Title: I, Robot
Author: Isaac Asimov
Publication Date: June 2004
Classification: Adult Novel
Summary from Goodreads:
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 orders givein 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.
With these three, simple directives, Isaac Asimov changed our perception of robots forever when he formulated the laws governing their behavior. In I, Robot, Asimov chronicles the development of the robot through a series of interlinked stories: from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future–a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete.
Here are stories of robots gone mad, of mind-read robots, and robots with a sense of humor. Of robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world–all told with the dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction that has become Asmiov’s trademark.
When a certain individual which might not be involved in the literary world hears about I, Robot, their thoughts might automatically hone in on the Will Smith movie. Although a good movie in itself, it has little to do with the actual novel itself. To be quite honest, I found it hard to find elements of the source material situated in the film. Instead, what existed was only simply the three fundamental laws of robotics: A robot mustn’t harm a human being, a robot must obey a humans orders as long as it does not come into direct conflict with the first law and they also must protect their own existence as long as it does not come into direct conflict with either the first or second law. The entire movie was based around that core principle. The book, however, had a lot more depth than what the movie portrayed.
The book begins simply enough with a little girl playing with her ‘friend’. This ‘friend’ is her companion and she loves him more than anything else. They play together throughout all hours of the day and even spend time not doing anything at all, just enjoying each others company. This ‘friend’ might sound like a dog, which is man’s best friend, but is instead a robot. The little girl has taken a deep liking to this robot and seemingly views the robot as being more human than actual humans. They have such a special bond that is accurately portrayed in their play time activities and it would seem as though this is what it means to be human; to love. By design, it is viewed that robots are incapable of real human emotions but instead mimic the emotions of humans. By reading even but a sliver of the book, it seems to be that robots are instead designed to love. It would seem the fundamental laws of robotics make it essential for a robot to love. But that is only the beginning of the story.
Isaac Asimov writes in the sci-fi genre, but it is not the atypical science fiction of its day, with fantastical creatures terrorizing helpless civilians, or an invasion of aliens or even the conquest of a remote and unexplored world filled with its own struggles. Instead, Asimov’s own works of science fiction seem to have a deep and philosophical purpose attached to them. With I, Robot, it is the concept of humanity. Many questions are presented in his writings; what is a human? What does it mean to be human? Is humanity obsolete as opposed to robots? That last question delves deeper into the idea of humanity and it means to be human, except it does so with that science fiction element. The robots seem to be the next step and it would seem they are to one day surpass humanity. Or will they?
As I mentioned earlier, the movie and the book are very dissimilar. The book has other stories that are loosely connected in some way. They do not build upon one another as much as they act as a way for these questions which are presented in the book to be answered in a more constructive manner. In one particular instance, two miners which are located on one of the planets in our solar system have to conjure up a way to save a precious robot which is crucial to their job, but every idea they propose comes into direct conflict with one of the three laws of robotics. Those three laws need to work in unison. It might seem to the passive reader that the author only included this to make for a suspenseful moment, but it instead detailed for a deeper line of thought and reason altogether. Without giving away the resolution, I can give a brief idea of what this truly means; how much is a life truly valued?
There are other stories loosely connected to one another that seem to answer or attempt to answer the questions which are presented in regards to humanity, and Asimov accomplishes this monumental feat seemingly with great ease and excellent delivery. If one were to wish to read a science fiction novel in order to break away from the normal grind, I would suggest this book in a New York minute. Within the confines of this rather short (224 page) book exists action, drama, suspense, intrigue and life lessons to be had. This book is essential to almost any collection as it is a classic and has stood the test of time.
5 skulls with a big smiley face