The movie that came out a few years ago with the same title was loosely based upon some of the themes from the stories, but did not follow any particular plot in the stories.
While I did enjoy the movie, it failed, in my opinion, to capture the depth of the original writing and and themes Asimov was trying to communicate.
Asimov's body of work is considered a pillar of science fiction, and his Robot Series is some of his best work.
If you haven't read it, I highly recommend that you do.
And if you don't want me to spoil it for you, stop reading now.
I, Robot tells the story of the creation of a robotic race, for lack of a better term, created initially as a work force for people, and the problems that arise as this race integrates into humanity.
For safety, every robot is programmed with three basic laws,
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law
As the stories near the end, a handful of humans realize robots have assumed more and more control over the world, politically and economically.
Everything has become more efficient.
The world is truly a better place, because robots have become far more advanced, and are less corrupt than humans.
In one of the last scenes, it is revealed that the robots have done this on purpose, for the sole purpose of fulfilling the First Law.
They have taken control because they know humans are better off in their hands than our own.
However, they go to great lengths to hide the fact that they have taken control, because our awareness of our loss of control would injure us emotionally, and that would be a violation of the First Law.
In essence, humans could never know they were not in control.
This is why Asimov is a genius.
He understood something profound about humanity.
It seems we would rather run our own lives, even if we know its not the best life possible.
If you're a parent, you've probably used the phrase "This is for your own good".
This phrase is normally followed by the parent making the child do something they do not want to do, like eating vegetables.
The child probably understands that the parent is right, even if they don't understand why.
But they will fight as long as they can.
Why? Because they are being made to do it.
They are fighting for control, even if keeping that control means facing otherwise avoidable pain and difficulty later.
In many ways, we never grow up.
I still find this theme in my own life.
I grasp for control and fight to understand things that are often completely beyond me.
I know I don't have the wisdom or knowledge to call the shots in my own life, but keep doing it anyway.
I know what it means to trust and see when doing so would benefit my life, but still find it hard to bring myself to do it.
I tend to be much more willing to do something when it is my idea.
This is what made Asimov great.
In these stories, he chose to use robots to examine the human condition.
He wove creativity and insight into extremely fascinating, entertaining stories that challenged us to think.