Sep 17, 2014

Too much of a good thing?

The "birth" of R. Gohrlay, the first positronic robot.
Issac Asimov imagined a future in which robots served to help humans reach the stars. Then, it all went terribly wrong. On the spacer worlds, there were more robots than people and finally, humans mutated into a new form of life that lost the desire to spread itself across the galaxy. When it comes to robots, there can be too much of a good thing.

What's a robot graced with the Zeroth Law to do? Of course, Giskard must find a way to balance humanity on the knife edge between too many and too few robots. Twenty thousand years later we find Daneel still playing the balancing game and just enough robots on hand so that Hari Seldon can fall in love with one and the Foundations can be created.
Chaotic temporal attractors:
Age of positronics, Spacers, the Foundation.

Thus, Asimov told the story of how robots helped humanity through two chaotic attractors, but what about the story of the origin of the very first positronic robot?

The Age of Positronics
We might assume that the very first positronic brain was built by U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc., but did Asimov ever really show how to pull that rabbit out of a hat? And what about the Laws of Robotics? Asimov depicted the "first three" Laws as arriving in the world almost wholly formed and then the "Zeroth" law being artificially grafted on later.

Foundations of Eternity gives a detailed account of the origins of the Laws and the first human-like robot with a positronic brain. The key thing to know about the origin of the Laws of Robotics is that there was never any group of computer nerds who sat down, at U.S. Robots or any where else, and just "slapped together" a robotic brain that could produce human behavior. Just as Daneel was the "story behind the story" of how the Foundation was created, another telepathic robot, R. Rycleu, was working secretly on Earth in the 20th century to bring into existence the first positronic brains on Earth. But those were not the first positronic brains.

The first positronic brain was created by copying the neural circuits of a Neanderthal named Gohrlay. When those human brain circuits were reconstructed as a positronic brain, the resulting robot was R. Gohrlay.

Foundations of Eternity is part of the Exode Trilogy. As a story that takes place in the Exodemic Fictional Universe, Exode explores the implications of Earth having been visited by aliens for millions of years and the struggle of Earthlings to discover the secret history of Humanity.

Asimov was forced to keep robots in the dark corners of the Foundations. In the Exode Trilogy there are may roles for robots and other artificial lifeforms. Even Isaac Asimov himself appears as a character in the story!

Images. Top: the creation of the R. Gohrlay, the first positronic robot with human-like cognition. Credits. The second image shows the structure of time in the Foundation Reality. Larger version. Creating the cover art for Foundations of Eternity.

Related Reading: blast from the past
More book and magazine covers.

No comments:

Post a Comment