I, Robot

I, Robot

by Isaac Asimov

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553382563
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/29/2008
Series: The Robot Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 34,251
Product dimensions: 5.53(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.55(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Isaac Asimov began his Foundation Series at the age of twenty-one, not realizing that it would one day be considered a cornerstone of science fiction. During his legendary career, Asimov penned over 470 books on subjects ranging from science to Shakespeare to history, though he was most loved for his award-winning science fiction sagas, which include the Robot, Empire, and Foundation series. Named a Grand Master of Science Fiction by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Asimov entertained and educated readers of all ages for close to five decades. He died, at the age of seventy-two, in April 1992.

Date of Birth:

January 20, 1920

Date of Death:

April 6, 1992

Place of Birth:

Petrovichi, Russia

Place of Death:

New York, New York

Education:

Columbia University, B.S. in chemistry, 1939; M.A. in chemistry, 1941; Ph.D. in biochemistry, 1948

Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCTION


I looked at my notes and I didn't like them. I'd spent three days at U.S. Robots and might as well have spent them at home with the Encyclopedia Tellurica.

Susan Calvin had been born in the year 1982, they said, which made her seventy-five now. Everyone knew that. Appropriately enough, U.S. Robot and Mechanical Men, Inc. was seventy-five also, since it had been in the year of Dr. Calvin's birth that Lawrence Robertson had first taken out incorporation papers for what eventually became the strangest industrial giant in man's history. Well, everyone knew that, too.

At the age of twenty, Susan Calvin had been part of the particular Psycho-Math seminar at which Dr. Alfred Lanning of U.S. Robots had demonstrated the first mobile robot to be equipped with a voice. It was a large, clumsy unbeautiful robot, smelling of machine-oil and destined for the projected mines on Mercury. - But it could speak and make sense.

Susan said nothing at that seminar; took no part in the hectic discussion period that followed. She was a frosty girl, plain and colorless, who protected herself against a world she disliked by a mask-like expression and a hypertrophy of intellect. But as she watched and listened, she felt the stirrings of a cold enthusiasm.

She obtained her bachelor's degree at Columbia in 2003 and began graduate work in cybernetics.

All that had been done in the mid-twentieth century on "calculating machines" had been upset by Robertson and his positronic brain-paths. The miles of relays and photocells had given way to the spongy globe of plantinumiridium about the size of a human brain.

She learned to calculate the parameters necessary to fix the possible variables within the "positronic brain"; to construct "brains" on paper such that the responses to given stimuli could be accurately predicted.

In 2008, she obtained her Ph.D. and joined United States Robots as a "Robopsychologist," becoming the first great practitioner of a new science. Lawrence Robertson was still president of the corporation; Alfred Lanning had become director of research.

For fifty years, she watched the direction of human progress change - and leap ahead.

Now she was retiring - as much as she ever could. At least, she was allowing someone else's name to be inset upon the door of her office.

That, essentially, was what I had. I had a long list of her published papers, of the patents in her name; I had the chronological details of her promotions - In short I had her professional "vita" in full detail.

But that wasn't what I wanted.

I needed more than that for my feature articles for Interplanetary Press. Much more.

I told her so.

"Dr. Calvin," I said, as lushly as possible, "in the mind of the public you and U.S. Robots are identical. Your retirement will end an era and -"

"You want the human-interest angle?" She didn't smile at me. I don't think she ever smiles. But her eyes were sharp, though not angry. I felt her glance slide through me and out my occiput and knew that I was uncommonly transparent to her; that everybody was.

But I said, "That's right."

"Human interest out of robots? A contradiction."

"No, doctor. Out of you."

"Well, I've been called a robot myself. Surely, they've told you I'm not human."

They had, but there was no point in saying so.

She got up from her chair. She wasn't tall and she looked frail. I followed her to the window and we looked out.

The offices and factories of U.S. Robots were a small city; spaced and planned. It was flattened out like an aerial photograph.

"When I first came here," she said, "I had a little room in a building right about there where the fire-house is now." She pointed. "It was torn down before you were born. I shared the room with three others. I had half a desk. We built our robots all in one building. Output - three a week. Now look at us."

"Fifty years," I hackneyed, "is a long time."

"Not when you're looking back at them," she said. "You wonder how they vanished so quickly."

She went back to her desk and sat down. She didn't need expression on her face to look sad, somehow.

"How old are you?" she wanted to know.

"Thirty-two," I said.

