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Parasha: I Robot: November 6th reading

Oops, I just realized that it was time for the first Parasha section, and I'd forgotten about it. So for now I'm just putting this place up for discussion, I'll have to edit in any summaries/comments I have later. Also feeling kinda "meh," so I'll probably be resting for a bit. But I at least wanted to get this up, for people to start discussing it.


The introduction sets up Susan Calvin's importance in the story, and sets her up as emotionless, almost a robot herself, making a nice contrast to the robots who, as with much sci-fi of the time, are being portrayed as possibly another form of human themselves.

And of course "Robbie," a short story that introduces a Robot used as a nursemaid. It's a bit on the treacly side in some ways, but still nice. Although really, I have to wonder what Mrs. Weston's problem really is. Is it just what "the neighbors" say, or what? I mean she gives a lot of reasons, but it's hard to pick out what might actually be troubling her, and what is just an excuse.

This also pretty effectively sets us up to start considering the whole question of what makes a person a person. It's just a bit.. odder to read it now, since the events happening there would now be in our past, and of course things like thinking robots and commercial jet-cars aren't here yet. (It's also awkward in the introduction to see the reporter making notes manually via a machine, instead of just recording the interview.)

And in some ways, I think our society dilutes the impact a bit, since we've become too used to seeing robots as, well, things that don't actually think or have emotions, thus aren't real people in pretty much *any* sense. It might happen eventually, but I think the longer it goes on that we have machines without the thoughts, the harder it is for us to think of them as possibly something more.

Anyhow, if I have any further comments that I think of I'll add them in comments later. Sorry if this is a bit short or not very detailed, feeling better already but still not peachy keen, so I'm slacking a bit. :p


Nov. 6th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
Yay, I was waiting for this!

I this Mrs. Weston's problems were severalfold. One is that she's got Frankenstein complex herself, though she blames the neighbors for it. One is that she is cast and characterized as the nagging housewife that is the bane of the poor innocent hardworking husband (the scene with the "hours after Sunday dinner being sacred" for George sets that up very clearly. One is...

Well, one is, Susan Calvin notwithstanding, Asimov was just not very careful about misogyny sometimes, and can we get that right out now and not have to discuss it every time it comes up? Because it will, again.

The other question, about what makes Robbie a person to Gloria, is much more interesting, I think. Robbie plays with her, is warm and comfortable, shows tenderness to her, makes it interesting for her by going so far as to sulk and make promises and doing the "fair! fair!" thing that's so important to kids and their games.... he is much more human than the dog that the mother tries to present as a replacement, but the twist is that he is programmed to behave like that, all of it.

As far as we know.

In the later stories---and I think those are the most interesting facets of Calvin/robopsychology stories---some of the robots' actions are going to be explicitly presented as emergent behaviours arising from the sheer complexity of the robots' programming, and then the "what makes a person?" question is really going to explode over our heads, I think.

Again, whee!
Nov. 6th, 2009 10:23 pm (UTC)
See, this is part of the thing for me - I've technically read the book before, but it's literally been years, and I remember only bits and pieces (even less than I did of the Zelazny), so in some senses it's almost as if I'm a first-time reader. So it's harder for me to mention things in context of future events.

I'm also wondering if I *should* start putting spoiler/non-spoiler separate posts again. My original thought was that since they're short stories, and self-contained, and all being discussed in a chunk it shouldn't be necessary. But I forgot how intertwined they were, with an overreaching story, so... hrm.

And yeah, Mrs. Weston does come across as the Nagging Hausfrau, but I wasn't sure (and I guess still am not) if it were a matter of just dipping into the stereotype well for ease of characterization, or a matter of misogyny. Either way, I would've preferred something more. :p

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