My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Limit is often a word viewed with negative connotation. In I, Robot, Asimov self-imposes limits. These “limits” are known as the 3 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 the orders given 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.
The laws are the foundation of the story; they are simple, black and white. Between the black and white is a lot of gray. The gray is where Asimov’s brilliance lies. The laws appear as a hindrance at first, but they are an opportunity to be creative.
The book begins in an interview with Dr. Susan Calvin, chief robopsychologist of U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc. (USRMM). The short stories that follow are her experiences and those of USRMM employees, notably Powell and Donovan.
The first story, Robbie (a fitting name for a robot right!), shows his friendship with a young girl, Gloria. Circumstances separate the two friends and Gloria is accompanied only by her sadness. Love and friendship, no matter how unconventional, is a creature desire, even for those made of metal.
In Runaround, the second short story, we join Powell and Donovan, field-testers for USRMM prototypes. Powell and Donovan encounter a situation where Speedy (robot) is behaving oddly due to an internal conflict between the 2nd and 3rd laws. How will they fix Speedy? The resolution involves Asimov’s ability to use that gray area.
The third story, and last I will cover, is titled Reason. Powell and Donovan are on a new assignment and joined by a new robot, QT1 or Cutie, as they call him. Cutie is a more advanced robot than previous models. He eventually becomes sentient stating, “I myself, exist, because I think.” Cutie cannot be reasoned with, a dangerous predicament for the protagonists.
Seven stories follow the aforementioned, each with new ideas and questions. I, Robot explores love, religion, the metaphysical, deception, societal pressures, fear, and more. The reader views these as robot encounters but do humans not experience the same? The problems, thoughts, and feelings the robots face are also ours.
Asimov does as the good artist does, creating a work that is both immersive and reflective. He succeeds on all accounts; it is both thought-provoking and entertaining. It teaches with each turn of the page. I hope that you will read, learn, and, most importantly, enjoy I, Robot.