July 10, 2011
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The Robots of Dawn - Isaac Asimov
The Robots of Dawn is one of three Robot Detective novels by Isaac Asimov. The books follow the adventures of Plainclothesman Elijah Bailey from Earth as he tries to solve some fairly difficult and politically charged crimes on Earth and on two other planets. They are the Robot Detective Novels because the crimes always have something to do with robots, and Elijah always has the help of robots. His most common robot partner is a humaniform robot (a robot made to look indistinguishable from human beings) named R. Daneel Olivaw – The R is for Robot, obviously! Chronologically, this is the third book, following The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun.
In the near future depicted in these robot crime novels, humanity on Earth has collapsed into several massive cities, all completely enclosed. There is nothing wrong with the world outside the cities, but the population has just grown inward. They are claustrophobic, noisy … and comfortable. The people who live in the cities (or the “caves of steel”) are accustomed to it and comforted by the proximity to other people. Boundaries mean comfort.
Humanity has also expanded to the stars, colonizing several other planets in other star systems, thanks to the advent of faster-than-light travel. The colonized worlds don’t have nearly the population of Earth, it’s a completely different order of magnitude as far as density. On some Spacer (as Earth people refer to the colonists) worlds, there are more robots than there are humans. Read more of this post
April 11, 2011
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Second Foundation, by Isaac Asimov
Another installment in the wonderful Foundation series by Isaac Asimov (I don’t number it because there are several ways to count them), Second Foundation tells the secret story of the other half of the Seldon Plan. In humanity’s distant future, Hari Seldon, pioneer of a branch of mathematics called ‘psychohistory‘, predicted the decline and failure of the galactic empire centered on the planet of Trantor. The prediction was based on the equations and theories behind psychohistory. To call it a prediction is maybe not quite accurate; the decline was more like a very high probable outcome based on the understanding of a complete cultural, polictical and socio-economical system. Indeed, many (including the emperor) thought that Seldon possessed the ability to foretell the future, when in reality he could only predict massive scale trends and say nothing about the individual: so, he could predict the fate of the empire, but not how prosperous you or I would be in life.
Psychohistory also predicted with a high probability that following the empire’s collapse, the galaxy would be plunged into a thirty thousand year decline, where anarchy would reign and much of human progress (through science and intellect) would be lost before a second empire could be established. Seeing that the decline of the empire was inevitable, Seldon and his followers used psychohistory to try to reduce the length of the inevitable decline by manipulating the galactic system. To that end, Seldon and his followers created the Foundation and the Second Foundation. The Foundation was to be a storehouse of knowledge, a bastion of science and technology that could protect knowledge and progress in the decline. The Foundation was created in the full visibility of the galaxy. So, everyone knew about it. This book is about the Second Foundation, which Seldon and his followers created in relative secrecy. Through psychohistory, the planned creation of these two foundations would reduce the inevitable decline of the empire and the subsequent unrest and barbarism of the galaxy to a mere one thousand years.
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