Thursday, 22 August 2013
Asimov's robots have the knowledge for the jobs that they have to do built into them. It is an innovation when a robot is produced that has to learn and is to that extent like a human baby - the baby that robopsychologist Susan Calvin never had.
A humanoid robot in Anderson's story of the above title has most of his knowledge built into him but also has a period of psychological stabilization when he is very impressionable, again like a baby. The robot, designed to mine on Mercury, is impressed by casual conversation with literary criticism and remains on Earth to read novels.
The laws in Anderson's story are more humane than those in Asimov's series. As an intelligent conscious being, the robot, Izaak, has legal rights and cannot simply be destroyed or deactivated because he refuses to mine.
The solution (far fetched) is a literary hoax:
first, write rave reviews of a nonexistent novel about space exploration;
secondly, start to generate a text for the novel by plagiarizing a 1950's sf novel but rewriting it in purple prose;
thirdly, stall Izaak and anyone else who requests a copy;
finally, let Izaak read a copy when one has been generated with the result that he is inspired to go to Mercury, but wants to be kept informed of this new literary genre -
- which does come into existence because the rave reviews inspire others to request copies, which have to be mass-produced, and still others to write more in the same vein.
Like the interstellar feudalism of The High Crusade, a joke surely!