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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I've been asked to write a piece on the most important robot stories written. Apart from Asimov's work what do you all think the most important robot stories are? By important, I think we mean work that has brought us new ideas, influenced other writers, or become part of mainstream literature. I'm thinking of books and stories here, not movies.

I appreciate any input.


message 2: by Paul (last edited Jan 04, 2009 07:20AM) (new)


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

BunWat wrote: "Tanith Lee's The Silver Metal Lover

If you can include movies, Metropolis.


"


Thanks, BunWat. I hate not including Metropolis. I'll probably just mention it as I apologize for not including movies.

Thanks, also Paul. Of course I have to mention RUR.




message 4: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) You know, I was trying to think of books that have robots and Asimov was the only writer I could come up with. (Actually, there is a really cool robot in Dan Simmons' Endymion, but I don't think it's very influential.) Mostly, I came up with movies and TV shows. Robots/androids are a huge part of TV science fiction fare.

What about the robot grandmother in the Ray Bradbury short story, "I Sing the Body Electric!" that was the basis for a Twilight Zone episode?


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks, Sandi!


message 6: by Paul (new)

Paul | 131 comments If you can include androids then Philip K Dick stuff like Do Androids dream of electric sheep?" - basis of Blade Runner. I think he also did AI, but I no longer have Total Recall :-)


message 7: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) Paul wrote: "If you can include androids then Philip K Dick stuff like Do Androids dream of electric sheep?" - basis of Blade Runner. I think he also did AI, but I no longer have Total Recall :-)"

DOH! How did I forget that one? I would have to question whether the androids in
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? were robots or not. I think of robots as being mechanical beings and I'm pretty sure the androids were organic. We had a pretty lengthy discussion of this when we talked about the book a few months ago.


message 8: by Paul (new)

Paul | 131 comments Well, yes, I suppose technically robots are entirely mechanical or synthetic. But then androids can be entirely synthetic as well, it's cyborgs that have organic (skin, flesh etc) coverings. Shame if they couldn't be mentioned in passing.


message 9: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) Paul, android/robot/cyborg differentiation is something that I've seen debated and it's something that different authors tweak to suit their purposes. While the androids in "Do Androids Dream..." are clearly mostly organic, possible with some sort of computer brain, other androids are highly advanced robots in human form, like Data in "Star Trek: The Next Generation". Cyborgs are usually humans who have had body parts replaced with machines, often to the point where they are no longer human. Maybe we need to nail down definitions for these terms soon, since many of these concepts are close to becoming reality.


message 10: by Paul (new)

Paul | 131 comments And what about their rights to inherit property? And vote? For that matter, what about genetically enhanced chimps with near normal human intelligence? Do they get a driving licence? Is artificial intelligence still definable by Turing's test? Come to think of it, is organic intelligence definable by Turing's test? :-)


message 11: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) Not sure how 'important' any of these are to the genre, but here's the ones that pop into my mind:

Do they have to be humanoid robots, androids, or single moving machines or what? If not Harlan Ellison's "I have no Mouth & I Must Scream" was the most chilling short story about a world that was dominated by an artificial intelligence & tortured the last humans.Arthur C. Clarke "Sentinel", H.A.L & such. "Coils" is co-written by Zelazny & Saberhagen about an intelligence that evolves within the Internet, sort of. Of course, William Gibson has the handle on that in his "Neuromancer" trilogy.

If you want something that is more mobile & singular, thenKeith Laumer's Bolos. Artificially intelligent tanks or war machines, not humanoid at all.

Roger Zelazny's "Frost & Fire" is a short story in a collection of stories by the same name. It's about a computer that becomes a man. Adam & Eve myth. Fits more into the first section, though.

Was it Jack Williamson that wrote about the humanoids - a bunch of robots who were built to keep man safe & wind up enslaving them into isolation so they couldn't hurt themselves? Hive mind, though, as I recall.

Fred Saberhagen's Beserkers. Alien robots that are trying to kill off all life in the galaxy.

Robert Silverberg, ed. edited a book called "Men & Machines" which has 10 stories in it. I have a copy here, but haven't read it in ages. As I recall, it had some good stories by some really good writers; Aldiss, Blish & more. You might find some good leads here.


message 12: by Nick (new)

Nick (ndoerrabbott) | 55 comments Benford wrote a series on Machine intelligence, robots is a subset of that, which explored the notion of humanity in a future where machines have greater intelligence, and are dominant. My favorite of the series is Across the Sea of Suns.

