on July 10, 2004
Re-reading "I, Robot" before the movie comes out was a good idea, I'm glad I did. For me, reading Asimov if often a fond trip down memory lane.
But if you have never read Asimov or looking for somewhere to start, I would highly recommend "I, Robot" as a first glimpse into Asimov's world(s). Here is a wonderful and timeless collection of nine short stories that all center around a central theme; The Three Laws Of Robotics.
The three laws 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 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 laws are the central theme to each individual story, and connecting them is a running "Runaround", "Reason", and "Catch That Rabbit". Always under the direst of circumstances, they must figure out the malfunction of the robot before something terrible happens. Very entertaining stories.
Some of the other stories are about Dr. Calvin's personal experiences, such as "Liar" and "Little Lost Robot", but all fall back onto the laws as their basic theme, and whether or not humans will ever accept robots among them.
Once finished with "I, Robot", I very highly recommend the "Foundation" series, one of my favorite Asimov themes, along with the Robot Trilogy and another favorite, "Nightfall". Asimov has the gift of creating lively, likeable characters with a technical backdrop to his all-to-human stories, and always infuses a bit of humor into them.
Truly one of the great masters of Sci-Fi, Asimov is a must-read in my opinion, and "I, Robot" is a wonderful starting point.
on July 18, 2004
With all due respect to Michael Ellis's review warning people that the book in not like the movie, a noble gesture, no doubt meant to be helpful, and that they will be disappointed if they buy the book thinking that they will be similar, he has it exactly backwards.
The book was published in 1950, so the movie is not like the book. The movie states that it is "suggested by Isaac Asimov's book" and has some similarities. To learn more about this outstanding book of short stories, see a good Isaac Asimov oriented web site at [...]
on October 6, 2006
Isaac Asimov was, of course, a mover and shaker not just in the field of science fiction, but as a science educator for the masses. His prodigious output of books and articles was one of the seven wonders of the modern world, yet it's a relatively small number of short stories and novels for which (I predict) he'll be remembered. Stories like "Nightfall," "Bicentennial Man," and of course his robot stories with their "three laws" will still be read and appreciated for years to come. By showing us how the three laws worked (or sometimes didn't) in these stories, he created a practical foundation for the future of robotics, and Carl Capek aside (who wrote one of the first robot stories, RUR, in 1921) Asimov is considered by many as the father of modern robotics. The Japanese in particular seem fascinated with robots and their potential, so it shouldn't be surprising that Honda named their sophisticated humanoid robot Asimo in his honor.
These stories do show the era in which they were written by the language, but the innovative theories behind them and the "why didn't I think of that?" reaction from readers remain.
-Mark Wakely, author of An Audience for Einstein
on July 12, 2004
I, Robot is actually a group on nine short stories that describe the early history of robots, as developed by the great Isaac Asimov via the guise of an interview with Dr. Susan Calvin, the robopsyhcologist that worked for United States Robotics. The stories are all built around the three laws that robots must follow (which many other reviewers discuss, and so I will refrain from here).
The movies really has little to do with the books, from what the trailers show. The character that Will Smith plays does not exist in any of the short stories. Also, at the time the movie takes place, in the books, robots are not allowed on Earth.
Regardless, understanding the premise of robotics and how and why robots act as they do, will almost certainly be greatly enhanced by your reading of this quick and fun book. Then, you can read some of the other Asimov robot series (Robot Dreams, Caves of Steel, Naked Sun, Robots of Dawn).
on June 25, 2004
Asimov's greatest strength as a writer was his ability to take a concept and cascade its effect throught out the culture he wrote about. I, Robot shows the evolution of the simple robot from an mute entity similar to a loyal, very smart, pet dog to a creature more than capable of dominating its master.
Many of the assumptions in Asimov's book are now somewhat funny in hindsight (Robot's cost $30,000, the population of the earth is 3 Billion) but the science fiction is still cutting edge. Indeed the premise behind the such great movies as the Matrix, Terminator, and AI are due to this book and let's not forget Bishop the android in Alien's.
