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Book review: I, Robot 
7th-Jun-2011 04:04 pm
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I still seem to keep coming across books in my book pile left over from when The Times gave away all those freebies. One of them is a collection from Isaac Asimov's I, Robot short stories, written in the 1940s and predicting a 21st century where sentient robots are taking over the world - all while continuing to obey the three rules of robotics, of not hurting humans, oberying commands from humans, and avoiding harm to themselves. Each taking place a number of years (and corresponding jumps in technology) after the one before, the stories are mostly little mysteries. In each, a robot or batch of robots is acting in a strange way; a human (usually "robot psychologist" Susan Calvin) has to figure out what's going on. I particularly liked the one where a robot that can read human minds becomes a pathological liar: It interprets "hurting humans' feelings" as breaking the First Law, so is unable to tell them anything other than what they want to hear. I'm not really into hard-core sci-fi but I enjoyed this collection of stories. It's true they say nothing dates as quickly as sci-fi and that's very apparent in the language, where astronauts in the late 21st century talk like 1940s wise-guys (I particularly enjoyed an appearance by the classic "ah, go soak your head") but there's also times where the use of language is very deliberate - it's hard not to spot the point being made when some of the more unpleasant humans call robots "boy."
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