Skepchick Book Club: I, Robot
Short stories and sci-fi are two of my favorite kinds of literature, so I was excited this month to read I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. Reading this book is like opening up a time capsule and it’s interesting to note not only how our views on robots have changed but also our views on the role of men and women in society. The book is a series of short stories narrated by Dr. Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist who is giving an interview about the history of robotics as she understands it. There is a wide range of themes, from Robbie the robot nanny to the eventual takeover of humanity by robots. One of the major themes of the book is the Three Laws of Robotics and how they can be interpreted so that a robot may not necessarily follow them.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, although I did bristle at how some of the females were portrayed in the book. For example, in the story “Liar,” the successful woman is only interested in getting her dream man, while the successful man is interested in getting promoted at work.
Join us in the comments to discuss how you feel about robot takeovers, Asimov’s character development, and how fun it is to see predictions about future technology (sky cars!).
Some of the stories I enjoyed the most are:
- “Robbie”: A robot who can act in all ways like a human (except he can’t talk) is a nanny for a little girl. Her nagging mom is technophobic and convinces her husband to trade it in for a dog. Of course, the girl is devastated and doesn’t want a stinkin’ dog (poor thing!), and in the end she finds her robot and gets it back. Although she presumably loses interest as a teenager. I liked this story because I’m a sucker for heartbreaking robots (see: Teddy fromA.I.)
- “Reason”: A robot on a remote space station reasons that there is a robot creator despite what the humans who assembled him have to say. It’s a good example of how you can use reason and logic to justify anything (in absence of what you think of as convincing evidence).
- “Little Lost Robot”: A robot has been modified so that only obeys half of the First Law (so it cannot harm a human but it could, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm). However, the robot’s master told it to “get lost” and so it did, among a group of identical robots, until the robopsychologist was able to determine which one it was. I liked the puzzle of the story and how they tricked the robot into revealing itself.
- “Evidence”: A man running for office has never been observed to eat or drink, leading some to believe that he is in fact a a robot. In the end, he punches another man in the face, thus proving that he is a man. Until Susan Calvin figures out what really happened.
Truthfully, I didn’t mind the robot takeover that much. As long as I wouldn’t have to work as a slave and I got to retire early, there could be benefits! I would finally have enough time to keep my house clean. Better yet, robots would clean it and I would have time to read books and pursue other interests! (Note: I am writing this while my dishwasher is cleaning my dishes and my Roomba is vacuuming the house. I just need one of those robot cars and I’ll be all set.) But hey, that’s just my opinion, it’s definitely not a popular one.
This Month’s Recipe:
I was a bit lazy this month, so I made my Cherry Dump Cake (it was a hit!). So instead of posting a recipe, please enjoy this old, creepy video clip about pizza! P-I-Z-Z-A.
Next Month’s Book Club:
We are going to be discussing Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow. The Skepchick book club always gets posted the day after the Boston Skeptics’ Book Club, so I’ll put up a post on Sunday, November 4th around 11 am. So put on your tinfoil hats and join me there!