Robot dreams by isaac asimov

ISAAC ASIMOV — Robot Dreams

Introduction

Science fiction has certain satisfactions peculiar to itself. It is possible, in
trying to portray future technology, to hit close to home. If you live long
enough after writing a particular story, you may actually have the pleasure of
finding your predictions reasonably accurate and yourself hailed as a sort of
minor prophet.
This has happened to me in connection with my robot stories, of which “Light
Verse” (included here) is an example.
I began writing robot stories in 1939, when I was nineteen years old, and, from
the first, I visualized them as machines, carefully built by engineers, with
inherent safeguards, which I called “The Three Laws of Robotics.” (In doing so,
I was the very first to use the word “robotics” in print, this taking place in
the March, 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.)
As it happened, robots of any kind were not really practical until the mid-1970s
when the microchip came into use. Only that made it possible to produce
computers that were small enough and cheap enough, while possessing the
potentiality for sufficient capacity and versatility, to control a robot at
nonprohibitive expense.
We now have machines, called robots, that are computer-controlled and are in
industrial use. They increasingly perform simple and repetitious work on the
assembly lines — welding, drilling, polishing and so on — and they are of increasing
importance to the economy. Robots are now a recognized field of study and the
precise word that I invented is used for it — robotics.
To be sure, we are only at the very beginning of the robotic revolution. The
robots now in use are little more than computerized levers and are very far from
having the complexity necessary for the Three Laws to be built into them. Nor
are they anything close to human in shape, so they are not yet the “mechanical
men” that I have pictured in my. stories, and that have appeared on the screen
innumerable times.
Nevertheless, the direction of movement is clear. The primitive robots that have
come into use are not the Frankenstein-monsters of equally primitive science
fiction. They do not lust for human life (although accidents involving robots
can result in human death, just as accidents with automobiles or electrical
machinery can). They are, rather, carefully designed devices intended to relieve
human beings of arduous, repetitive, dangerous, nonrewarding duties so that, in
intent and in philosophy, they represent the first steps toward my story — robots.

The steps that are yet to come are expected to proceed further in the direction
I have marked out. A number of different firms are working on “home robots” that
will have a vaguely human appearance and will fulfill some of the duties that
once devolved on servants.
The result of all this is that I am held in considerable regard by those working
in the field of robotics. In 1985, a fat encyclopedic volume entitled Handbook
of Industrial Robotics (edited by Shimon Y. Nof and published by John Wiley)
appeared, and, on request of the editor, I supplied it with an introduction.
Of course, in order to appreciate the accuracy of my predictions, I had to be
fortunate enough to be a survivor. My first robots appeared in 1939, as I say,
and I had to live for over forty more years in order to discover I was a
prophet. Because I had begun at a very early age, and because I was fortunate, I