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text 2020-06-21 12:45
A Brief History Of Robo Sapiens In Nine Sequences
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov

“Why … WHY does something invariably go wrong with them?”
“Because”, said Powell somberly, “we are accursed. Let’s go!”

Asimov’s collection of short stories is a stunning document of humanity’s struggle to find balance in a world increasingly dominated by technological progress, but with the same social, political and emotional conflicts as always.

At first glance, the different stories seem to show the growing sophistication of robots, and their integration in human society. But the stories are not just a documentation of robots getting “better and better”, they also exemplify different aspects of human life that are affected by artificial intelligence. And it is more and more complicated to solve the resulting issues from story to story.

The first, apparently innocent sequence features a girl who becomes dependent on her toy robot, and refuses to interact with humans and animals as a result. Not too scary? Well, whoever has hosted a birthday party and seen the children who withdraw from the fun to sit in a corner and play on their phones knows that the problem is real, and urgent. - Dependence on technology: entertain me if you can!

The second story deals with failure within the robotic programming itself, when the three “Laws of Robotics” clash and cause a dilemma that the robot can’t solve. Who will solve it for him, then? - System Failure: please reboot the world and start again!

Then we move on to the metaphysical aspect of creating a superior intelligence which makes calculations that are beyond human capacity. This sequence was the most humorous, in my opinion, showing a robot deciding to ignore humanity and create a religion around the Master, a calculation machine of great power. The scientists’ despair when realising that it could argue “reasonably” against evidence, was hilarious, but also frighteningly contemporary! - Technology Cult: In matters of faith, no argument is good enough!

One chapter deals with the scenario of robots developing military behaviour. - Weapons of mass destruction? "Die Geister die ich rief!"

Another story explores mind reading, and delves into the dilemma of robotic rationality versus human ambitions, hopes and fears. - The Transparent Humans: Unable to hide their thought crimes!

Of course humans also start bending the rules of robotics for their own purposes and benefits, creating secret robots that do not fully obey the laws they are supposed to follow automatically. And of course it gets out of control, creating highly dangerous situations. - The Law Is For The Others!

And finally, we have the robots that are advanced enough to pretend to be human, refusing to be examined and discovered as robots by applying the judiciary system and their rights within it (as humans, ironically) to prevent detection. An issue of some relevance, as well. What to do with the democratic institutions that are abused by people/robots who only respect them when they suit their purposes? - The Democratic Supermarket: Take What You Need, Leave the Rest Behind!

Asimov has assembled an astounding diversity of ideas in a cohesive form. While touching on the essential questions of the modern human condition, it offers an intriguing, engaging narrative as well, still readable and relevant in a world that is more technologically advanced than Asimov could imagine himself.

In the balance between the human factor and technological system peculiarities, he leaves humanity with the eternal philosophical question of what defines us and what we define ourselves. And there will be hiccups, for sure, for the predictions on the future that close the novel can be rightly interpreted by different characters as: How horrible! Or How wonderful!

O brave new world that has such machines in’t!

Recommended!

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review 2020-05-06 14:39
I, Robot
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov

by Isaac Azimov

 

This is one of those SciFi classics I've been meaning to read forever, so I finally took the plunge and found it very different than I might have expected. It seemed to me like a series of short stories that merge from one to the next without apparent demarcation.

 

On the first part, I was expecting something with a lot of tech and robotics, but discovered a heartfelt story of a little girl and her best friend, a robot that was programmed to take care of her. Over time she humanizes the robot, calls him Robbie, and becomes very attached to him. It is this emotional attachment that worries her mother so much that she decides the robot has to be removed from her daughter's life.

 

Attempts are made to replace the robot with a dog and with other children to play with, but the girl's obsession for her 'best friend' overshadows every attempt to placate her.

 

I was jolted out of this story a little suddenly, when someone else from further in the future took over telling the girl's story and making comparisons to the changes in robotics since. This flowed into a story about robots being used to mine asteroids and something that goes wrong when their human overseers are not present.

 

Then from this story, which does reach a satisfying conclusion, new characters emerge again to demonstrate the first rule of robotics: that a robot can never hurt a human. This part has some interesting speculations that modern scientists working in the field of Artificial Intelligence would be well advised to consider.

