All tagged robot

I've been going through "The Complete Robot" by Isaac Asimov. This is a huge anthology of his robot stories. The classic stories are all here and a few that I hadn't heard before. I haven't made it all the way through yet, but it got me thinking about the movie "I, Robot" and what it was that ultimately disappointed me so much about the movie. The thing about "I, Robot" is that it came close to an actual movie about Asimovian robots.  It had the right names, and it had the laws, it even understood how to use the laws. And the idea of robots taking the idea of the first law to extend to all humanity and not the individual is in Asmovs work. The problem is that by making your first story about them basically ignoring the laws it makes them useless. The thing about Asimov's work is that robots were almost never the villains.  They couldn't be because they were controlled by the three laws. Something else was usually the problem and the robots were the key to the solution, so having a movie based on an Asimov story where robots are the only villain just feels wrong. So, had they shown more robots acting like Asimov wrote robots earlier in the movie I would have been happier with them being more of a villain later. I'm still not sure I would have liked having Will Smith using a cybernetic arm but that was a minor quibble. I still think that many of the stories in these would be far better movies than the one they made, and I strongly suggest that anyone who has ever read Asimov read "The Complete Robot" You'll find all the stories you love and a few you likely havn't seen before. Picture by Davsc
Science Fiction is not the easiest genre to begin reading. There is a huge variety of books many of which aren't all that good and many more than assume some knowledge of the genre. So as a first time science fiction reader it can be tricky to know where to begin. So, recommending a novel for the friend who is willing to give science fiction a chance or the kid who is just getting old enough to become interested in the genre can be difficult. Here are a few ideas of books that might hook someone. 1> Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card Why? Tops many lists as the best science fiction novel of all time. This is a character driven story in a world that is advanced from ours but close enough to not overwhelm the reader. Who's it for? Anyone who has avoided science fiction because it's all about science. People who want to see interesting characters. Who isn't it for? The snob who thinks that science fiction is for kids. He'll see that the main character is a kid and never  get over it. What Next? Assuming they love Ender's Game there are several good sequels that explore the character and the ramification of his actions further. Then you can let them try "Stranger in a Strange Land" it's far different from Ender's Game but its still good and still about characters. 2> I, Robot by Isaac Asimov Why? As a collection of short stories the first time reader can sit down and enjoy a complete story all at once.  This lowers the chance of them getting distracted. Who's it for? The busy person you know who is constantly starting books but never finishing them or the person with a plane ride who wants to be done when he lands Who isn't it for? The guy who thought that I, Robot was the best movie ever. The three laws and a few names are the main connection between this story and the movie. Someone reading this because they loved the action of the movie will be disappointed. What next? "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". Sticking with the robot theme this book initiates readers into the paranoid world of P.K. Dicks without quite the level of weirdness in his other books. This will show them the variety of possibilites even on the same subject. 3> Contact By Carl Sagan Why? This is a science fiction story that feels like a real story based on real technology and discussing themes and ideas that w ould change the world and could really happen. Who is it for? People who look into the sky and wonder who's looking back. Who isn't it for? People who would never watch the science channel. There is a lot of science in this book and if you don't care about it at all you'll get bored. What Next? "2001: A Space Odyssey" Some of the same ideas are explored in 2001 as in contact and someone who liked Contact would almost certainly enjoy 2001. 4> "Star Wars: Heir to the Empire" by Timothy Zahn Why? They know the characters and universe already Who is it for? People who love Star Wars Who isn't it for Star Trek fans. (If they prefer Star Trek try Q Squared by Peter David) What Next? There are a huge number of Star Wars expanded universe books but  getting them out of the Star Wars books you can try "Starship Troopers", it has enough action to keep them entertained.
Yesterday I looked at the top five books of the top 100 science fiction books. Today I'm going to finish off the top ten. 6. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein If I were making this list Starship Troopers and thing would have switched places. (Starship troopers is 12) but it is still an interesting book. This is the story of a human who was raised on Mars by martians and his return to Earth as a young adult. There are 2 versions of this book. The orginial was cut by about 25% removing parts that were considered controversial, the full version was released in 1991. I don't know which of these I read as I didn't know there were two when I read it but it seemed plenty long. 7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury The first thing I noticed the first time I picked up this book is how small it is. Mind you I had been reading the wheel of time series so anything seemed small but compared to modern science fiction it's short. Short isn't a bad thing, this is a well written novel with a central idea that is fully explored. A longer story wouldn't have added anything. This is the story of a fireman, which is someone who burns books. Fahrenheit 451 is the tempiture that books burn. Bradbury says that this is not a book about censorship but instead about how Television destroys interest in literature. 8. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke It's hard to think about this without thinking of the movie. The problem is that I don't really care all that much for the movie 2001. This is a case where the movie wasn't made from the book, instead the book and movie were made together and the book came out after the movie. As science fiction set in the near future(technically the past now) it is a book that is interesting to read for the advances that they predicted and how close they were in many ways. I think that the book holds up better because it's not reliant on effects but simple imagination. There are several more books in this series now. 9. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov It is appropriate that Isaac Asimov be the only writer with 2 books on the top ten list as he is one of the most prolific authors in history. This book is a collection of short stories about robots. There are a few reoccuring characters but they are largely stories that play on the three laws of robots. Although the best Asimov short stories aren't about robots these are still all good stories and a great place to start reading classic science fiction. I will avoid the movie I, Robot except to say that I would like to see a movie based on one of the stories from this book at some point in the future. 10. Neuromancer by William Gibson I haven't read this book mostly because I don't like to buy books new and it hasn't been in my local used bookstore when I have been. That said I've heard enough about this book I feel like i've read it. This is considered the origin of the cyberpunk subgenre. This genre is about high tech computer societies with criminals and hackers. This story is about a computer hacker in a japanise city who was given a drug that made it impossible for him to use a brain-computer interface and is searching for a cure. I can't comment on the quality of the book directly, but if you like cyberpunk this is said to be the best. Along with the first five books this would certainly give you a great overview of science fiction. You can see from this list how varied the genre is. Sadly it is number 26 before we get to Ursula K Le Guin the first woman on the list and I'm not even very fond of the left hand of darkness and the most recently published of these books was Ender's Game in 1985 but those are both largely because it takes time for books to become popular enough to reach the heights of the genre.
The first scientific discovery made by a computer on its own happened today. Adam i room sized computer with three arms a centrifuge, 7 cameras, 20 environmental sensors, and incubators and it is obsessed with yeast. Yeast may not be the most exciting of studies for many of us but human scientists have been solve this problem for fifty years and in truth the experiment itself isn't what is important it is that this is proof that we are able to create machines which can solve problems on their own. With four personal computers doing the thinking this computer has a great deal of room for improvement and it can not yet be called an artificial intelligence in any meaningful way but with eve coming out next year to study drugs to combat malaria it seems that computers able to solve problems humans can not is no longer a idea restricted to science fiction. I for one welcome our robot overlord. Might I suggest the first thing you do is find a name that is a bit less cliche. See the story here.
Dear Bill and Melinda Gates foundation,

