I, Robot is a collection of short stories centered around a common theme, and a common set of characters written over the span of a decade (1940-1950) by Isaac Asimov. It is the first book in the Robot series, a series where robots have sentience due to a positronic brain, but are prevented from running amok due to three very important laws that are hardwired into their brains.
The collection of stories is framed with an interviewer asking questions to Dr. Susan Calvin, a robot psychologist about her long career interacting with robots. Although, several of the stories do not focus around her specifically.
I don't own this book, but have listened to an audio book recording.
— This section contains spoilers! —
- The idea of the three fundamental laws of robotics, while impossible to implement in such primitive AIs, is a really useful ethical system.
- Most of the problems faced in the stories are interesting enough to make you try to think about a solution ahead of time.
- The constant failures of the three laws show just how ill-conceived simple ethical principles really are, which I'm hoping was Asimov's intent.
- The human need to fight back against the robots who simply have the best interest of the human race in mind, seems accurate, though embarrassing for our race.
- It's cool to read about how the world-running AI tests the waters to see which humans may try to stop it from controlling everything.
- I like how the heroes solve their problems, not by killing the robots, but by using reason.
- In general, I don't care for short story collections disguised a novels because there is often too little continuity between the stories (e.g., The Martian Chronicles). However, by sticking with the same characters and the same topics, Asimov does a decent job of keeping them together. Still, it feels like I'm reading variations on a theme with each story.
- The prejudice against robots lasts way too long to be believable. In general anything that can be used as a convenience to humans, especially in a commercial or industrial sense, will be adopted pretty quickly, especially to people born into it. Yet, after several generations humans still see robots as an oddity.
- Asimov gets his technological time scale, economical interest scale, and population scale -way- off. Not that this can be helped, but it's funny hearing someone talk about a highly-advanced piece of specialized machinery in the early 2000s costing upwards of $30,000!
- The existence of the first law, that robots cannot harm humans, injures the suspense. While things looked like they might go south in Reason, nothing comes from it. Things again get scary in Little Lost Robot, but there is no real danger. Each story reminds us that robots can't ever actually harm people, so, even in the contrived examples, we know real danger will never come into play.