Bear's novels The Forge of God and Anvil of Stars have robots in key parts of the plot, and more broadly machine intellidence.




message 13: by Nick (new)

Nick (ndoerrabbott) | 55 comments BTW there is a great robert Silverberg short story about a rob ot being elected Pope (can't recall the title offhand, but it's in one of his 50+ short story collections that have been published over the years).

The Fifth Head of Cerberus: Three Novellas, one of the most exceptional novellas in the genre, IMO. won a nebula I believe. It has a robot in a key supporting character role.

New title with a robot as the central character: Saturn's Children


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for all the lists here. I personally define robots as ambulatory computers. If they have synthetic skin and look human, they are still robots if they're computer-controlled. I hadn't really thought of cyborgs/androids, but they could defintely be included as long as they are not using a human brain. I think technically cyborgs would be using a human brain, but androids, like data, I think use a computer brain. Then of course you have to define computer. If a computer uses organic components and neural networks derived from human tissue would it be considered human?

These are things that I will probably be thinking about in my piece. The thing I've been wondering is, have sf writers stopped writing about robots lately? Maybe they don't write about robots much anymore because they are writing about androids now. What do you all think?


message 15: by Adam (new)

Adam | 8 comments I'm reading Roderick by John Sladek and it is a very obvious choice for this list, a kind of modern Candide or variation on Kozinski's Being There with a robot. Saldek's Tik Tok(and L. Frank Baum's for that matter.) also should be considered. Stanislaw Lem's Cyberiad. Barrington J. Bayley Soul of a Robot is weird fable of robot existentialism.


message 16: by Kevinalbee (new)

Kevinalbee | 188 comments A classic is the stepford wives by ira levin. Replace your wife with a robot version.

Movies west world and future world ( there are book adaptations)

A book I believe it is walled wet wear or wet work.
Robot are independent on the moon but have to earn replacement parts. The start transferring human consciousness to the robots to force humans to Identify with the robot needs.

Demon seed by Kontz. An experimental computer system that runs the scientists entire robotic home. It knows that once they are aware that it is self aware it will be shut down. It kidnaps the scientist wife. Impregnates her and transfers its consciousness to the unborn child.

The three Colossus books. Much like the terminator( may have spurred the idea)
A computer system is given control of our nuclear defense capabilities. Russia is doing the same. Oops both acquire sentience. Merge into a single mind and take over the world. They serve mankind and protect mankind by enslaving mankind.

The Humanoid touch novels. Started as a short story called with folded hands Became 3 or 4 books. Jack Williamson.

Depending on the exact definition of robot there are thousands more



message 17: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) Working out a good definition for a robot could be an article in itself. Read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot for a pretty interesting look at it, although I don't know that it fits the definition you're looking for in SF. The line is blurred from so many angles.

Lately, I think I've seen more stories about artificial intelligence that uses machines or 'robots' as needed. That's why I mentioned the intelligences in "Coils", "Neuromancer" & "I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream". Skynet in "Terminator" is something like that, although it then programs the terminators to go out solo.

Often robots are anthropomorphized until they're indistinguishable from humans. "The Demon with the Glass Hand", an Outer Limits episode written by Harlan Ellison, where a robot from the future travels to the past is one. The robot thought he was a man & was crushed when he found out he wasn't. (Ellison was given credits in "Terminator" even though he never had anything to do with it because of this, in part. He's supposed to be sue happy & he had written several works that "Terminator" could be seen as derived from.)

A Twilight Zone had a guy left on a planet with a lady robot & he almost wouldn't leave without her, until the ship's captain shot her, exposing the wires inside. (Don't recall the episode name or writer.)

Zelazny's "The Graveyard Heart" explores the difference between a cyborg & a robot. A man is repaired as a cyborg & then the human half dies. The robot half continues. Cyborg turned robot, although according to the legalities of his situation, he's still human. Hazy line there as Zelazny shows in his unique fashion.

Other books like The World of Tiers: Volume One, have 'robots' that are artificially created, part 'protein' & part mechanical. They're kept in cupboards & released for defense where they learn an offensive move from the invading force & replicate it (twisting the opponents heads off). Robot or cyborg? I favor the former in this case.

I recently read a novel that had clones used for combat. They were instilled with artificial memories & each thought they were one of the few that were 'real' people. Are programmed clones, fitted with mechanical augmentation, robots or cyborgs? In this case, I'd go for the latter since they had individual personalities & egos.

I think there are more stories with robots in them now, but they're not always as noticeable. They're kind of taken for granted now, since we live with them constantly. Robotic vacuums, lawnmowers, CNC lathes & vehicles that talk to us are a few examples.

How much intelligence do they need? To operate on their own in how complex of tasks? Keith Laumer's Bolo stories show his fighting machines at both ends of the spectrum of intelligence & are given 'emotions' as well as a sort of morals.

