news    views    podcast    learn    |    about    contribute     republish    

Isaac Asimov

by   -   March 22, 2013


So if you really think about it, today’s comic brings up several interesting issues regarding robots and war.  One that comes to mind that is certainly not anywhere near a reality, is what if robots are self-aware, does that change the morality of them fighting (I’m thinking Asimov).  If robots are used as soldiers, would they ever fight human soldiers?  If robot soldiers are fighting against other robot soldiers, then is anything really accomplished?  I guess you would be costing each other money, and that’s definitely something, but you’d think it’d be easier to just gamble at that point.  In some ways, I’m reminded of the Star Trek episode where the two countries determined casualties randomly, without ever fighting, and if you “lost” the lottery, you went to be killed.  Deep stuff!

by   -   December 15, 2012

The field moves quickly. So much of the material dates quickly. Joining a professional association such as IEEE or IFR and regular reading of publications – magazines and journals – is essential.


  1. The Handbook of Robotics is a massive book. But is amazingly good at giving a broad sweep of the field.
  2. Robotics, Vision and Control: Fundamental Algorithms in MATLAB by Peter Corke is an excellent introductory text with online Matlab examples.
  3. Probabilistic Robotics by Sebastian Thrun et al. gives an excellent grounding in statistical and machine learning methods for robotics.
  4. For people starting out in robotics I recommend the brilliant LEGO MINDSTORMS by Laurens Valk. It provides practical ways to teach and inspire the next generation of roboticists.
  5. I also recommend people read some inspiring science fiction to get motivated! You can’t go past Isaac Asimov and his classic I, Robot.

Read more answers →

by   -   December 15, 2012

Aside from the conventional introductory texts on BEAM Robotics, control systems, electronics, and multi-axis mechanics, I always recommend books to inspire thoughts on robotic history, possibilities, and directions.

A great history of the robotic future can be found by starting through Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot” anthologies (and the extending books “Robots of the Dawn”, “Caves of Steel”, etc). As with the Sherlock Holmes novels, Asimov’s stories are engaging, logical, quick to read, and, best of all, not bogged down by technical jargon. Written in a simpler time (starting 1930s), the “I Robot” parables revolve around the necessities of the humans involved, but as the series progressed over decades, Asimov’s machines evolve more interesting, sometimes pertinent, roles.

Stories of robot evolution are pandemic through sci-fi culture, and there are many pejorative “Frankenstein awakens and he’s pissed” sub-genres that burden the field. However there are some tales that explore why he’s pissed, and what sort of introspection it might take to calm him down (pitchforks not included). Two of my favorites along these lines are “Two Faces of Tomorrow” (1979, ISBN 978-1-59307-563-7) and “Code of the Lifemaker” (1983, ISBN 0-345-30549-3) both by James P. Hogan. Not only are these stories prophetic, but they deal with my favorite attribute of robotics, namely “Emergent Properties”, when a robot system does more than expected. A major part of the fun of research robotics — “Is it a bug, or awareness?”

There are many excellent modern mechanical missives, but one of the most brilliant details a realistic legal robot dystopia that’s free online. “The Robot and the Baby” by John McCarthy (2006) makes me glad robots are still mostly fictional and not subject to choking regulations and political tarnish. For now, the fun of building robots unfettered is secure, but this story reveals some disturbing possibilities and is my favorite cautionary tale.

And finally, I strongly recommend “Expedition — Voyage to Darwin IV” by Wayne Douglas Barlow (1990, Workman Publishing). This book is pure imagination in biology form, and fed well into my long-held bias that robots don’t have to just be copies of familiar earthly lifeforms, they could be nimble, exotic, enticing aliens. As roboticists, we can build anything, provided we’ve the inspiration, and this book is all about that.

Inspiration acquired. Now where’s my box of junk?

Read more answers →

Exploring from a Distance
July 28, 2020

Are you planning to crowdfund your robot startup?

Need help spreading the word?

Join the Robohub crowdfunding page and increase the visibility of your campaign