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[P]
Rise of the Clueless

By mcgrew in Op-Ed
Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 09:05:23 AM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)
Books

In Wired's July issue, Contributing writer Cory Doctorow writes about the movie I, Robot, in a slam at the late Dr. Isaac Asimov titled Rise of the Machines.

I would rather Wired had found someone who had actually read more than two or three Asimov short stories. There is a lot in this article that is debatable but presented as concrete fact, and other "facts" which are downright false.


One thing that Doctorow did get right was this: "He was a gentleman. A scientist. A mensch. He graciously received the fans that flocked to him at conventions, giving each a moment of his time."

Once while in the Air Force, drunk, and bored, I penciled a drawing of a robot hand ripped from its arm laying on a book titled "The Handbook of Robotics" and mailed it to Dr. Asimov. I was very, very surprised to find a postcard in the mail from Dr. Asimov a week later, thanking me for the picture and the kind words. Alas, I've lost the postcard. Perhaps some day when I'm re-reading an Asimov book it will fall out.

However, only four paragraphs into the story, Doctorow writes "He penned dozens of stories devoted to androids with positronic brains, a term he invented to suggest an intelligent being..."

No, the term "positronic brains" was used because at the time (the 1940s), the then brand new computers were often called "electronic brains." I vividly remember a film they showed in grade school where a refrigerator sized pocket calculator was shown being debugged. "How would you like it if your teacher killed you when you got an answer wrong? Well, that's what happens to an electronic brain when it gets an answer wrong!"

It's no wonder, then, that people actually believe that computers do or ever will think. Asimov twisted the "electronics" into the more futuristic sounding "positronics," a future technology yet unknown to us, as a positron is an anti-electron.

If Doctorow had read half as much Asimov as I had, he would likely have found the foreword Asimov wrote for some robot story where he explained his choice of "positronic brain" as a term for the robot's computer in Asimov's own words. A little research goes a long way.

"Asimov sent his first robot story, 'Robbie,' to Astounding Science Fiction magazine in 1939."

This is accurate, yet misleading. "Robbie" was Asimov's first robot story, and the first story he ever wrote that was rejected by a publisher, but his first story was in fact "Nightfall".

"While many writers of the day trafficked in alien encounters and space travel, Asimov preferred robots. (Perhaps he shunned space because of his acrophobia - he avoided air travel whenever possible his whole life.)"

While true that Asimov was afraid to fly, it is NOT true that Asimov's stories were Earth bound, nor is it true that most had robots. Anyone who has read much Asimov at all knows this. Green Patches was set in space. Nightfall was about aliens on an alien planet. The Gods Themselves was a pornographic look at the sex lives of aliens living on an alien planet. All but the tiniest part of the entire Foundation series took place in space, with almost none of its characters having ever even heard of "Earth" and only one character, Daneel, being a robot. And Daneel only appeared in the Foundation series very shortly before Asimov's death, when he was attempting to tie all of his novels and stories into one huge work.

Even most of the Robot stories took place in outer space. Much of the books I, Robot and The Rest Of The Robots takes place in outer space. For example, the thumb-twiddling, distributed computing robots in the short story Runaround were on the planet Mercury.

This story may have been the first vision of distributed computing, as its robots were all independant, yet controlled by a master robot. The story's punchline was that when things got tough, the network server got overloaded; "It was twiddling its thumbs."

"But Asimov rejected the traditional plot: Man creates humanlike robot, robot runs amok, robot kills man"

Asimov didn't reject it- he used it, twisted it, stood it on its head. In The Caves of Steel a robot is accused of murder, and Bailey, who hates robots, is partnered with a robot to find the killer.

If a possibly murderous robot isn't scary enough, in one Asimov novel a robot purposely destroys the Earth by transforming it to a radioactive wasteland! Even Skynet wasn't this destructive. Of course, the robot, named Giskard, suffers "roblock" and "dies". But what other writer has a robot destroying the entire Earth, on purpose? Has there ever been a more destructive robot in the history of science fiction?

The most egregious error in Doctorow's piece is perhaps this paragraph:

And as vividly as Asimov imagined a future propelled by robots, he conspicuously ignored technologies that have truly transformed our world, namely the computer and the computer network. When they do make appearances in his fiction, they're cursory: Computers are remote controls for robots over unreliable networks; invariably they lead to disaster. Hackers don't figure in, either. Rather than the eclectic, self-taught, transgressive cyberpunk antihero, Asimov favored protagonists in white lab coats that do Jerry Lewis spit-takes in the presence of a girl. On the contrary; many, many Asimov stories, written in computing's infancy in the 1940s, envisioned the internet. Asimov called it "Multivac," a huge, city-sized (or larger) computer with millions of vaccum tubes and relays that actually ruled the world, controlling factories, roads, homes, communications, and taking the place of governments.
More than one story has a hacker bringing Multivac down through some DOS or another. Asimov's engineers may have worn white coats, but his hackers were decidedly antisocial, even revolutionary, delivering mankind from its computer overlord.

"While the laws are compelling, they're the kind of moral code that can be summed up in a book the size and complexity of Who Moved My Cheese? In the real world, the simplicity of the laws just doesn't fly. Take the question of harm that appears in the first law. Harm is not a binary proposition..."

And indeed, Asimov used this as a plot device in many, many robot stories. Over and over a robot somehow destroys itself because it is stuck between one or another of the laws, or with some limitation of the laws. Yes, it only takes a paragraph to write the laws down, but he devoted entire books to breaking those laws.

Doctorow then confuses robots with real people when he says "The idea that we can take our social interactions and code them with an Asimovian algorithm ("allow no harm, obey all orders, protect yourself") is at odds with the messy, unpredictable world." But Asimov's people didn't follow these laws, robots did. The "laws of humanics" were quite a bit more involved. In fact, these "laws" were never spelled out, but were incorporated in what Asimov called "psychohistory," the use of mob psychology to predict and change history. The character who invented "psychohistory" was a space traveller named Hari Seldon, the central figure in the Foundation series.

