Updated on May 19, 2015
5. ‘I, Robot’ by Isaac Asimov
I love Will Smith and I won’t hear a bad word said about the movie ‘I, Robot’, even though I know it’s actually pretty terrible. Of course, I am also able to admit that the original short stories blow that piece of Hollywood trash out of the water.
Asimov’s robot stories are held together by the framing device of a reporter talking to robopsychologist Susan Calvin, as she narrates tales from her career. Most of the stories centre around Powell and Donovan, a pair of scientists working in the field, testing new robots and running into all sorts of problems. Along the way all sorts of questions are raised about robots, intelligence and the nature of humanity.
My favourite story is about the robot QT (Cutie), who is designed to run a space station. Powell and Donovan put him together, start him off and then have to deal with the fallout when Cutie claims that he is a Prophet, created by the most complex machine on the station – essentially the engine – rather than the humans. Cutie runs around preaching the Truth about the Creator and denying Powell and Donovan’s authority. In the end they let him carry on believing whatever he wants because it doesn’t affect his handling of the station.
There are also stories that deal with robots being able to lie, love and run the world, and it all centres around the three Laws of Robotics (which is just about the only thing the movie has in common with Asimov). Each story sets up a problem that can only be solved with cunning and a deep knowledge of psychology. If they don’t already, I really hope that robopsychologists exist in the future, because I think I’d like to be one.
Why not read the book and let me know what you think?