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The Greeley Voice

I, Recommend: I, Robot

I, Robot is a collection of seven science fiction short stories and novelettes written by the legendary author Isaac Asimov. The stories were published individually from 1940-1949 until their publication together in 1950. In this world, sentient robots are commonplace and are put to work performing dangerous and mundane tasks along with the calculation of the behaviors of billions of people.
Something that sets apart I, Robot from other science fiction series is how it takes place on a relatively realistic Earth, unlike the far-flung or hyper-advanced universes of Frank Herbert’s Dune or Asimov’s Foundation. Here, each robot acts as a computer with a positronic brain—the equivalent of our CPU—guiding its actions. Additionally, all of the robots are produced by the same company, U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Inc. (USR&MM), and are required by law to build the “brain” of the robots incorporating The Three Laws of Robotics:
First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Second Law: A robot must obey orders given by a human being unless it conflicts with the First Law.
Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as it doesn’t conflict with the First or Second Law.
Asimov’s creation of these laws was one of the first times robot ethics was widely known about and publicized and is also the source of the conflicts within the story.
The structure of each short story is reminiscent of the ones in the first Foundation novel; Asimov presents a problem that you know the protagonists are going to overcome but are not sure how. Then on the last page or two, it all comes together and is explained logically, leaving you dumbfounded as to how you didn’t see it earlier.
Although Asimov never said his goal was to predict the future, it is clear that some of the ideas in his writing exist today, such as AI and large language models like Chat-GPT. For instance, in one of the short stories, a problem arises when there is a conflict with a newer version of a positronic brain regarding the engineering or something that might kill humans, a violation of the First Law. Data was fed into the brain and it directed the construction of the said object.
The Robot and the Foundation series were not related when they were originally written. They were joined into one long series spanning tens of thousands of years when Robots and Empire was published in 1985. The language of the book is also straightforward and is a quick read, unlike books in the Dune series, for example. People who like the Foundation series will find this book equally as compelling with its complex topics on morals and how they apply to robots.

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