Often those in current literature are based on & even reference Asimov's 3 laws. When they don't, things go bad like in the movie 'Screamers' was based on "Second Variety" by Philip K. Dick (1989).

I mentioned Williamson because he (I think) extrapolates Asimov's rule 'allow no harm' to a chilling, but logical end - humans harm themselves all the time & the humanoids can't allow that. They don't understand spiritual health, so they wind up killing man with kindness. Asimov had a couple of stories that brought up that very point.

Robots are even in some seemingly fantasy novels; Warlock in Spite of Himself|640181] & Nightworld. Also blended fantasy/SF like Blue Adept.

It's a big subject for a short piece. Good luck with it.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for all the links Jim.


message 19: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) Sue wrote: "The thing I've been wondering is, have sf writers stopped writing about robots lately? Maybe they don't write about robots much anymore because they are writing about androids now. What do you all think?"

Dan Simmons' Endymion definitely has a robot that has a humanoid form, but is absolutely, positively a robot. I think it's even named Robbie.


message 20: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) You're more than welcome, Sue. You've got a huge job ahead of you. I hope they give you lots of room to write!


message 21: by Kevinalbee (last edited Jan 05, 2009 07:03PM) (new)

Kevinalbee | 188 comments In older sci fi the robot could be the center of the story. today the robot is window dressing just part of the background.
robots in the real world are not asimovian but we have them all around us the are evein in toys we give our kids. (not news any more)

What are peoples favorite robot. I personal love marvin in hitch hikers guide


message 22: by Kevinalbee (new)

Kevinalbee | 188 comments BunWat wrote: "R Daneel Olivaw"


Yes it was his college that defined the zeroth law. You can not allow harm to mankin throught direct action or inaction.

It is cool that to finish his mission he had to merge with a solarian




message 23: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) I guess my first-hand familiarity with Asimov is woefully lacking. I'd guess that every science fiction fan knows the three laws because it seems that nearly every writer either used them or willfully broke them when writing robot stories.


message 24: by Marc (new)

Marc (AuthorGuy) | 314 comments One of my favorite robot stories is The Door Into Summer by Heinlein.


message 25: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) Sandi, I think you're right. If you can pick up a copy of I, Robot - the original, not the movie - & The Rest of the Robots, then you've got a great, quick read. I just got a paperback of the original "I, Robot" not too long ago - I lost my copy somehow. It's not easy to find, but it is still available. 8 or 10 short stories each, as I recall. It's been a while.

For more on the Zeroth Law which Kevinalbee & Bunwat mentioned (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._Danee...). There are links there to the 3 laws of robotics & other stuff.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

"In older sci fi the robot could be the center of the story. today the robot is window dressing just part of the background.
robots in the real world are not asimovian but we have them all around us the are evein in toys we give our kids. (not news any more)

What are peoples favorite robot. I personal love marvin in hitch hikers guide"

Yes, that's what I was thinking. Robots are not central to the story any more, just kind of accepted as being in the future.

I love Marvin as well and planned on mentioning him just as a side note on how silly it is to humanize robots.



message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Jim wrote: "You're more than welcome, Sue. You've got a huge job ahead of you. I hope they give you lots of room to write!"

Yes, this is going to be a major project. I'll probably end up doing a number of articles on the subject depending on what I discover.


message 28: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) Kid robots...
Astroboy, Gigantor, Robotech, Transformers ... Some of my favorite robots of all times were cartoons.


message 29: by Jed (new)

Jed (specklebang) | 109 comments Tower Of Glass by Robert Silverberg has well developed robot characters. Also the series Software, Wetware, Freeware and Realware by Rudy Rucker.

Myself, I've been thinking that America needs a new bubble to save the economy. I think robots are the next big thing, like TV or Computers and maybe GM could make them and we can get some of our money back. I want one!



message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Jed,

The Rudy Rucker book sounds like a really good book. He seems to stay on top of tech and it's effect on our culture, doesn't he?

I actually have a robot myself. It falls far short of the stereotypical science fiction robot, but it is considered a robot (roomba vacuum cleaner).

Sue





message 31: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) Sue wrote: "I actually have a robot myself. It falls far short of the stereotypical science fiction robot, but it is considered a robot (roomba vacuum cleaner). ..."

