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Encyclopedia Galactica

Introduction to Robots


Asimov has written some very interesting stories featuring robots. He is credited with giving robot stories respectability through his creation of three laws by which all robot character is measured. According to the three laws, their behavior is no longer unpredictable but as predictable as are the consequences of any physical law. Yes! I say physical law because the basis of the laws arise from the physical basis of the positronic brain: which is the seat of the robot behavior.

I, RobotAs Asimov’s stories reflect, he gives law and order and hence rationality, to robot behavior as seen in robot actions and reactions to various situations. In a couple of incidents - and possibly more than a couple - it is the unraveling of this robot behavior which first appears to be mixed up. Sometimes through the talents of two investigators (Michael Donovan and Gregory Powell) and sometimes of a robopsychologist (Susan Calvin) the apparent misbehavior of robots is pinpointed, cataloged, and filed as a result of analyzing their behavior against the behavior as predicted by the three laws of robotics which Asimov so cleverly constructed. Lets take a look and try to ascertain their particular circumstances of creation and applicability to robots.

Up until the time that Asimov wrote his first robot story, robots where not to be trusted but desperately feared. Feared so much that the mention or thought of a robot would send chills up and down your spine, while you would be looking over your shoulder to assure yourself that your presence was robot free. But Asimov’s nature and desire to write stories involving robots caused him to declare that even robots could be human (in certain respects) and even beneficial to man and even mankind. Therefore, he sought to give them respectability among men by developing a set of laws which would guarantee their rational behavior.

He also developed a story background which would b agreeable to the fostering of many different story themes and so he created the robot manufacturer U. S. Robots & Mechanical Men. Within this framework he introduced two investigators who would be sent out to try to understand and explain the apparent misbehavior of the products of U. S. Robots & Mechanical Men: the robots. When the investigations would run into particular difficulty the robopsychologist of U. S. Robots & Mechanical Men would be called in. Together, there was no misbehavior they could not rationalize using the three laws of robotics for an explanation of the robot or robot behavior. The First Law of Robotics is simple indeed and it represents it's symbiotic relationship to man as helper and protector.

Doug Harris


Copyright 1997-9  Mike Carlin Last Modified: