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Parasha: I Robot: November 13th reading


This is... not a story I'm really impressed by, all around, honestly. Although your mileage may vary, since I haven't yet found a way to ingrain my own opinions and beliefs into the rest of y'all. Yet.

Anyhow, it's Powell and Donnovan again, and again they're fairly flat characters, with Donnovan being the Dumb Angry guy with occasional inspirations out of left field, and Powell being the Calm Voice of Reason and Intelligence.

The writing itself is clunkier in places: "'Shut Up!' said Powell, savagely, 'I know you know it, but I'm just describing the hell of it.'" Did anyone not immediately tack "so that the audience can know what's going on" to the end of that sentence?

And it's nice to have Asimov admit that no one knows how the hell positronic fields work, including the guys in charge of maintaining and troubleshooting them. Unobtanium, indeed.

Even the problem du jour falls a bit flat for me, since I'm finding it hard to imagine that six "fingers," specifically, vs. five would really narrow down what circuits they need to check. I mean, if it's a matter of coordinating the fingers (which they had already figured out), why would the number of things being coordinated really narrow it down any more than knowing what the general problem was in the first place?

Of course, I'm not an engineer/computer scientist/roboticist so... I don't know. :p

Comments

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stormfeather
Nov. 13th, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC)
Or the novel thought of running a camera to monitor the robots up close rather than having 4-hour shifts to watch them 24/7!
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stormfeather
Nov. 13th, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC)
Well, I figured personal video wouldn't be in wide use, but the concept of film had been around for a while at least, and I was going more on the angle of just how the "then-future" is kinda bogglingly different from "actual-present-future."
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stormfeather
Nov. 13th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, but concept-wise, there's not all that huge a leap between the two. Especially when we're talking about "things we might very well have available in the future, decades from now."
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khedron
Nov. 16th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
"Powell and Donovan are idiots. They have no clue. And they assume everyone else has no clue, either, because mediocrity recognizes no talent higher than itself."

I totally agree with you when it comes the actual text and the "there's not an expert back home who knows how a positronic field works" thing. That seems like malarkey. This isn't "Mass Effect", after all. The technology didn't come from the Great Old Ones.

When it comes to diagnosing robot behavior, though, I'm a lot more sympathetic. I keep thinking of positronic brains as being like software neural networks. I'm hardly an NN expert, but my take on it is this: we know how they work, of course, but as the number of connections grows, it becomes difficult if not impossible to predict a response to novel stimuli.
khedron
Nov. 16th, 2009 02:11 am (UTC)
The writing itself is clunkier in places: "'Shut Up!' said Powell, savagely, 'I know you know it, but I'm just describing the hell of it.'" Did anyone not immediately tack "so that the audience can know what's going on" to the end of that sentence?

Totally. I could almost hear him guiltily saying, "Sorry, I've got to sneak this exposition in here somewhere, and since it's just you two regulars, and there are no characters for the reader's POV, well, you'll have to do."

On the other hand, there were a couple other aspects of the writing I appreciated this time through. That's partly because I read this just in the last week, and so I liked the bit where he says, "They wasted a few moments and some muscular power in an effort to move the blocking barrier". But beyond that, there were a few jumps in narrative that I thought fit the short story form nicely, where Certain Series would have taken pages to spell everything out in numbing detail.

I also liked the part about Dave's test. (How funny to have an AI named Dave! Ahem.) Part of the standard testing for robots involves problems in judgment & ethics. I'm betting Asimov's robots answer questions that the androids from "Blade Runner" would have to bluff their way through.

Because of other conversations y'all have had recently, I'm reading "I, Robot" as non-Victorian steampunk. Vacuum tubes and mechanical relays! It's awesome.
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