isaac asimov - "segregationist" (and other stories about THE ROBOTS)

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new episode will be up tonight around 10pm GMT, or you can listen live from 10-11 GMT on

what do you guys make of this story about a cranky racist

Tracer Hand, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 16:01 (fifteen years ago) link

or indeed any of his other robot stories?

we give him kind of a hard time on the show, but some of them are pretty great despite their schematic..ness

Tracer Hand, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 21:45 (fifteen years ago) link

listening. when do you get onto the ROBOT MURDER MYSTERIES, is what i want to know.

thomp, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 21:49 (fifteen years ago) link

In a way they're great because of their logical nature. Before the show I read the wikipedia summary of the story and it makes the central argument sound rather weak, who wouldn't want a robotic heart? But the surgeon does in fact present a good, scientific, logical case for the "plastic" heart. And that I think makes his position a little more nuanced than "lol racist".

ledge, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 22:27 (fifteen years ago) link

i very much like mark s's idea of these stories as simplified cases akin to those in maths or the sciences, tho having only taken math til a level i feel only two-fifths sure i can follow what he meant.

although i'm not sure if he meant "these are simplified cases of the moral problems of free will" or, more broadly, "these are simplified cases of human beings interacting": which latter i'm unsure specifically makes great sense w/r/t the robot stories, although it might for larger subsets of fiction, viz all asimov, or all science fiction of the 40s & 50s, or some of it, or all science fiction ever, or some of it.

thomp, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 22:44 (fifteen years ago) link

also, next week's story is the first one of which i have never heard. (which is something of a relief, in some ways.)

thomp, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 22:45 (fifteen years ago) link

i'm finding i can't recall any of the early robot stories to mind - tho i have a fairly clear gestalt image of them all - but i can get lots of horrible stuff from the later uh MYTHOS-y robots stuff, with daneel olivaw orbiting the earth for a thousand million years and the zeroth law and all that nonsense, back in the forebrain. oh dear.

thomp, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 22:47 (fifteen years ago) link

remember the one where asimov's heroine in the robot stories (susan...what was it? it's been like 15 years since i read any of these) flips out and kills a robot because it lies to her that some dude she has a crush on likes her back? that one was kind of unsettling, espec in the generally antiseptic atmosphere of the IA stories.

J.D., Wednesday, 16 April 2008 04:25 (fifteen years ago) link

interesting fact: asimov's favorite writer was pg wodehouse! he wrote a bunch of stories later on in his life that were sort of a SF version of bertie and jeeves ("azazel," was it?).

J.D., Wednesday, 16 April 2008 04:26 (fifteen years ago) link

wasn't azazel a demon? those were awful.

that susan story was the one i was trying to think of that was even worse than the mommy, mommy one.

thomp, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 08:33 (fifteen years ago) link

dr. susan calvin! as mark says in the show

i think we ALMOST got on-topic a few times and then frustratingly veered off again - whaddya expect with ilx0rs tho eh

thomp i think it MAY have been more the latter that mark was saying since i think the moral problem of the free will of slaves was my own particular axe to grind - but i'll have to listen again

Tracer Hand, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 09:37 (fifteen years ago) link

oh HAI viral web d00ds of doubtful turing status :D

in ref thomp's q, i shd fiorst say that this idea popped into my head AS WE WERE TALKIN ON-AIR (or on-mike pre-record but in this scrambled instance same diff) and i had no time to refine the intuition

so i'd have to go away and think through properly exactly what i meant, and it referred to -- i think i veered off instead into a defence on "ordinary" as non-simplified, which is a typical mark s filibuster of self sadly :\

i think my proposal -- up for discussion and dissection wd be -- that asimov in particular provided kid-shaped tastes of advanced questions about "what it is to be human", just as the maths you teach a 12-year-old provides kid-shaped tastes of higher maths... with alan as the posterchild here, in that he went on to study "theory of mind" and AI etc: so that it inculcates a few of the simpler dichotomies, but more to the point it helps the child decide if this is a territory they are happy exploring further later

contrast moomintroll stories: tove jansson's fiction is similarly full of ethical questions but i don't think it particularly points the avid reader towards any later vocational aptitude or commitment

so i guess i'm saying this is something quite special about asimov -- possibly other writers also, but not in such a concentrated way -- and that this quite unusual (and possibly inadvertently discovered) pedagogic strategy entirely fits in with his career as a educational populariser

mark s, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 09:52 (fifteen years ago) link

heehee turing: PASS ^^^

no robot could write so carelessly, blimey

mark s, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 09:54 (fifteen years ago) link

"kills a robot because it lies to her that some dude she has a crush on likes her back"

i really wanted to read a bit of this one out (it's called Liar!) as it illustrates the 'interpretation of the law' aspect of the stories brilliantly. another bit of the same story shows his poor treatment of Susan as a real character as she is in LURVE and then inexpertly applies too much slap.

