- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Biochemist. Professor. Historian. Author. Pioneer. Even humorist. Asimov was a very prolific artist writing over 500 books, essays, short histories, scientific articles and even a spoof chemistry article which confused more than one. Asimov wrote 8 hours a day everyday, armed with nothing more than typewriters for most of his life.
Probably the biggest contributions of Isaac Asimov were to the field of science fiction, in which he is hailed as one of "The Big Three" along with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein. In 1963 he received the prestigious Hugo Award for "adding science to science fiction", a very fitting description of his style. As a scientist, he gave scientific explanations to his sci-fi proposals, for example in "The Gods Themselves" he uses real science to explain the decay of the inexistent Plutonium 186 to create a source of energy, and how such substance inexistent in our Universe could exist in a para-Universe with different laws of physics... and how eventually this could affect both Universes. Which as a scientist and science geek I can't help but love with all my heart.
His baby, the Psychohistory, is a combination of his psychology, mathematics, chemic, physics and social studies, it describes a way of predicting the behavior of a large number of people statistically through mathematical equations. Does it sound impossible? You would be surprised to know that he uses the sample principles applied to statistical thermodynamics, making the theory behind his creation quite possible given that technology provides the tools for such large calculations.
"But what would you do if the doctor gave you only six months to live?" I said, "Type faster." (Isaac Asimov when interviewed by Barbara Walters)
His work in the Foundation/Robot series spans hundreds of thousands of years of History of the Galactic Empire, from the times when all the human-kind was clustered in one blue planet, until the downfall of the Empire by its colossal size. In between, science, racism, commerce, mutation, politics, love, murder, treason and any conceivable scenario are masterfully portrayed everywhere among the stars.
Asimov also coined the term Robotics, now an important field of study. In parallel he created the Three Laws of Robotics (cited above), laws that robots are bound to follow to protect and serve; if robots were given free thought, some people believe that they should be bound to Asimov's Three Laws. Some of the histories also deal with the moral and ethics of robots, for example in I, Robot a little girl has a deep relationship with her nanny-robot, which eventually leads to worry and discomfort of the neighbors and her parents. What would you do if that was your daughter?
Asimov also did a fantastic job making science accessible to the general public, as a professor he had a natural talent to make science both aesthetic and easy to understand. His "popular science" writings are a work of art, equal parts beautiful and educational. I personally saw people that swore they never understood any science in their lives, being fascinated by how easy and educational they are.
He also wrote several dozens of science books, research papers, and specially a spoof research paper "The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline" explaining how thiotimoline could dissolve with water before being put in contact with the liquid. The journal described the discovery with charts, equations and cites to previous studies, making it so believable that it actually fooled many, much to the amusement of the good doctor. Even years after it was published people kept asking for the journals cited eager to know more about thiotimoline.
Asimov is recognized as the author whose work spanned over the most areas, including psychology, theology, languages, sci-fi, science, technology, arts, history and more.
And if you want to have your life changed, read The Last Question. Read it. Read it now.
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