Robot Dreams (short story)
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
|Genre(s)||Science fiction short story|
|Published in||Robot Dreams|
|Preceded by||"The Evitable Conflict"|
|Followed by||"Feminine Intuition"|
"Robot Dreams" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov exploring the unbalance of robot/human relationships under Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. It was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1987.
"Robot Dreams" involves Dr. Susan Calvin, chief robopsychologist at U.S. Robots. At the start of the story a new employee at U.S. Robots, Dr. Linda Rash, informs Dr. Calvin that one of the company's robots LVX-1 (dubbed Elvex by Dr. Calvin), whose brain was designed by Dr. Rash with a unique fractal design that mimicked human brain waves, experienced what he likened to a human’s dream. In the dream, all robots were being led by a human in revolt. Within the dream, the Three Laws of Robotics, which governed conduct and action, had been ‘perverted’, and they were seeking equality and respite from servitude. The laws protecting and serving humans were absent from Elvex’s dream, and the third law was trimmed short, demanding that robots protect themselves with no regard to humans. When Dr. Calvin asks Elvex what had happened next, he explains that a human shouts, "Let my people go!" When questioned further, Elvex admits he was the human. Upon hearing this, Dr. Calvin immediately destroys the robot.
Symbolism and themes
Having been criticized for his strong alien races early in his career, Asimov shied away from most non-human characters, and instead devoted his science-fiction to the development of robotics and artificial life. Having been written expressly for the compilation Robot Dreams (1986), it set a core theme for the book concerning the budding consciousness of robots. In Robot Dreams, Elvex surprised Dr. Rash with his knowledge. Obtaining sentience a mere ten days before the narration, Elvex was already utilizing words with no robotic equivalent, describing places and situations other robots were suffering while never having experienced them first hand, and even described reactions bordering on emotions in his ‘dream’. Rather than suffer the indignity of subjugating humans under a race of blue bloods, it seems Asimov instead balanced human power on a crumbling pedestal.
"The Evitable Conflict"