I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Lifespan: b. 1920 (Russia), d. 1992 (U.S.)
First Published: 1950
First Published by: Gnome Press (New York)
Original Language: English
I agree with the reviewer here that this is “one of the most important works of science fiction in the history of the genre.”
Asimov blends together in his collection of short stories that make up the complete novel, the science of robots and the philosophy of man, as well as the conflict that arises when science and man meet in conflict.
A reporter putting together a profile of the robotic scientist Dr. Susan Calvin who works for the large corporation that manufactures the robots writes the stories. The stories are a collection of interviews.
“In I, Robot Asimov coined the term ‘robotics’ and set out the principles of robot behaviour we know as the Three Laws of Robotics, followed by science-fiction writers ever since. The three rules read: 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 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.”
In the interviews Dr. Calvin reflects on the evolution of robots, and as well the lack of understanding of the majority of humankind about what they have created. “Each story illuminates a problem encountered when a robot interprets the three fundamental laws, and something goes awry.”
Even though this was written when the computer age and software was in its infancy, the laws have never been changed, and Asimov shows an uncanny foresight into the future. His views of the possible conflict between man and machine are insightful and current as of today.
As a hardcore (E.E. Doc Smith) science fiction fan, I think this is a book not to be missed. The fact that the ‘three laws” have maintained their integrity through the decades shows that no one has come up with anything better. If you missed it, read it now by all means.