"Then you don't remember a world without robots. There was a time when humanity faced the universe alone and without a friend. Now he has creatures to help him; stronger creatures than himself, more faithful, more useful, and absolutely devoted to him. Mankind is no longer alone. Have you ever thought of it that way?"

"I'm afraid I haven't. May I quote you?"

"You may. To you, a robot is a robot. Gears and metal; electricity and positrons. - Mind and iron! Human-made! if necessary, human-destroyed! But you haven't worked with them, so you don't know them. They're a cleaner better breed than we are."

I tried to nudge her gently with words, "We'd like to hear some of the things you could tell us; get your views on robots. The Interplanetary Press reaches the entire Solar System. Potential audience is three billion, Dr. Calvin. They ought to know what you could tell them on robots."

It wasn't necessary to nudge. She didn't hear me, but she was moving in the right direction.

"They might have known that from the start. We sold robots for Earth-use then - before my time it was, even. Of course, that was when robots could not talk. Afterward, they became more human and opposition began. The labor unions, of course, naturally opposed robot competition for human jobs, and various segments of religious opinion had their superstitious objections. It was all quite ridiculous and quite useless. And yet there it was."

I was taking it down verbatim on my pocket-recorder, trying not to show the knuckle-motions of my hand. If you practice a bit, you can get to the point where you can record accurately without taking the little gadget out of your pocket.

"Take the case of Robbie," she said. "I never knew him. He was dismantled the year before I joined the company - hopelessly out-of-date. But I saw the little girl in the museum -"

She stopped, but I didn't say anything. I let her eyes mist up and her mind travel back. She had lots of time to cover.

"I heard about it later, and when they called us blasphemers and demon-creators, I always thought of him. Robbie was a non-vocal robot. He couldn't speak. He was made and sold in 1996. Those were the days before extreme specialization, so he was sold as a nurse-maid -"

"As a what?"

"As a nursemaid
-"

Reading Group Guide

Isaac Asimov’s Robot series and Foundation series comprise some of the greatest classics in their genre. They probe the questions of technology and destiny, war and politics that have captured readers’ imaginations for generations.

I, Robot, the first and most widely read book in Asimov’s Robot series, is a collection of nine stories that forever changed the world’s perception of artificial intelligence. Here are stories of sensitive robots, robots gone mad, mind-reading robots, prankster robots, and closeted robots that secretly dominate politics. Chronicling the robot’s development from primitive prototype to ultimate perfection, I, Robot blends scientific fact with science fiction in Asimov’s provocative style.

Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation tell the story of Hari Seldon, a brilliant visionary who synthesized history, psychology, and mathematical probability to shape a bold commandment for the future and steer humanity through a series of brutal eras. Following the collapse of a Galactic Empire, Hari gathered together the top scientists and scholars on a bleak planet at the very edge of the Galaxy in order to preserve the accumulated knowledge of mankind. He called his sanctuary the Foundation and designed it to withstand a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that would last for the next thirty thousand years. But not even Hari could have predicted the intense barbarism lurking in space, or the birth of an extraordinary creature whose mutant intelligence would destroy all that Hari held dear.

The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your reading of these four classics written by one of the most widely recognized fiction authors of our time.

I, Robot
Isaac Asimov
0-553-29438-5 (paperback)
0-553-80370-0 (hardcover)

Foundation
Isaac Asimov
0-553-29335-4 (paperback)
0-553-80371-9 (hardcover)

Foundation and Empire
Isaac Asimov
0-553-29337-0 (paperback)
0-553-80372-7 (hardcover)

Second Foundation
Isaac Asimov
0-553-29336-2 (paperback)
0-553-80373-5 (hardcover)

1. Do Asimov’s now-famous Three Laws of Robotics mirror humanity’s ethics code in any way? Whose orders are human beings required to obey? Do our definitions of “harm” ever lead to the same confounding dilemmas experienced in I, Robot?

2. Why was Gloria’s mother unable to accept Robbie as an excellent nursemaid? Was Robbie premonitory on Asimov’s part—a prediction that children in the twenty-first century might form intense emotional attachments to electronics?

3. Cutie (QT) questions his origins and finds it impossible to believe that a human created him. In what ways did Powell and Donovan reinforce this belief?

4. Does the case of Stephen Byerley indicate that robots might make better politicians? Would this only hold true if, as the novel envisions, nations dissolve into massive world regions?

5. What is the ultimate commodity produced by U.S. Robot & Mechanical Men, Inc.? Does our global workforce follow this model in any way? Were humor and compassion inevitable traits in the robots? Do these traits interfere with productivity in the world of I, Robot?