My grandmother, born in 1898, didn't have electric or running water in the house when she was born. By the time she died, she was using a VCR. I wonder how far short she'd think your vacuum cleaner fell?



message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

It's not much more than a vcr as far as functionality goes and I suspect your grandmother would think the same thing about it that I do: it's faster, quieter, and cheaper just to sweep the floor. It doesn't work particularly well on carpets so even compared to a regular vacuum cleaner it falls short. It does make it easier to get under the couch and chairs though. I'll give it that.


message 33: by Jim (last edited Jan 07, 2009 07:05AM) (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) My last comment might have been a little cryptic, but I was thinking of what a robot was to people early last century during the Pulp era & what it is today. Sue doesn't think that a device that can automatically clean her floor while she is doing other stuff is a 'real' robot. OK, it's not Rosie (Jetsons) but it's a long way from a straw broom!

Some of the old pulp stories were a lot of fun, but dated in many ways. The logic behind them has grown a lot since we now all use computers. Boolean logic isn't an oddity, it's obvious to most. My kids grew up programming in 'Turtle Logic'. A whole different mindset. Here's a link to a pretty good site on pulp robots:
http://davidszondy.com/future/robot/p...
It's mostly old cover art, but there is some interesting factoids in there. Lots of authors mentioned, too.

Back when in the 60's when I was reading Dick Tracey, the idea of his watch was something that was very far out. I don't recall believing I'd see it in my lifetime, but they're now available for $549.
http://www.therawfeed.com/2008/02/whe...

Times have changed & our science has accelerated incredibly. Over 95% of the scientists who ever lived have been alive from 1900, according to Alvin Toffler in Future Shock. If you get a chance, read the first 1/4 of that book. It's a real eye-opener & there are PDF copies available on the Internet.

We're really becoming jaded about technology & change.


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

It may seem to be quite a ways from a straw broom, but it is still not much more than one. I can do stuff while the thing is vacuuming, but I still have to do a lot of stuff to get it to be able to vacuum properly. In the end it isn't much of a labor saving device compared to a broom. Probably the best thing about it is that people will buy it inspiring robot makers to keep at it until they do have Rosie for us.




message 35: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) Ah! That's a shame, Sue. We looked at one & decided that it wouldn't work for us, either. Our dogs don't pick up their chewies & toys. We figured that would sabotage it too often. We really need a 'Rosie'.

I watched the Twilight Zone episode, "I Sing The Body Electric" by Ray Bradbury, last night. A robot grandmother fixes a family, after the mother dies young, through love. Creepy, cool & interesting. Serling & Bradbury together is a pretty awesome combination.


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm going to add that to Netflix. In fact, hopefully they'll have a bunch of episodes. I love the Twilight Zone. I used to watch it all day whenever they had the holiday marathons. Not sure if that was a local thing or not. I was in NYC at the time. I miss those marathons. I remember the episode you mentioned above with the lonely astronaut and female robot.




message 37: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) There was a Twilight Zone marathon just on the SciFi channel (satellite) on New Years. I LOVE the DVR. I went through & recorded the few that I didn't remember off the top of my head. I watched the last one last night. I missed a bunch too, but . I've seen most so many times that I have them memorized. I would like to get a lot more of the 'Outer Limits', though. I have a few, but not many.


message 38: by Brooke (new)

Brooke When I first got my Tivo, the very first thing I did was set up a season pass for the Twilight Zone. I'd seen all the iconic episodes many times through Sci Fi marathons, but there was a wealth of lesser-known ones I'd never seen.


message 39: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) How does it do on transitions - wall to wall carpet to vinyl & on to an area rug? We'd probably have to run it constantly between dragging sawdust from the barn & shop in, not to mention 5 dogs.


message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

From reading all these comments, what I'm wondering is what each of you thinks of when you see the word "robot." No intellectualizing about this. Just what do you picture in your head?






message 41: by Kristen (new)

Kristen McQuinn (AReadingLady) | 12 comments Sue wrote: "From reading all these comments, what I'm wondering is what each of you thinks of when you see the word "robot." No intellectualizing about this. Just what do you picture in your head?"

I just think of a mechanical device of some kind that performs a task or set of tasks. It could be something as simple as the Roomba thing that was mentioned above, to some advanced AI thing that can make decisions. I tend to think of things like androids as something different because I think of androids as more advanced, like a real person. Like Data! But then, I'd think of Wall-E as a real person, too, because he was so cute. :) I guess for me, the distinguishing feature is if it has a personality of some kind. If it doesn't, it's a robot. If it does, it's an android.


message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

Ooh, that's a good one. No personality. Hadn't thought of it like that.




message 43: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) I think of 'Robot' as a general term for any mechanical or electronic being made by a corporeal one. Subsets of robots are androids, nanobots, tin cans (like Robby or B9) or AI's that just live in the machine.

