I, Robot is a collection of nine science fiction short stories by Isaac Asimov, first published by Gnome Press in 1950. The stories originally appeared in the magazines Super Science Stories and Astounding Science Fiction between 1940 and 1950. Though the stories work well enough individually, they share a theme of the interaction of humans, robots and morality, and when combined they tell a larger story of Asimov's fictional history of robotics.
Several of the stories feature the character of Dr. Susan Calvin, chief robopsychologist at U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc., the major manufacturer of robots. Upon their publication in this collection, Asimov wrote a framing sequence presenting the stories as Calvin's reminiscences during an interview with her about her life's work, chiefly concerned with aberrant behaviour of robots, and the use of "robopsychology" to sort them out. The book also contains the short story in which Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics first appear. Other characters that appear in these short stories are Powell and Donovan, a field-testing team which locates flaws in USRMM's prototype models.
The following appeared on the back cover of I, Robot (paperback edition):
- To you, a robot is just a robot. But you haven't worked with them. You don't know them. They're a cleaner, better breed than we are.
- When Earth is ruled by master-machines... when robots are more human than humankind.
- Isaac Asimov's unforgettable, spine-chilling vision of the future - available at last in its first paperback edition.
This is largely inaccurate. The first paragraph is a quotation from one of the book's recurring characters, Dr. Susan Calvin, but the rest is incongruous with the themes that Asimov presents in his stories. At the time of the collection's publication, robots were depicted in science fiction as either servile machines or evil creations that revolted in the manner of Frankenstein's monster. Asimov himself said that in writing the Robot stories he sought to replace both views with something more rational.
- "Catch that Rabbit"
- "Little Lost Robot"
- "The Evitable Conflict"
- ISBN 44902355 (mass market paperback, 1970)
- ISBN 0606171347 (prebound, 1991)
- ISBN 0553294385 (mass market paperback, 1991)
- ISBN 1401400396 (e-book, 2001)
- ISBN 1401400388 (e-book, 2001)
- ISBN 0553803700 (hardcover, 2004)
- ISBN 078577338X (hardcover)
- ISBN 0007119631 (paperback, UK, new edition)
- ISBN 0586025324 (paperback, UK)
In the late 1970s, Warner Brothers acquired the option to make a film based on the book, but no screenplay was ever accepted. The most notable attempt was one by Harlan Ellison, who collaborated with Asimov himself to create a version which captured the spirit of the original. Asimov is quoted as saying that this screenplay would lead to "the first really adult, complex, worthwhile science fiction movie ever made." Although the film was never made, the script eventually appeared in book form under the title I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay, in 1994 (reprinted 2004, ISBN 0743486595). Although acclaimed by critics, the screenplay is generally considered to have been unfilmable based upon the technology and average film budgets of the time.
More recently, a movie of the same name loosely based on Asimov's stories and starring Will Smith, was released by Twentieth Century Fox on July 16, 2004 in the United States. It was heavily criticized by fans of Asimov's work for departing from the source material.
References and parodies
The animated series The Simpsons had an episode in its fifteenth season entitled "I, D'oh-Bot", in which Homer and Bart compete in a Robot Wars-type competition. Asimov's Three Laws came into play at the end, when one of the robots discovered Homer in the battlefield.
The animated series Futurama had a first-season episode entitled "I, Roommate", in which the human character Philip J. Fry and the robot character Bender attempt to find an apartment together. The third-season episode "The Cyber House Rules" includes an optician named "Eye Robot". The fourth-season episode "Anthology of Interest 2" included a segment called "I, Meatbag", in which Bender is transformed into a human being.
The episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation titled "I, Borg" was named after and conceptually based on the I, Robot stories. The episode was about a Borg Drone that was separated from the Borg Collective, and how it learns how to become an individual.
The satirical newspaper The Onion published an article entitled "I, Rowboat" in which an anthropomorphized rowboat gives a speech parodying much of the angst experienced by robots in Asimov's fiction, including a statement of the "Three Laws of Rowboatics":
- A Rowboat may not immerse a human being or, through lack of flotation, allow a human to come to harm.
- A Rowboat must obey all commands and steering input given by its human Rower, except where such input would conflict with the First Law.
- A Rowboat must preserve its own flotation as long as such preservation does not conflict with the First or Second Law.