Monthly Archives: May 2015

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov – My Thoughts

I, Robot was published on 1950/12/02. The film I, Robot, while enjoyable, has very little in common with its source material.

I, Robot is a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov. They deal with the issues of 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 Laws. [P8]

Each of the stories expresses the problems with the laws. In one instance law one has to be adjusted. The reason is that humans are working in a risky environment, ‘a… gamma field’ [p114] – and so the robot rescues them from it. Its programming will not allow it to take the risk that the human might stay beyond the safe limit. So the law is adjusted to ‘No robot may harm a human being.’ [p114] This however presents a problem, as discussed later in the story. A robot could drop a weight on a human if it knew that ‘his strength and reaction speed would be sufficient to snatch the weight away…’ [p122] – it could then allow the weight to continue because now gravity is acting on the weight. The modified First Law allows [this]. P122.

In my opinion Asimov is at his best when writing short stories. Science fiction short stores of this era tended to focus on a what if type scenarios.

Asimov’s characters are not very well developed. This is irrelevant in the short form as it is the idea that is important. However in the novel form, like the Foundation series which I’ve also read, this cannot work. In a novel we need characters we can become invested in.

Given that this book is now 65 years old it sounds anachronistic at times. It is difficult to put into words but essentially the technology is futuristic but the people are not. One of the stories mentions the earth population – he was accurate for the time he wrote it but failed to predict just how many of us their would be in the 21st century.

If you like science fiction you should read this book. It is an important story in the history of the genera. I hope that those who are involved in robotics do read it. There will come a time when we need to have laws of robotics – not these ones though. That is not a slight against Asimov as it is the point of the story.

If you haven’t read this – read it – read it now.

…or you know when you’ve finished the book you’re currently on.

All quotes taken from the Panther Science Fiction edition: I,Robot 1968

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Eurovision 2015

Saturday was the grand final of the 60th Eurovision song contest. Yes, you read that write, there have now been 60 Eurovision Song Contests. You many now shudder.

The Eurovision Song Contest is always a mixed bag. It can be a tad ridiculous, political, and, if I’m honest, in places awful – but I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

The winner this year was Sweden.

This song, as you can see, had great use of the possibilities of modern staging. Though I’m not so sure it would have fared so well had this been a radio show.

My favorite of the night was Hungary.

This was a nice calm song which didn’t feel the need to punch to the high notes. As you can see it was beautifully performed. War and peace are often discussed in Eurovison songs but they are usually just a bit too jolly. This one is effective because it speaks of the problems we have by hinting at hope.

I liked the Russian entry too, which came second, it was my favorite of the ones that could have won. The singer here is cute after all. In all seriousness though I think it is a good song but given the politics of Russia it might have been best for them not to win.

I have to mention the UK entry too. On first hearing it I wasn’t sure but it grew on me. I wonder if the UK, and the rest of the big 5, attending the semi-finals might actually be adventitious.

Also I’m not sure why the UK entry is in a 1920s America style. Maybe next year we could have an entry in Welsh, Scottish, Irish, or one of the many other languages present in the UK.

In closing this post I want to add my congratulations to Ireland for their vote of equal marriage.

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Election Fallout

It has now been a week, well just over, since the inexplicable Conservative victory in the general election. My first plan for this post was a WTF about the results – and little more. While WTF is still what I feel I think it might be more interesting to look at it objectively.

I honestly don’t know how things are going to be. David Cameron isn’t exactly going to start building a Death Star but there is a question in my mind of whether the Tories are going to be good for the country.

I was speaking to a Tory voter the other day and they made some good points. I take this with a pinch of salt but I’m not opposed to the idea of the Tories being good.

I’m rather dubious about the idea of sticking to one political party. For myself I try and evaluate each party for each election. This time I didn’t vote Tory – but another time I might. It all depends on what is happening in the country at the time of each election. For instance in the 1945 general election Winston Churchill lost to Clement Attlee. When I first heard about this I was surprised – after all Churchill is often talked of with great reverence. However Labour were considered to be the better party of post war Britain.

So hopeful we won’t all be as doomed as Golgafrincham,

In spite of what I’ve said there is still a part of me that agrees with the: ‘circle the wagons’, ‘batten down the hatches’, ‘red alert’, or just ‘oh crap’ that most people seem to be considering the result.

I think the key is vigilance. If we really have democracy then we should be able to shoot down any ideas we hate. The problem is a combination of a lack of information, it’s not always easy to find out what government policies are, and apathy.

If like me me you are WFTing about what happened know that we can still have a voice – or failing that we can just hide under a rock for the next five years.

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Moving House

Lately I’ve been thinking of moving house again. I’ve only been in my current place for just over a year so I’m probably mad, moving is an amazing upheaval, but nevertheless I have been thinking about it. The reason being is that I’m relatively far from family and friends and, as I don’t have a car, it can be a little awkward sometimes.

The question with moving house is what sort of place to move to – what can I afford now versus what might I be able to afford in the future. It is important to consider this because if there is one thing that can be said of moving you probably want to do it as few times as possible.

My budget can’t quite reach what I might call the ‘perfect’ house or flat. In which case there are there are two options either go for somewhere not great but good enough or wait.

Waiting, and patients, in general is something I am not good at. In this case I might be waiting for something that might not actually happen – but what am I waiting for?

Well to have just a tad more money. If you can hit the £90,000 mark for houses/flats there are a lot more options.

I’m also lazy. This means that I don’t particularly like the idea of having to paint and decorate a new place. Sometimes you look at places for sale and the colour scheme is just hideous – or they actually need to be painted as they’ve been neglected.

Nevertheless waiting is always a good thing to consider doing. We all know that feeling of buying something, usually a technological item, and then shortly afterwards the new and improved version is out! This phenomenon can happen with flats – at any moment the perfect place could come on the market.

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May the Forth be With You

Today is Star Wars day. Today was also a bank holiday in the UK. Unfortunately I don’t work in a bank so I was working. I didn’t do anything Star Wars related today, unless you count this post, but it seemed like I good time to put my thoughts down about the upcoming movies.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens will be released in December. I have high hopes.

The disaster, clusterfuck, snafu, or whatever you want to call it, of the prequels is well known. They did have some good action sequences but the dialogue – well I don’t need to flog that particular expired equine. You can look at Confused Matthew and Redlettermedia for that. FYI – Redlettermedia has a strange style but if you can ignore the serial killer persona it is definitely worth a watch.

Having seen the trailer for Episode VII – it looks good. Mainly it looks as though they’re not relying too heavily on CGI so just maybe it will be… fantastic!

I am quite optimistic.

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Thursday

Thursday is the runt of the week…

Monday: The beginning of the week – we’re resigned to the fact that another week has started.

Tuesday: The week continues its another day.

Wednesday: Mid-week. Hooray it’s almost over.

Friday: Woo-hoo the weekend is here.

Basically Thursday is the annoying hurdle preventing the weekend from coming sooner. This coming Thursday (2015-05-07) is the general election in the UK. Thursday, for the election, has been a tradition for many years. This is therefore the last post before the election. So I just wanted to reiterate what I said before: please vote.

I’m not sure anyone could successfully call this election but let but let me make a prediction.

I find it highly unlikely that there will be a majority government.

My prediction…

Labour will win but not by much.

I also know that my vote doesn’t really count for much as I’m in a safe seat. Click here to see info on your constituency.

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