An analogy would be Fantasy as encompassing Sword & Sorcery, SF & Horror as well as Adventure novels.


message 44: by Paul (new)

Paul | 131 comments R. Daneel Olivaw had a personality. R2D2 and C3PO have personalities.

I would personally call purely mechanical things like robots on assembly lines and carpet sweepers "mechs" - or maybe "meks".

Robots would be sentient decision making creatures like R. Daneel, but entirely made of inorganic materials.

Androids would be robots but made out of organic compounds.

Cyborgs would be mixtures of human and artificial.


message 45: by Kevinalbee (last edited Jan 10, 2009 02:45PM) (new)

Kevinalbee | 188 comments paul said
R. Daneel Olivaw had a personality. R2D2 and C3PO have personalities.

I would personally call purely mechanical things like robots on assembly lines and carpet sweepers "mechs" - or maybe "meks".

Robots would be sentient decision making creatures like R. Daneel, but entirely made of inorganic materials.

Androids would be robots but made out of organic compounds.

Cyborgs would be mixtures of human and artificial.

My response

I have always viewed robots as the machine. They are not self aware, they do not have personalities.

They can be controlled by an AI or sentient being. They can be programmed to simulate personality.

And what makes R2D2, CP30 and Daniel interesting is that they were anomalies. Their processing units were so advanced they acquired sentience.


As such define them as follows

Mek is a single purpose machine. very narrow design with no decision making

Robot is a general purpose machine. Its built in heristics allow it to make decisions and simulate personality.

AIs which can in some cases be within a robot

androids are organic robots ( so are humans some kind of robot (blade runner))

Cyborgs humans with artifical parts




message 46: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) I always think of androids as just looking like a human, not being made out of organics. That's the way I think they've always been defined in the older book, Twilight Zones (The Lonely) & Outer Limits, I think.


message 47: by MaryReadsRomance (last edited Sep 05, 2013 02:53AM) (new)

MaryReadsRomance (Mary_Reads) | 18 comments Great discussion and I’ll be checking out some of the great book recs that I have either forgotten or have not heard of before!

Historically, the word robot comes from the Czech robotnik, which means "slave." Automaton and Android are older. Automaton supposedly dates back to the 17th century and comes from the Greek automatos meaning "self-acting." Android dates back to the 18th century. The root andro means "human" and the suffix eides means "form."[1] The name Robot is of 20th century origin. It was coined by Josef Capek, a Czech writer, and popularized in 1923 by his brother Karel Capek in a play called Rossum's Universal Robots (also known as R.U.R.). Capek's Robots were essentially genetically engineered humans, but the term quickly became associated with Automatons. The metaphorical meaning of a person who behaves mindlessly also caught on before the end of the 1920s.

Da Vinci is recorded as having created some of the earliest automations based upon his study of human and animal anatomy. Working reproductions have been created from his schematics of a knight and lion automation. Both have been on exhibit and touring Europe. Da Vinci’s automations have been credited with inspiring some newer bio mimetic robots.

The term cyborg was used in Science Fiction to describe an organism composed of living organic and non-organic machine materials. Typically the organism starts out as a sentient organic organism and then is modified or enhanced with inorganic parts etc. A classic example of a cyborg would be the Borg of Star Trek. Biologically enhanced non-organic robots, if enough of the enhancements are bio organic in origin, could I suppose also be considered cyborgs as well such as Robocop who had a human brain.

Robotics usage is projected to explode in the next 10 years. Biomimetic robotics is exploding in particular. So much out there...

Some cool non-fiction books and abstracts to check out include:

http://specs.upf.edu/workshop2011/
http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/ro...
Robot Evolution The Development of Anthrobotics by Mark Elling Rosheim
Leonardo's Lost Robots by Mark Elling Rosheim Biomimetic Neural Learning for Intelligent Robots Intelligent Systems, Cognitive Robotics, and Neuroscience by Stefan Wermter Robot Evolution The Development of Anthrobotics by Mark Elling Rosheim
Neurotechnology for Biomimetic Robots by Joseph W. Ayers Imitating Nature - From Bug Legs to Walking Robots (Imitating Nature) by Toney Allman Biomimetics Nature-Based Innovation by Yoseph Bar-Cohen


message 48: by MaryReadsRomance (new)

MaryReadsRomance (Mary_Reads) | 18 comments So to clarify, my take is that a cyborg is a melding of a an organic life form with machine / artificial enhancements or possibly vice versa. An android is a robot made to resemble a human in appearance. A cyborg could have any appearance - even ones that bear no resemblance to anything in nature.


message 49: by Pickle (new)

Pickle | 138 comments maybe ive missed it but cant believe nobody has recommended Mockingbird by Walter Tevis. I think Spofforth is my favourite robot


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