I’ve just finished Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. It’s a very engaging story from a writer with strong roots in natural science. I believe Asimov’s work is extraordinary for his time, but some flaws are visible today.
Four major flaws, in my opinion, are the assumption that robots will remain metallic in essence, human in appearance and thinking, bound by laws to obey and protect us; and that they are a temporary stage in the history of humankind. It’s obvious to us that biosynthetic materials are a much better alternative to metals. It’s strange that a biochemist couldn’t foresee such an alternative.
The human appearance isn’t a must, and creating complex machines for simple tasks is inefficient. I believe a robot connected to several simpler machines makes much more economical sense. Therefor, the human appearance has more of a romantic charm. Human forms will exist, and even other natural forms (like pets), but they won’t have the same autonomy and complexity as a central operating computer. Robots will become more hive thinking.
“The Three Laws of Robotics” is an ideal. The complexity of the concepts of good and bad are beyond comprehension even to us. It’s a matter that even Asimov hits in the second Foundation Series were Daneel can’t decide witch of the possible alternatives is the best for humankind: First Foundation, Second Foundation or Gaya. In themselves, these laws are the charm of the Robots Series because of their relativeness.
The forth flaw is a more “psihohistorical” matter. It’s hard to believe humankind will stop using such a help. In all his history, humankind has used some sort of help in order to do his job. It’s our distinguishing mark. We used clubs, bows and arrows instead of our hands. Horses were our alternative to feet. Engines were just their replacements. Computers are our replacements for calculations and routine tasks, perhaps for thinking all together . Robots are the natural next step.