Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The short stories of I, Robot have many thematic similarities to The Foundation Trilogy. Both deal with the improvement of human life through science and reason. Both make use of imaginary sciences; psychohistory in the trilogy, robot psychiatry and positronic robots in I, Robot. The positronic robots are servants and workers in dangerous jobs in the early stories but by the time of the last, "The Evitable Conflict," they have become the guardians of humanity, controlling the various forces that shape human destiny. To many, this might seem like the classic Frankenstein tale of man being ruled by his own creations, but Asimov differs from most in seeing this as a natural and reasonable state. The stories in I, Robot demonstrate that robots are the superiors of humans not only in mental and physical abilities, but in morality as well. This is due to the now famous Three Laws of Robotics (Asimov attributed these to John W. Campbell) which are implanted in the positronic brain of every robot. These laws, as robot psychologist Susan Calvin explains, are simply the equivalent of the great ethical systems. But where a man can obey or disobey his moral guides, a robot must obey the Three Laws. Several of the stories, such as "Runaround" or "Liar" deal with the possibility of a robot disobeying the Laws, but as Susan Calvin or industrial troubleshooters Mike Donovan or Gregory Powell always prove, the robots are still obeying the Three Laws and it...

(The entire section is 413 words.)