ROBOTS by Isaac Asimov

ROBOTS

Where the Machine Ends and Life Begins
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KIRKUS REVIEW

This volume is a departure from the customary Asimov approach to explaining-it-all--perhaps the doing of co-author Frenkel. First, the book is heavily focused on the business/economics of industrial robots (IRs). Then, it deals extensively with personalities, especially Joseph F. Engelberger, "Father of Industrial Robots" and founder of Unimation: a plain-speaking pioneer whose earthy remarks punctuate many chapters. On the other hand, there is less than usual how-it-works explanation; and since what's here is below par, that's just as well. (The reader risks becoming benumbed by, for example, a lengthy take-out on ways to operate a mechanical arm in three dimensions.) The Asimov touch is evident however, in the etymologies--Karel Capek's coining of the Czech word robota in his play R.U.R., the roots of words like automation--and the historical background: the literary and social history of robots from Hero of Alexandria to Frankenstein, from clockwork to feedback mechanisms to the present. There is a good discussion of persistent problems in developing sensors (visual, tactile); a smattering of theory on artificial intelligence; and a serious discussion of the impact of robotics on labor and society--flavored by Asimov's well-known Laws of Robotics (i.e., robots must obey human orders). The authors argue that the IR changes will be evolutionary, and should not cause massive layoffs of either blue or white collar workers. As state-of-the-art reportage on the current use of robots in materials handling, assembly, etc., the book provides a useful global picture, along with thoughtful analysis. For an array of robot topics, erratically handled, see Minsky, below.
Pub Date: June 6th, 1985
ISBN: 9999861903
Publisher: Harmony/Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1985




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