I would like to request a 725 million dollar educational grant in order to build a Gundan. This will be an excellent teaching tool as it will teach people to fear me, an important lesson. Below is the price list of each part according to the Japanese Science Portal.


These numbers do not include the cost of labor to build the machine but I believe that there is considerable room for improvements on this cost.
As the founder of Microsoft I hope that you can get me a copy of windows 7 rather than Vista. I hope that this will reduce the load on the computer so rather than needing IBM's Blue Gene supercomputer I can use my laptop. This alone will same 1,550,000 dollars.
It also seems likely that the gas turbine engines are overpriced at 52 million each. since the 7 of these make up nearly half the cost.
These savings will allow me to hire the engineers it will require to build my Gundan as well as the foundations for the secret lair.
I can even offer you a small partnership in my enterprises which use this Gundan. I believe that there are several small African countries which will be excellent places to consolidate power, and their diamond mines should help to fun my other plans.
There are of course a couple of small things left off this robot, and I will be happy to supply them. The cockpit will not be large so I believe that I can use the wall mounted air conditioner from my bedroom to ensure my comfort and I believe I have a ten meter long laser sword in one of the boxes in my basement.
I have not yet decided if I prefer a mini gun or a rocket launcher on the other arm. Both have their advantages. Finally I will wait to add the jump jets. The stability of this giant robot is already somewhat in question and I would not want to risk jumping over any buildings until it was tested more fully.
I understand that the economy is a bit weak right now and I hope that this slum has not put a damper on your charitable giving Mr. Gates. I would also like to remind you to look carefully into the spinning lights which I have enclosed in this package as a sign of my affection for you and your lovely wife.

Sincerely, Professor Slim


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