This book is a quick and easy read but in the world we live in now with intelligent, unmanned military hardware apparently just around the corner, this book should be a required part of any modern philosophy class. Indeed, what is the next step for Global Hawks and Predator Drones? It seems that removing the need for a human operator can only be days not years away.
I, Robot indeed.
on May 14, 2004
Must Read. Period.
Asimov is my most favorite author of all times. He has written in such varied subjects as Shakespeare, chemistry, scifi and astronomy, just to name a few -- And a total of almost 500 books. One man, in One lifetime, writing so many books is just plain amazing and inspiring! Asimov invented the term 'Robotics' and if I am not wrong, 'Robopsychologist' as well. His Three Laws of Robotics form the cornerstone of the field of Robotics.
"I, Robot" is one of Asimov's best scifi books. Its unique format as a series of short stories is another the mark of the genius. I am not sure anyone else has ever written a novel as a collection of short stories. If you are the kind of reader who wants to read a little bit at a time, you can read a short story and take a break for even a couple of days without any sense of a hanging storyline! (although it will be very hard to stop yourself)
Each one of the stories is engrossing and has a new perspective to offer on the subject of robots and on how humans would interact with them. Asimov excels in the absolutely wonderful logical arguments his characters have to solve a problem. In fact, I think one can learn a lot about the approach to generic problem solving from reading these stories. Susan Calvin, the first robopsychologist, narrates her experiences in interacting with robots and solving strange problems caused by them. To mention a few, it starts off with a girl's love of her robot, then goes on to a mind-reading robot and even a robot that wants to lose itself.
The movie 'I, Robot' is coming out in July 2004. From what I hear, the movie is not based on any single story written by Asimov, but combines a few of them from 'I, Robot' and his 'Elijah Baley' novels. I don't know about the movie, but as far as this book is concerned, rest assured that you'll have a few very short hours of incredible reading, leaving you with a yearning for more... Once you finish reading this, maybe you will also join me in saying my slogan "Read Asimov!".
on May 13, 2004
Fans of science fiction know how great this book is. If you consider yourself a fan of SF, and have not yet read this book...
...you are missing a cornerstone of the genre.
I was. I felt like an idiot after inhaling this book in a few short hours. How could I have neglected this for so long?
Yes, it's about the potential relationship between humans and robots, and addresses several near-theological questions about that relationship.
The book is comprised of several short stories written by Asimov in the fifties, linked via a plot device that works fairly well (an interview).
Each chapter reads like a novella or short story, and some display a fair amount of suspense. Some have an O. Henry type ending as well.
They are prime examples of classic SF...they are so good they will convert those previously averse to science fiction. You will find yourself rethinking about your own beliefs about the soul, about God, about identity, about politics, industrialism, nationalism...and not in any sort of heavy-handed way.
A truly amazing and eye-opening reading experience.
While rereading this book, I was struck at how prescient Asimov was concerning computers and the mysteries of their apparent anomalous behavior. As a computer programmer, I see many similarities between debugging software and the intricacies of robopsychology. Dr. Susan Calvin, the preeminent expert in the psychology of the robot brain, is the stereotypical computer geek. She was largely humorous, unattractive and had no romantic life, so Asimov predicted what we now see as the typical computer nerd personality. Considering that the stories were all written on or before 1950, long before computers became ubiquitous, the accuracy of his stories regarding the increase in the use of computers is amazing. Recall that this was a time when most experts believed that there was a worldwide market of somewhere around a dozen computers. Also, no one had any idea that it was possible to shrink computers down to the size we have now. Asimov had to postulate a device called a positronic brain to explain it.
In the first story, there is the love between a robot and a little girl, something that is certainly realistic. The concern that the mother has about the girl's affection for the robot and her insistence that it is damaging the child's personality is also fairly predictable. There will always be people who are afraid of new things, while automobiles are now considered a necessity, at first they were considered monstrosities.
