More than half a century ago, science fiction writer Isaac Asimov wrote the first of a series of books about robots. Early post-World War Two was a time we now associate with incredible leaps in science - development of early computers, jets travelling beyond the speed of sound and the start of the roll-out of TV sets into homes. On the down side there were the Cold War fears of the development of a nuclear bomb capable of wiping out the human race. What might have been considered pure fiction a decade earlier was, by the late 1940s, becoming reality. But even by those standards, Asimov's crystal ball view of a future world of robots must have been seen by many as pure fiction. Today, much of what he foresaw has eventuated. Some leading scientists today are even taking seriously some of the warnings posed by Asimov.


A prolific author he acknowledged before his death that he would be remembered for his Three Laws of Robotics. The laws stipulate that a robot must not harm a human being or let one come to harm; that it must obey the orders given to it by humans; and that it must protect its own existence. The Asimov "robot laws" are a given in the realms of science fiction and underpin a new mega-movie I, Robot, which has just opened in Australia and features Will Smith and Bridget Moynahan. The movie was directed by Australian director, Alex Proyas. When the filmmaker was growing up in Sydney, he lived and breathed science fiction books and comics, apparently laying in bed looking up at the stars and dreaming of futuristic worlds. "I loved the medium and I always imagined I'd one day, hopefully, make science fiction movies and fantasy movies,'' he said in Sydney at the Australian launch of I, Robot.



Director Alex Provas


This movie is influenced by the ideas of Asimov, the first writer to seriously explore the science of robotics. I, Robot is set in Chicago in 2035, where robots are commonplace and trusted because they are programmed according to the Three Laws. The plot revolves around Sonny, a highly evolved robot that thinks, feels and dreams - and that may have murdered its owner. Is Sonny human or a killer machine?


We often think of robots as something from our future but we have been surrounded by robots for centuries. Perhaps it all depends on your definition but robots have been used to do menial work for us and amuse us throughout the ages and will no doubt continue to do so. While we have not yet created the robots with artificial intelligence envisaged by scientists and science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov, we are creating more complex devices every year.




















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