Monday, March 28, 2011

Logic and the Human Mind - I Robot

Time again to delve into Asimov. I enjoyed the two previous robot centric books I read by him, Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun. But I had never read the stories that started it all, so I was interested to see how “I Robot” fit into all this.

I was aware that this was a collection of short stories, and that’s fine with me. “Foundation” is essentially a collection of short stories that build on each other, and “I Robot” has a similar feel to it, with the central character of Susan Calvin telling or figuring in all the stories. Some of the tales had a very pulp sci-fi feeling to them, especially those involving the duo of Powell and Donovan. I got a kick out of their dialogue and their layman approach to dealing with the puzzling behavior of their metallic comrades.

But what struck me most about these stories is that they are basically logic puzzles with a narrative formed around them. At the heart of each tale is a mystery that needs unraveling and this usually has something to do with the three laws of robotics, and how they are interpreted. Since the robots deal with things logically, they are limited. But these limitations aren’t always apparent to the other characters and to the reader.

As the stories progress, the robots evolve and the puzzles take on greater and greater impact on human society. This is one of the things I admire about Asimov, he weaves his themes so well into interesting stories and provides you with entertainment and a bit more to chew on after you’re done reading.

If you haven’t given this book a read I recommend it, as some solid and entertaining short stories, but second to see if you can figure out these logic puzzles before the other characters do. I have to say that if had to take the place of Donovan or Powel… I’d be dead.

Have you read “I Robot”? What did you think of it?

1 comment:

RB said...

I haven't read these tales in about 45 years, but they are what prompted me to read more of his fiction and nonfiction. BTW, though real robots are not governed by the Three Laws, the Economist nevertheless says this about robotic warfare: "they have the potential to act more humanely than people." Dismayingly plausible.