I, Robot - A Review

May 8, 2017 16:44 · 588 words · 3 minutes read reviews society philosophy

Ever come across any of these rules for robots(or any intelligent machine)?

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being 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.

Well if you have, Asimov is the guy you should thank- he’s the one who masterfully coined these 3 rules in his epic book: I, Robot.

I, Robot is a collection of short stories that explore the “life” of robots. It shows us how, in Asimov’s fictional world, Robots came to be. We see how Robots interact with humans and the consequences of such interactions. Centered in this weird cold “metallic” interaction are these 3 rules.

Reading this book was both thrilling and abit frightening. It was frightening because we live in a world where AI(Artificial Intelligence) is thriving, yet most of us do not know if we have any standardised set of rules that ensure our safety in our interactions with them. Our safety in this regard refers to both physical and psychological safety. What would happen if (hypothetically) AI was to gain self consciousness? Would machines one day have feelings? Is it okay to let machines take over our lives?

This book definitely sparks many questions along this tangent. This is the kind of book that makes you want to immerse yourself courageously into science. This book made me wonder whether machines might be our next step in our(human) evolution. Asimov also impressed on me the idea that machines might help us answer questions we do not have the answers to. I believe that we have the capability and capacity to build things that will in turn have a better capacity to innovate and construct things better than us. Right now, with machine learning, we are trying to build machines that will go beyond raw computational power. I believe that one day, we will be able to build machines that can “reason”. I hope we get there soon.

Another important issue that is a recurring theme in this book is challenges that come with building positronic robots. Most great innovations are more often than not accompanied with some challenges. Take for example the advent of the search engine and it’s search optimisation. With this innovation came the challenge of privacy and how to secure that privacy. With robots, what would happen to your average Joe if he lost his only source of income to a robot? This is already happening in some industries like the automotive industry where robots have taken the work of casual workers in assembly lines. Also, how would you deal with human fundamentalists that are against robots? In Asimov’s fictional world, the robots happen to have sorted this last bit on their own in a very interesting way.

In summary, this is a great book. It raises questions, which is a good thing. It will make you more insightful when you are dealing with modern technology. You might however feel out of place on some sciency stuff, but do consider that this book was written in the 50’s. The language used is simple but used with great skill(in my opinion). I like how the 3 fundamental rules form such an integral part the development of the robots(and humans). Anyone reading this post should look for the actual book and read it!