Alan, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 10:26 (fifteen years ago) link

yes "liar!" is totally a case of EXCELLENT REAL MEATY GROWN-UP EMOTIONAL-ETHICAL ISSUE as acted out by hopelessly daft glove-puppets

otoh asimov largely got this lamely yukky "human" side of dr sc out of the way with these two stories (liar and lennie): so that from then on, she's a much better foil for his topsyturvying, i feel -- someone whose humanism is contrarily the deeper for manifesting as ultra-chilly pro-robotism

mark s, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 10:34 (fifteen years ago) link

interesting fact: asimov's favorite writer was pg wodehouse!
Shouldn't confess to this, but that's how I started reading P.G. Wodehouse, when I read about this in In Joy Still Felt. Or was it In Memory Yet Green?

James Redd and the Blecchs, Thursday, 17 April 2008 12:36 (fifteen years ago) link

You guys haven't told us what's coming next! I'm hoping for Alfred Bester or C.M. Kornbluth.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Thursday, 17 April 2008 12:59 (fifteen years ago) link

I think I posted elsewhere that I always wanted to hear a doo-wop recital of "The Three Laws Of Robotics."

I am under the impression that you guys have said that the Golden and Silver(berg) Ages have been forgotten and neglected and you are making an effort to rehabilitate them. Is this the (simplified) case? Based on the anecdotal evidence of a straw poll of library holdings and bookstore shelving there does seem to be a bit of a poor showing of that stuff. I saw lots of robot books with Isaac Asimov on the cover, but they were all by other people under the "Isaac Asimov's Robots Presents" rubric!

James Redd and the Blecchs, Thursday, 17 April 2008 13:11 (fifteen years ago) link

Actually, re: the p.g. wodehouse thing and the on-air discussion about his "stolid" style, I remember Asimov saying he preferred nineteenth century literature and never read any twentieth century literature at all -unless it was written as if it was the nineteenth, I guess.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Thursday, 17 April 2008 13:22 (fifteen years ago) link

has anyone ever read harlan ellison's screenplay for i,robot? (my possibly-minority opinion: it's AWFUL, mainly cuz HE and IA don't mesh at all, stylewise or anywisewise)

J.D., Saturday, 19 April 2008 09:37 (fifteen years ago) link

I could well imagine that. Didn't read it, did read his novelization of his original treatment for The Starlost.

What was the famous story about their meeting ,something like this

At the sci-fi convention
Young Harlan: "Are you Isaac Asimov?"
Isaac Asimov: "Yes, I am"
Young Harlan: "You're nothing!"

James Redd and the Blecchs, Saturday, 19 April 2008 11:56 (fifteen years ago) link

Later on he claimed what he said was "You're not such a big deal."

James Redd and the Blecchs, Saturday, 19 April 2008 12:12 (fifteen years ago) link

haha wiki sez that asimov tht this collaboration would lead to: "the first really adult, complex, worthwhile science fiction movie ever made"

haha yes feat.dr susan calvin as realised by harlan ellison be still my feminist heart oh my

mark s, Thursday, 24 April 2008 12:51 (fifteen years ago) link

H4rlan E. corrected my friends grammar on the picket line during the writers strike in L.A. Told him "You're a writer, my good man, don't use the world 'like' so much." Then he stepped into a waiting car and drove away.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Thursday, 24 April 2008 13:20 (fifteen years ago) link

Haha, see if you can find an IA poem called "The Foundation Of Science Fiction Success" from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Friday, 25 April 2008 01:06 (fifteen years ago) link

eleven years pass...
two years pass...

Not news, debating whether to post it at all, but for the record:

Mardi Gras Mambo Sun (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 8 March 2022 00:42 (one year ago) link

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