Justin Tadlock

I, Robot

Isaac Asimov’s book is one of those that you must read at some point in your life. First, because of his storytelling abilitiy. Then, because the time of machines is upon us.

To some readers this collection of nine short stories may seem like just that — another collection of stories. It’s so much more though.

The major theme throughout is Asimov’s ability to condense human ethics down to three laws that machines must follow. These three laws seem perfect.

  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 or Second Law.

The robots — run amok though. Maybe the three laws aren’t perfect. Maybe humanity’s idea of ethics is wrong.

Asimov creates a compelling world, one where essentially humans make the errors. The three laws are, afterall, created by humans.

I was unfortunate enough to only find a copy with the Will Smith cover that said, “One man saw it coming.” If you’ve seen the movie, but haven’t read the book, you’ll be in for a real shocker. They’re nothing alike. The movie (I assume because I haven’t read the other books in the Robot novels) is loosely based off the novel’s theme of robots going wrong.

The tales throughout are nonetheless gripping. I hardly put the book down, finishing in one night. I’m not sure if Asimov’s intentions were to warn against advancing technology or to just have fun, but I feel there’s some message here — if we are to create highly-intellingent beings, we need to know what we’re getting into. Artificial Intelligence isn’t bad, but it might not necessarily be controlled by what humans view as right/wrong.

Asimov is a wonderful storyteller. No matter what your views are on technology. No matter whether you like science fiction. You should give this book a read.