About the Book

Book Protagonist: Susan Calvin
Publication Date: 1950
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Non-Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction


I, Robot

By Isaac Asimov

The beloved science fiction novel 'I, Robot' by Isaac Asimov has long captivated readers of all ages. In its stories of robotics, the work offers a fascinating exploration of human potential and potential conflicts with the ever-evolving world of robots.

Written in a compelling style with twists and turns, ‘I, Robot presents readers with some thought-provoking ideas, such as its oft-cited line, “a robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” 

This quote perfectly encapsulates the theme of ‘I, Robot as it challenges readers to contemplate the possible effects of advancing technologies.


It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?

In these lines, the speaker asserts that one’s understanding of oneself is almost entirely based on how others perceive you or what they allow you to see. One needs the assistance of a mirror to see their “face,” and in this quote, that mirror is delivered by someone else, suggesting that it’s only because of this other person and their mirror that “you” can see your face, or understand yourself, at all. 

There can be no serious conflicts on Earth, in which one group or another can seize more power than it has for what it thinks is its own good despite the harm to Mankind as a whole, while the Machines rule.

In these short lines, the speaker notes that the Machines, or robots, have changed life drastically for humanity. No longer can one power destroy another for power. Because of the presence of Machines, human beings act differently. This can be seen in both a negative and positive light. 

Globes of energy millions of miles across! Worlds with three billion humans on them! Infinite emptiness! Sorry, Powell, but I don’t believe it. I’ll puzzle this thing out myself. Good-bye.

These lines are spoken by Cutie, one of the few malfunctioning and struggling robots that readers meet in the short story collection. The robot doesn’t believe in Earth, which they made clear to Powell in these lines. 


The Three Laws of Robotics:

1: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;

2: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law;

3: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law;

The Zeroth Law: A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm

These famous lines from ‘I, Robot outline the laws of robotics or the essential rules that robots are forced to follow and which protect human beings from them. These are rules that, more than once in the novel, are difficult to work around. Some robots find themselves in tricky quandaries where they need to take action but can’t physically harm someone. 

The Master created humans first as the lowest type, most easily formed. Gradually, he replaced them by robots, the next higher step, and finally he created me, to take the place of the last humans.

These are very powerful lines from ‘I, Robot that explore the power of robotics and the theme of many science fiction novels—the rise of robots to replace humanity. Humanity, the lines suggest, is only one part of a much larger picture. They were made first, followed by robots which are a higher, more perfect type. 

Actions such as his could come only from a robot, or from a very honorable and decent human being. But you see, you can’t differentiate between a robot and the very best of humans.

The laws of robotics make it so that all robots behave in a very expected and safe way. They cannot harm humans, something that can’t be said for human vs human interactions. Robots, on many occasions throughout the novel, are depicted as the better side of humanity. They are guided by laws that would, in most cases, be beneficial to humanity conformed to as well. 


“Fifty years,” I hackneyed, “is a long time.”

“Not when you’re looking back at them,” she said. “You wonder how they vanished so quickly.”

In this highly relatable quote, Asimov alludes to the way that the years can seem incredibly slow before; all of a sudden, one looks back on the past and realizes that fifty years are gone. This is something that the human characters in the novel can relate to with ease but which the robots struggle with. 


What is the importance of I, Robot? 

I, Robot‘ is important because it introduces a fictional world in which robots live amongst humans and adhere to the famous three laws of robotics. The latter has inspired innumerable novels, short stories, films, and more. 

What is the style of I, Robot? 

The style of ‘I, Robot‘ is direct and explanatory. It is a science fiction novel that spans many different stories and includes dozens of characters. The novel is also a frame narrative, with all the stories narrated by the same scientist. 

Why did Isaac Asimov write I, Robot? 

Isaac Asimov wrote I, Robot,’ to explore what would happen if robots acted in ways to help humanity and the ethical implications that come along with creating and utilizing such machines. Contrary to what readers might expect, most stories paint robots in a positive light. 

What is ‘I, Robot‘ about?

‘I, Robot’ is a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov that explore the relationship between humans and robots. The stories are set in the future and follow the career of Susan Calvin, a robot psychologist who works for the U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation, as well as numerous other characters she knows.

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
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