three Laws of Robotics and how and where they could fail. The main focus is actually pretty good, but the way the story was developed simply didn't catch my interest. The one "main" character was pretty dull and uninteresting if I am to compare her with several main characters from other books I read before.
Well, perhaps it was just my expectations for the book. People who like the genre might love the book. I enjoyed reading it to know how the genre treats the story. But I wouldn't read it for a second time. ( )
  aryadeschain | Aug 26, 2014 |
Tags: Fantasy, Voice Activated, Automatic

Summary: Just like in the movie starring Will Smith, I, Robot is about the 3 Laws of Robotics. I'm not a fan of fantasy or science fiction related books and or movies, but this time i would have to say I enjoyed reading this book and then watching the Will Smith version of the movie. I can watch this and that is about the limit for me. I have NEVER watched the hobbit, harry potter, star war related movies or their books. I just cannot do it.

Personal Reaction: Like I said I enjoy a decent, not to far from home science fiction movie, and I, Robot the movie and the book are about it. I do believe there is some real truth in robots and they will at some point be running a great deal of the world as we know it, but for know humans are needed and will alway be needed as a robot could not replace every human and everything they do.

Extension Ideas: Come up with ideas how robots could never replace a human or the job they do. ( )
  armyflyingguy | Jul 18, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (47 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isaac Asimovprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berkey, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cartier, EddCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Serra, LauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, StephenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To John W. Campbell, Jr., who godfathered the robots
First words
"Ninety-eight — ninety-nine — one hundred."
It was one of Gregory Powell's favorite platitudes that nothing was to be gained from excitement, so when Mike Donovan came leaping down the stairs toward him, red hair matted with perspiration, Powell frowned.
Half a year later, the boys had changed their minds.
Catch That Rabbit:
The vacation was longer than two weeks.
Alfred Lanning lit his cigar carefully, but the tips of his fingers were trembling slightly.
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.
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Wikipedia in English (5)

Book description
In dieser Veröffentlichung sind die Erzählungen zusammengefaßt, die in den Bänden "Ich, der Robot", "Geliebter Roboter" und "Der Zweihundertjährige" erschienen sind, entstanden zwischen 1940 und 1976.

Catch That Rabbit
Little Lost Robot
The Evitable Conflict
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553294385, Mass Market Paperback)

In this collection, one of the great classics of science fiction, Asimov set out the principles of robot behavior that we know as the Three Laws of Robotics. Here are stories of robots gone mad, mind-reading robots, robots with a sense of humor, robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world, all told with Asimov's trademark dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:54 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

In this collection, one of the great classics of science fiction, Asimov set out the principles of robot behavior that we know as the Three Laws of Robotics. Here are stories of robots gone mad, mind-reading robots, robots with a sense of humor, robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world, all told with Asimov's trademark dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction.… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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