6. In the book’s closing lines, Dr. Susan Calvin tells the narrator, “You will see what comes next,” as robots stand between mankind and destruction. How did her career lead up to such a precarious conclusion?

7. I, Robot has been turned into a major motion picture starring Will Smith. How does the movie compare with your book-reading experience? What do you think of the adjustments made and liberties taken when converting this collection of stories to one seamless film adaptation?

8. Foundation opens with the perspective of Gaal Dornick, “a country boy who had never seen Trantor before.” What is the effect of opening the novel with Gaal’s observations? Why did Hari Seldon extend such an invitation to Gaal?

9. In the trial portrayed in chapter 6, the Commission’s Advocate repeatedly rejects Hari’s deductions regarding the future. What has made Hari a target for exile? Why are his projections—supported by seemingly irrefutable logic and mathematics—so easily dismissed by his accusers?

10. Part 3 of Foundation begins with an entry from the Encyclopedia Galactica that reads, “Undoubtedly the most interesting aspect of the history of the four Kingdoms involves the strange society forced temporarily upon it during the administration of Salvor Hardin.” In what ways does Hardin distinguish himself from the other rulers described in the novel? What conditions fostered his rise to power?

11. The Foundation is intended in some ways as a kind of religious center. What are its doctrines? Can a religion of science fail?

12. Discuss the novel’s references to energy—in this case, nuclear power—in relation to political and economic supremacy. What other forces drive the novel’s hierarchies of dominance? How does the role of the Traders evolve in the novel’s closing chapters?

13. What were the root causes of the Foundation’s fall? Could its demise have been avoided, even after war had begun?

14. As Lord of the Universe, is Cleon II naïve or perceptive? In what ways do his sensibilities affect his fate?

15. What, ultimately, is the source of the Mule’s power to perform Conversions in Foundation and Empire? What role did psychology play in his own origins?

16. Do the Independent Trading Worlds accurately perceive their vulnerabilities? In contrast, what perpetuated Neotrantor’s survival?

17. Bayta’s final conversation with the Mule explains his moniker as well as his perceptions of how power is perpetuated. What does this dialogue indicate about gender roles in the realm of the Second Foundation, and about the possibility of democracy?

18. Discuss the spectrum of characters affected by the Mule in Second Foundation’s five opening interludes. In what ways do the Mule’s tactics vary?

19. In what ways does Bail Channis’s personality reflect a cultural shift from the previous Foundation novels?

20. Near the beginning of the fifteenth chapter, Arcadia is described as “dressed in borrowed clothes, standing on a borrowed planet in a borrowed situation of what seemed even to be a borrowed life.” In what ways is she both an unlikely and an ideal savior?

21. Scholarship such as the Encyclopedia project represented Hari’s belief in the power of learning (and even the power of the mind itself, in the form of neural microcurrents). To what extent is a civilization’s success measured by the survival of its knowledge?

22. The final chapter of Second Foundation offers a thoughtful coda to the novel. What is the “true” question to that chapter’s “answer that was true?”

23. If Hari Seldon’s equations were applied to Earth’s societies, what might the results be?

24. What connotations and root words were you able to derive from the character names and geographic locations featured in the series?

25. How does the series evolve as a whole? What overarching narrative is propelled by the events that occur within the individual books?

26. Isaac Asimov wrote these three books very early in his career, during the 1950s—an era marked by the Cold War, McCarthyism, and the early stages of the space race. How might the events of this period have shaped the Foundation storyline?

27. In what sense does the trilogy offer a cautionary tale for contemporary leaders in politics, science, and the humanities?

Introduction

Isaac Asimov’s Robot series and Foundation series comprise some of the greatest classics in their genre. They probe the questions of technology and destiny, war and politics that have captured readers’ imaginations for generations.

I, Robot, the first and most widely read book in Asimov’s Robot series, is a collection of nine stories that forever changed the world’s perception of artificial intelligence. Here are stories of sensitive robots, robots gone mad, mind-reading robots, prankster robots, and closeted robots that secretly dominate politics. Chronicling the robot’s development from primitive prototype to ultimate perfection, I, Robot blends scientific fact with science fiction in Asimov’s provocative style.

Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation tell the story of Hari Seldon, a brilliant visionary who synthesized history, psychology, and mathematical probability to shape a bold commandment for the future and steer humanity through a series of brutal eras. Following the collapse of a Galactic Empire, Hari gathered together the top scientists and scholars on a bleak planet at the very edge of the Galaxy in order to preserve the accumulated knowledge of mankind. He called his sanctuary the Foundation and designed it to withstand a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that would last for the next thirty thousand years. But not even Hari could have predicted the intense barbarism lurking in space, or the birth of an extraordinary creature whose mutant intelligence would destroy all that Hari held dear.

