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CfB Bureau

Isaac Asimov (1920–1992) was one of the 20th century's most prolific writers, writing in many genres. But he is best known for sci-fi works like Foundation and I, Robot, a 1950 story collection, which looked at human/construct relationships and featured the Three Laws of Robotics. The narrative would be adapted for a blockbuster starring Will Smith decades later and Asimov would come to be credited with coming up with the term 'robotics.'

Asimov was known for writing books on a wide variety of subjects outside of science fiction, taking on topics like astronomy, biology, math, religion and literary biography. But The Complete Robot is special being an anthology of Asimov’s stunning visions of a robotic future. In these stories, the gifted and prolific author creates the ‘Three Laws of Robotics’ and ushers in the ‘Robot Age’ - when earth is ruled by master-machines and when robots are more human than mankind.

As Asimov’s stories reveal, Robots are, in a sense, made by humans in the ideal image of the human. They are actually more human than the flesh-and-blood humans. They are superior to humanity as we know it. They demonstrate the human qualities of minds and soul, reason and emotions.

Take the story titled ‘A Boy's Best Friend.’ A boy lives with his parents and a robotic dog on the moon. The boy and the dog love and care for eachother. The parents trust the robotic dog too. But one day they decide to get a real dog for the boy, who is bewildered. He cannot grasp the difference between the robot and the real dog.

The boy says, “Robot isn’t an imitation, Dad, he is my dog.” The boy is convinced by the robot that he can feel and is capable of developing emotional ties like humans. And when the father finally agrees that the boy may keep his dog, the dog squeaks happily.

Here’s just a recall of the Laws of Robotics, before you turn to the book;

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 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.

Later, Asimov added a fourth, or zeroth law, that preceded the others in terms of priority:

0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

Asimov's laws of Robotics were intended as a literary device but are now heralded by some as a ready-made prescription for avoiding the robopocalypse. It's been 50 years since Asimov devised the laws — they were programmed into real computers thirty years ago at the MIT with surprising results. May we add more? Happy Reading!

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