Would robots be better killers than humans?

Summary of I, the robot

Scientific renaissance

After the stock market crash, the global economic crisis and mass unemployment, the USA was ready for a new version of the American dream towards the end of the 1930s: it was the time for its technological rebirth. president Franklin D.Roosevelts The New Deal gave the Americans new hope, and with the success of its economic planners and engineers, the conviction grew that some state-directed and sponsored science would one day solve all human problems. First, however, the Second World War had to be won. In 1942 the Manhattan nuclear science project began, which led to the atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. After the end of the war demanded Vannevar Bush, Computer pioneer and coordinator of US military research, the end of destruction technology and the dawn of the information age. Nothing seemed impossible after the victorious return of the American soldiers. Belief in the blessings of technology was limitless.

The golden era of science fiction falls at the same time. John Campbell, from 1937 editor of the magazine Astounding, discovered and promoted influential authors such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein. They managed to get the sci-fi genre out of the dirty corner.


Science fiction fanatic from early childhood Isaac Asimov had an aversion to the ubiquitous Frankenstein stereotype of artificial beings turning against their creators. The Czech Karel Čapek had coined the term “robot” in 1921 (from “robota”, Czech for “forced labor”). In his acting R. U. R. - Rossum’s Universal Robots a horde of lawless android slaves destroys humanity. As an optimist and technology enthusiast, Asimov did not believe that robots would ever be built without protective devices, and as a rationalist and atheist he fought against religiously motivated bans on thinking. His fictional robots should be "machines designed by engineers", "pseudo-people not created by blasphemers".

In 1939 he first brought up this idea in the short story Robbie to expression. John Campbell, head of science fiction magazine Astounding, it declined, and it appeared in the magazine instead Great science stories. But with the second story Reason, Asimov had success at Campbell. He formulated the three basic rules of robotics and from 1941 regularly published new robot stories in what was then the most important journal of his guild. At the same time he worked on Foundation, a novelzyclus about a galactic empire of the future, served in the army, got married and got a PhD in chemistry. His work discipline is legendary. He hammered the keys at up to 90 words per minute. He corrected his texts at most once. He dismissed writer's block as a luxury problem: after all, people like his father could not have simply locked the shop door because they would have suffered from the “merchant blockade”. In 1950 Asimov selected nine of his best robot stories and wrote a framework for them.

Impact history

I, the robot immediately made the author known to a wider audience. The New York Times described the book as an "exciting science thriller". Literary critics later reviled Asimov for what they saw as the austere style and one-dimensional figure drawing, an assessment that left the author indifferent: he did not want to win a Pulitzer Prize, but rather to be understood by his readers.

His greatest legacy lies less in the realm of literature than in science and pop culture. Asimov is considered to be the inventor of the term “robotics”. The vision of thinking and feeling robots has inspired generations of researchers and artists, from sci-fi writers like David Brin and Roger MacBrideAll about the makers of Star Trek and Starwars up to Alex Proyas, who made the feature film in 2004 I, robot With Will Smith starred.

Above all, the basic rules of robotics made Asimov immortal. Hardly any idea in the history of science fiction has been reflected, copied and parodied more often. From today's perspective, his conviction that people would stick to the rules when developing robots out of sheer self-interest seems quite naive. Nevertheless, they still shape the discussion about the ethical limits of robot technology and artificial intelligence.