The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that followare intended to enhance your reading of these four classics written by one of the most widely recognized fiction authors of our time.

I, Robot
Isaac Asimov
0-553-29438-5 (paperback)
0-553-80370-0 (hardcover)

Foundation
Isaac Asimov
0-553-29335-4 (paperback)
0-553-80371-9 (hardcover)

Foundation and Empire
Isaac Asimov
0-553-29337-0 (paperback)
0-553-80372-7 (hardcover)

Second Foundation
Isaac Asimov
0-553-29336-2 (paperback)
0-553-80373-5 (hardcover)

Customer Reviews

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I, Robot 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 231 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
IMPORTANT: The book does not resemble the movie in any great detail. This is a must read for SF fans out there, packed in a very affordable package.
Justint More than 1 year ago
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov is made up of a series of nine science fiction short stories that all are connected through a robot psychologist named Dr. Susan Calvin. The stories are told as if Susan Calvin is relaying them to a reporter, the narrator. The first story, ¿Robbie¿ is about a young girl who has a robot friend, but her mother disapproves of the relationship. Her mother tries desperately to keep them away from each other. In the next few stories, we are told of two scientists who are distraught with problems in development of labor robots. The two come across danger while trying to relieve the issues almost costing them their lives in the process. A common thread among each story is the Three Law of Robotics, which underlines and governs the way robots should behave as well as the interaction of humans and robots. In the next five stories, Susan Calvin is the main character and the stories talk about the evolution of robots. The stories also talk about her removal from humanity. She retreats due to a mind-reading robot that discovers her romantic feelings for a fellow colleague. Throughout the novel the robots show intelligence and understanding which in some cases surpasses that of the humans. Soon the humans begin to realize that the robots may have more power then they themselves have. Their ability to deduce and analyze creates a major problem for the humans and it seems as though the robots could remove the humans. After their creation it is evident that the increasing knowledge of the robots will be too much for the humans. Isaac Asimov wrote a break through novel many years ahead of its time. His creativity and shear brilliance is shown through his attention to detail and development of the story as a whole. It is good read for anyone interested in the mind versus machine aspect of entertainment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is pretty old, and has a few plot holes, but it's still very entertaining and makes you think a bit. Note that while the movie claims to be based on Asimov's books, that's a big fat lie. The movie takes two elements from these short stories: robots, and the Three Laws of Robotics. That's it. The inclusion of the movie picture on the cover of the new edition is a travesty. It would be more appropriate to put the poster from Mel Gibson's 'Passion' movie on the cover of the Bible -- hey, at least they have some characters and story elements in common!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book and the movie of the same title have very few things in common. The plot of the movie is not one of those things. This book is a wonderful collection of 'hard sci-fi' short stories that explore the implications (and complications) inherent in Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. The movie is NOT based on any of the short stories in the book. In fact, the movie presents a rather apocalyptic view of intelligent robots in society, while the book attempts to show that robots would be a useful addition to society as long as the Laws work as advertised. The book is required reading for any true Science Fiction fan, but don't expect to find a preview of the movie. It ain't in there. (It's not a bad movie, really - it's kinda like 'Terminator meets Minority Report'.)
BearsReadBR More than 1 year ago
Let me start off by saying this book has nothing to do with the movie, to say that the I, Robot movie was freely adapted is a bit of an understatement. This book is a collection of stories about robots succeeding, and robots failing; quite the contrary to Will Smith in his action-packed thriller. These nine stories are told from the point of view of a woman named Dr. Susan Calvin, who is reciting them to a young reporter; the narrator. This book, to say the least, is way ahead of its time; published in 1950, the author, Isaac Asimov, had an unbelievable imagination that more modern authors lack today. He was able to create characters in thirty pages that some books can’t create in 300. He writes with such fluent knowledge and brilliance, you would expect him to have grown up with a robot in his home. He uses expertise he got through his Ph. D in biochemistry from Columbia University to craft nine short stories and blend them together with ease. This novel is not just one storyline, with the same characters, and the same conflicts; it is a whole collection of stories with many characters and many conflicts, I grew very fond of this short story plot line throughout my reading experience. Its not just the content of this book that makes it such a good read. Asimov writes with such brilliance and fluency that he can blend together several completely different storyline’s into one book, and make it believable. This book stands for so much more than the words and ideas written within the pages. This book represents a time portal into the future; the author writes what he perceives our future will look like and writes it in a way that convinces you the same. This book is intriguing, it makes you question your existence, your ideas and opinions. These stories are triumphant tales of success and failure, celebration and despair, and of confusion and absolute clarity. Isaac Asimov brings you into the future, shows you around, moves some curtains and some pillows away in order to show you the true future, in its true form. He shows you the positives and negatives to advancement in technology, and just how your opinion is formed on this topic is your decision up until that final page when the final story comes to a close and you retire to your thoughts and you questions that Isaac churned up through the use of short stories. So all in all, I loved this book and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good read that will get you thinking. This is an intriguing, brilliant book that encompasses creative, inthralling conflicts with dynamic characters and inquisitive storyline’s. This breakthrough novel is worth reading (and thinking about).