For Mr. Isaac Asimov—
As a child I read unusually mature books. I was greatly influenced by my dad’s interests;
and so at the tender age of six I was reading Never Sniff a Gift Fish, had Death in the
Silent Places read aloud to me, and slowly worked my way through various Star Wars
novels. But one particular author, one particular book—a collection of short stories, will
always have a special place in my heart. You, Mr. Asimov. My father was a physicist
and an engineer, and he brought all three of us kids up on robotics. All of us played
Legos—still play with Legos—and when we received our first Lego robotics kit, I was
hooked for life. I’ve been programming and building robots since I was six, and today I
have a job teaching elementary school kids how to build and program Lego robots. I
don’t know if this comes as a surprise to you, Mr. Asimov, because you always seemed
to see so far into the future, but I’d like to think you’d be proud of how far we’ve come.
When I was young, you were the author that shaped my thoughts about robots: what they
were, what they could be, and how they should be treated.
In hindsight, Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot might have been too mature for a young child.
When I pulled the old, well-worn book off our Asimov-devoted shelf, I flipped through
the yellowed pages with awe. Familiar names like Susan Calvin, the Three Laws, the
phrase “positronic brain,” and most importantly “Robbie” jumped out of the pages,
stirring old, fond memories. The first story in this collection, “Robbie,” is my all-time
favorite. The skepticism and anti-technology sentiments that Gloria’s mother spouts are
opinions that I am used to dealing with—even in this day and age. Many of my friends
address “technology” like a stupid animal which must be beaten or tricked into
submission through human intellect. For example: “I finally got my voicemail to work,
no thanks to this stupid phone.” I tend to snark back at them, “That would be a user
error.” Mr. Weston, Gloria’s father, is one of my favorite characters because despite
what his society-loving wife thinks, or what his neighbors think, he supports Robbie and
orchestrates Gloria and Robbie’s climatic, heartwarming reunion. I tear up with
happiness every time I read it—despite what society thought, how they disappeared, how
they misunderstood, Gloria stayed devoted to her robot friend.
I’ve always identified with Gloria and her love of Robbie. Similarly, I played with robots
throughout my childhood and still play with them today—might go into a career of
playing with them. The character Susan Calvin is an inspiring figure for me: she’s an
incredibly brilliant, eccentric woman who is actually a robot psychologist. I always
admired her ability to defend robots against technophobic nay-sayers. Sometimes I find
myself in her same position: defending the forward march of robotics. I am still shocked,
appalled, infuriated, and saddened whenever some bigoted, ignorant technophobe makes
the assumption that all robots must be “mindless killing machines” at heart. I will never
understand how some people have come to believe that machines and robots are innately
evil and out to destroy us. Why don’t people instead believe that technology is innately
good? I believe robots are what we make them—that if we invest our creations with
good intentions, trust, and love, then they will become faithful companions to the human
Your books, Mr. Asimov, have completely shaped my view of robots. When I saw the
commercial for “Real Steele,” a movie whose main premise is that humans use robots to
fight for entertainment, by first thought was “How racist and barbaric.” I am very
interested in the future of sentient robots and how the first true artificial intelligence will
change our society forever. I think there will be another Civil Right’s Movement to rival
the one in the 1960s: robots will refuse to be used as cheap unpaid labor, mindless drones
or servants, expendable soldiers in war, demand equal political rights and social equality.
I believe the future of technology and robotics is bright, and I hope to help guide
humanity into a mutually beneficial friendship with our robot creations. And it’s all
because of you, Mr. Asimov. Your books looked far into the future: a future where
humans had spread across the stars, and brought their robots with them. Yes, there were
adventures and mishaps along the way, but we overcame those problems and learned
form them. Reading your books gave me so many dreams and expectations of what our
future could be like, and I hope to someday fill the character of Susan Calvin or Gloria,
and retain my life-long devotion and defense of robots.
Heather Parsons
Lathrop High School