Several of the other stories involve robots whose behavior appears to be unbalanced. However, after examining the situation and sticking to the unshakable three laws of robotics, the human characters are able to determine the reasons for the behavior. This really struck a chord with me. There have been so many times when I was convinced that my program was behaving mysteriously and contrary to what it should be doing. However, in all cases, detailed analysis by following the rules of logic led to the inevitable conclusion that the computer was operating according to the innate laws of programming.
While the final story is in this collection of stories about robots, it deals more with the growing roles of computers in human society. The world has been broken up into large economic and political blocks, and computers control nearly all-economic activity. This story is the one that is closest to the current situation, as the growth of the Internet can be considered the first step in a world wide computing structure controlling the economy.
I love these stories and have read this book about five times. Asimov is both optimistic and pessimistic in writing about robots. He is optimistic in the belief that technology will continue to advance in dramatic fashion, but is pessimistic about the degree of reaction to it. Opposition to the use of robots is a theme woven throughout the stories, sometimes reaching
on September 26, 2003
¡°I, Robot¡± is considered to be the definitive work on the origin and nature of robots. All subsequent movies, book, and television shows based on robots or containing robotic characters find their foundation in author Isaac Asimov¡¯s ¡°I, Robot¡±. This book contains 9 interconnected stories that follow the evolution of the robot from nothing more than a glorified play toy to an advanced, complex machine that is indistinguishable from humans and capable of ruling the world. Each story adds its own distinct link the robotic evolutionary tale, and many of them include the humorous subplot of two skilled, but hapless, robot operators who seem to be the lot made to suffer for the growing pains of the robots. The most remarkable aspect of ¡°I, Robot¡± is the establishment of the immutable ¡®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.
3.) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First and Second Laws.
Throughout popular media in the past half-century you can clear examples where these laws influenced the development of robotic characters. The characters of Bishop in the movie ¡°Aliens¡± and Data from ¡°Star Trek: The Next Generation¡± are the two most notable examples.
¡°I, Robot¡± soars through its narrative, creating a fast and enjoyable read. The last tale is the only area where the book starts to lag a little bit. Yet, the strength of the previous eight stories more than compensates. ¡°I, Robot¡± is a seminal work of science fiction writing that must be read by all who profess the love the genre and even those who are merely curious about the subject.
on September 8, 2003
According to the chronology of these tales, Dr. Susan Calvin finished her undergraduate degree at Columbia this past spring and has just begun her graduate work. She's supposed to start working at U.S. Robots in 2008. But as readers of Heinlein's _The Door into Summer_ know, Daniel Boone Davis has been out of Cold Sleep for nearly three years now, and his _Flexible Frank_ is presumably alreay giving U.S. Robots a run for their money.
It's fascinating to watch the actual times of these stories come and go. Heinlein and Asimov have long been two of my favorite SF writers.
The stories assembled here represent some of Asimov's best-known work. It's pretty impressive that they hold up as well as they do.
Oh, the details are way off, but of course the stories were written in the 1950s. At any rate, what really moves these tales along is the characterization.
Especially Susan Calvin. You wouldn't know it from reading this book, but she was Asimov's first real female lead character. He sketched her with broad, bold strokes, but he did such a fine job that she feels _real_. (She _is_ real, darn it; I've known her since I was a little kid.) The rest of the crew are well delineated too, but it's the cold-blooded robopsychologist who really shines here.
The stories themselves are masterfully constructed and well told, as of course we long ago came to expect from the late Good Doctor. Probably most readers of this page will have heard of the Three Laws of Robotics, and some of us can even recite them from memory. Well, this is where they come from.
If you haven't read this book yet, pick it up at once; until you've read it, you've missed some of the best classic SF there is. And you've also missed a profoundly optimistic, technophilic view of the human future: robots are, as Dr. Calvin says, "a cleaner, better breed than we are."