Totalitarian Assumptions in I, Robot

From: Matt Arnold (
Date: Thu Feb 17 2005 - 12:08:11 MST

When I invited Cory Doctorow to be a guest at Penguicon he asked to
present a panel about "The Hidden Totalitarian Assumptions of I,
Robot." I've been curious ever since.

Now it turns out he's published a new story about it on the Infinite
Matrix website titled I, Robot. After the story
he writes, "Last spring, in the wake of Ray Bradbury pitching a
tantrum over Michael Moore appropriating the title of 'Fahrenheit 451'
to make Fahrenheit 9/11, I conceived of a plan to write a series of
stories with the same titles as famous sf shorts, which would pick
apart the toalitarian assumptions underpinning some of sf's classic

It's an excellent story but I still don't get the point. The money
quote is probably this: "You live in a country where it is illegal to
express certain mathematics in software, where state apparatchiks
regulate all innovation, where inconvenient science is criminalized,
where whole avenues of experimentation and research are shut down in
the service of a half-baked superstition about the moral qualities of
your three laws, and _you_ call _my_ home corrupt?" But as far as I
can tell, some characters decided to be totalitarian dictators, and
other characters in their society allowed them to be, for reasons
which I can only dimly connect to the three laws or to Asimov's book,
probably because it's been years since I read it. (The movie, which
was a script called Hard Wired until they slapped the I, Robot name on
it for no good reason, doesn't count.) Why don't the Eurasian robots,
who are not "3 Laws Safe," run amok and take over the world? Why are
they Friendly AI? The story does not say. In asking that question, am
I making one of the totalitarian assumptions of I, Robot?

A few months ago I bought it the e-book from, but
Digital Rights Management screwed me out of my property because my
credit card had expired, so I can't read it. I don't know if I'd call
that totalitarian though.


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