 

In general I found Azimov's writing very dialogue heavy, but he does have a skill for moving the story along through that dialogue and doesn't get bogged down in prevarication. I probably wouldn't want to read him as a steady diet, but I will give his Foundation series a try, if only to fill the gaps in my science fiction reading history. These books are, after all, considered the classics of the genre and the forerunners of everything that came after. Though a little dated, it's interesting to see speculations about robotics from a 1950s perspective.

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review 2020-04-16 15:25
A Brief History Of Robo Sapiens In Nine Sequences
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov

“Why … WHY does something invariably go wrong with them?”
“Because”, said Powell somberly, “we are accursed. Let’s go!”

Asimov’s collection of short stories is a stunning document of humanity’s struggle to find balance in a world increasingly dominated by technological progress, but with the same social, political and emotional conflicts as always.

At first glance, the different stories seem to show the growing sophistication of robots, and their integration in human society. But the stories are not just a documentation of robots getting “better and better”, they also exemplify different aspects of human life that are affected by artificial intelligence. And it is more and more complicated to solve the resulting issues from story to story.

The first, apparently innocent sequence features a girl who becomes dependent on her toy robot, and refuses to interact with humans and animals as a result. Not too scary? Well, whoever has hosted a birthday party and seen the children who withdraw from the fun to sit in a corner and play on their phones knows that the problem is real, and urgent. - Dependence on technology: entertain me if you can!

The second story deals with failure within the robotic programming itself, when the three “Laws of Robotics” clash and cause a dilemma that the robot can’t solve. Who will solve it for him, then? - System Failure: please reboot the world and start again!

Then we move on to the metaphysical aspect of creating a superior intelligence which makes calculations that are beyond human capacity. This sequence was the most humorous, in my opinion, showing a robot deciding to ignore humanity and create a religion around the Master, a calculation machine of great power. The scientists’ despair when realising that it could argue “reasonably” against evidence, was hilarious, but also frighteningly contemporary! - Technology Cult: In matters of faith, no argument is good enough!

One chapter deals with the scenario of robots developing military behaviour. - Weapons of mass destruction? "Die Geister die ich rief!"

Another story explores mind reading, and delves into the dilemma of robotic rationality versus human ambitions, hopes and fears. - The Transparent Humans: Unable to hide their thought crimes!

Of course humans also start bending the rules of robotics for their own purposes and benefits, creating secret robots that do not fully obey the laws they are supposed to follow automatically. And of course it gets out of control, creating highly dangerous situations. - The Law Is For The Others!

And finally, we have the robots that are advanced enough to pretend to be human, refusing to be examined and discovered as robots by applying the judiciary system and their rights within it (as humans, ironically) to prevent detection. An issue of some relevance, as well. What to do with the democratic institutions that are abused by people/robots who only respect them when they suit their purposes? - The Democratic Supermarket: Take What You Need, Leave the Rest Behind!

Asimov has assembled an astounding diversity of ideas in a cohesive form. While touching on the essential questions of the modern human condition, it offers an intriguing, engaging narrative as well, still readable and relevant in a world that is more technologically advanced than Asimov could imagine himself.

In the balance between the human factor and technological system peculiarities, he leaves humanity with the eternal philosophical question of what defines us and what we define ourselves. And there will be hiccups, for sure, for the predictions on the future that close the novel can be rightly interpreted by different characters as: How horrible! Or How wonderful!

O brave new world that has such machines in’t!

Recommended!

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review 2020-04-06 10:55
Robots, Robots, Robots
The Complete Robot - Isaac Asimov

As the name indicates, The complete Robot is compiled out of all of Asimov’s robot stories, which means, that this collection also includes all stories that make up the famous I, Robot collection. There are 31 stories in total, grouped into seven categories (for example non-human robots, immobile robots, metallic robots, humanoid robots and so on), all of them ranging in length and quality.

It would be too much to review each and every one of them individually, so I decided to just give you Sally, Someday, The Tercentenary Incident and Mirror Image as my favourites and True Love and Satisfaction Guaranteed as honourable mentions.

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review 2020-03-14 14:41
Lenny
The Complete Robot - Isaac Asimov

Now that’s how you write a short story about robots!

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