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a collection of short stories tied together by a common theme that sets the stage for and ties together many of the other robot stories of Asimov and frames the three Laws of Robotics.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Must have for all sci fi fans but it makes me mad I can't get a version without will smith on the front
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a re-read for me, classic Asimov that stands the test of time!
smg626 on LibraryThing 27 days ago
I met Isaac Asimov while a college student and have forever been impressed with his science fact in science fiction. This book is not at all like the movie, but more detailed with the consequences of Robotics on the entire planet, Earth and beyond. There is much dialogue to get through and is a long story. It is not so easy to follow unless this subject matter is of interest. I believe technical young (and older) men would enjoy this book more than the average female.
CUViper on LibraryThing 27 days ago
This is the sort of book that I _really_ wish I had read before seeing the movie. The screenplay certainly takes ideas from Asimov, like the Three Laws of Robotics, but not one of the short stories in this book are represented in the movie. That wouldn't have been enough of a "blockbuster", I suppose.I, Robot as a novel is much more refined, and ultimately more interesting. The philosophy and psychology of the robots are explored from varying angles in each story, but in an interactive way. Highly recommended!
mnd88 on LibraryThing 27 days ago
The history of robotics and its relation to humanity is traced through the memories/stories of a woman working at US Robotics. Though I haven't seen the movie, I cannot find much of a similarity between the book and the film (based on the IMDb plot synopsis). I didn't love this book, but I did like it enough to finish it in 2 days. Because the book is comprised of many stories with overlapping characters, it is easy to read in chunks.
Cecrow on LibraryThing 27 days ago
While I find Robot Dreams to be a superior Asimov collection, this set of short stories was still quite good. Too bad the movie went its own route, but that's Hollywood.
ElTomaso on LibraryThing 27 days ago
Asimov is one of the originators of great American science fiction.
Redthing on LibraryThing 27 days ago
A wonderful collection of short stories! Also, the Three Laws of Robotics are established in "Runaround". What I find scary is that cover with Will Smith on it. The movie puts the name of this book to shame.
gling on LibraryThing 27 days ago
I first read this book in Grade 9 (1968) as required reading for English class. It is THE book that introduced me to high quality SF writing and peaked my interest in reading for the first time. I've been an Asimov fan since then and remain one today.The "Laws of Robotics" proposed by Asimov permiate every SF book, story, play and screenplay written since he first wrote them down in his lecture notes. They have also, and more importantly, been adopted in the real world of robotics engineering and sciences.
Gilbert_M_Stack 3 months ago
Mysteries aren’t the first thing that most people think about when they hear the name “Isaac Asimov” but he actually wrote quite a few of them in his Black Widowers collections. I think of I, Robot as a collection of sf mysteries revolving around the famous three laws of robotics. What has driven this robot mad? How do we find this robot? Is this person a robot? It’s not a perfect description of the collection of stories in this book, but it still gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect as Asimov treats you to the future history of robots. This collection is a lot of fun.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The three laws of robotics come up over and over in Science Fiction. A must read by the father of the genre.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Asimov, "I, Robot", 1950 Classic Asimov, of course; substantive, and fun to read. Asimov foresaw issues which are only now becoming worrisome regarding artificial intelligence and humanity's responsibilities toward its eventual creation of new life forms. If you saw the 2004 movie before you read the book, don't expect many similarities -- the movie just lifted the title. I read the book on my Nook HD+. The electronic form from B&N worked well on the Nook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"What?" Turns and looks at jason nervously.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*runs in and jumpscrares everyone* "its good to be back"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im back!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Me too!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
&star
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just classic
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
if you like this read the three Caves of Steel about the earth policeman and the robot policeman on esrth and on a planet where each human is alone in middle of acres of land but hundreds of robots