Ironically, decades later he changed it- it was in fact Giskard, the mind-reading robot, who developed psychohistory, taught it and how to read human minds to Daneel, a more humaniform robot, who put the "psychohistory" idea in Seldon's head.

"Asimov's stories aren't brilliant fiction."

I'd like to see Doctorow's definition of "brilliant". Asimov's imagination was one of the 20th century's best. He invented the term "robotics." He forsaw the internet (although his Multivac, like computers of the time, was a multiuser monolith with dedicated terminals, not millions of individual computers interconnected).

He had a planet, Trantor, that was a single, covered city. He made up his own futuristic swear words (gaLAXy!). He had Earth's city living inhabitants all posessing a very extreme form of agoraphobia brought aboutby never having seen "outside." He had an entire planet ("Gaia") that was itself a single organism.

"He was no prose stylist" I will agree with, and in fact Asimov himself said this. Personally, I love Asimov's non-stylistic style. His stuff is just plain fun to read, whether a short story, a novel, or a non-fiction book. Asimov was proud of not being a stylist.

But the statement "his characters, especially women, are wooden and one-dimensional" I certainly cannot agree with. Obviously, Doctorow never read the Elijah Bailey novels, particularly The Robots of Dawn. In this story, Bailey space travels to a planet with fifty robots to every human, where one of the main characters comes from a planet where the people are even more screwed up than they are on earth, all having an acute form of social phobia where they can barely stand to meet each other face to face. The people on the planet Bailey is sent to all consider Earth people to literally be the scum of the universe, and the Earthman Bailey is supposed to find out who destroyed a humaniform robot.

The Earth-killing Giscard is in the story, as is Daneel, the robot inventor of psychohistory. As are many, many other robots. The "dead" robot was used by the female protaganist as a dildo, and after her humaniform robotic dildo is destroyed, she catches the married Bailey in a weak moment and seduces him.

One dimensional, my ass. How about Asimov's three-way alien sex in the novel The Gods Themselves? Or Rik and his mentally retarded girlfriend in The Currents of Space? Of course, if you have never read anything but his short stories, the characters would seem pretty one dimentional. After all, how much character development can you introduce in a ten page (or even less) story?

No, Cory Doctorow is obviously not an Asimov fan and never was. This piece reads as if Doctorow has only read I robot, and didn't even finish the book. He does Asimov, and Asimov's literary genre, and Asimov's fans, a grave disservice.

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Poll
How many Asimov books have you read?
o Who's "Asimov??" 5%
o I hate Asimov! 1%
o I read a couple of paragraphs 7%
o A short story or two 6%
o One 8%
o Less than ten 23%
o Less than fifty 24%
o Less than a hundred 8%
o Less than two hundred 5%
o Less than three hundred 0%
o Less than four hundred 0%
o Less than five hundred 2%
o All of them! 5%

Votes: 136
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Wired's
o I, Robot
o Rise of the Machines
o Also by mcgrew


Display: Sort:
Rise of the Clueless | 167 comments (155 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
+1, nerd meta (again) (1.11 / 9) (#1)
by Hide Teh Hamster on Sun Jul 18, 2004 at 10:51:50 AM EST




This revitalised kuro5hin thing, it reminds me very much of the new German Weimar Republic. Please don't let the dark cloud of National Socialism descend upon it again.
Niel Armstrong said... (none / 2) (#9)
by mcgrew on Sun Jul 18, 2004 at 01:08:41 PM EST

"I am and will always be a pocket protector wearing nerd, and proud of it."

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

who the fuck is Niel Armstrong? (1.25 / 4) (#16)
by Black Belt Jones on Sun Jul 18, 2004 at 08:39:45 PM EST

related to Niel Young?

[ Parent ]
No he was (none / 1) (#19)
by mcgrew on Sun Jul 18, 2004 at 08:49:29 PM EST

Lead Singer for "Rancid," I believe

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Mild inaccuracy... (2.83 / 6) (#4)
by SamBC on Sun Jul 18, 2004 at 11:05:59 AM EST

I'm re-reading 'Lije Bailey at the moment, so I feel  very certain about this... the Aurorans (in Robots of Dawn) have no problem with face-to-face meeting, although they fear contagion from the earthman, so therefore dislike meeting with him.

It was the Solarians, in The Naked Sun, who had acute social phobia and couldn't stand to meet in person.

Just FYI, you might like to incorporate the correction ;)

Sam


You're right (none / 1) (#8)
by mcgrew on Sun Jul 18, 2004 at 01:06:42 PM EST

It's been quite a while since I've read it.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

You're both right (none / 0) (#133)
by gidds on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 04:21:41 AM EST

You're both right. From the original article (my emphasis):
In this story, Bailey space travels to a planet with fifty robots to every human, where one of the main characters comes from a planet where the people are even more screwed up than they are on earth, all having an acute form of social phobia where they can barely stand to meet each other face to face.

Yes, the Solarians, who we meed in The Naked Sun, are the ones with the extreme fear of contact; however, the Solarian we see most of -- Gladia Delmarre -- later moves to Aurora. She drops her surname, overcomes her phobia, and then features in the third book (The Robots Of Dawn) as well. It's clear Cory is talking about her. He even gets the robot ratio (50-1) right for Aurora; Solaria's is 10,000-1!

(Not that I agree with his other comments or implications. But he's right about that.)

Andy/
[ Parent ]

Cory Doctorow (2.33 / 6) (#6)
by sophacles on Sun Jul 18, 2004 at 12:16:31 PM EST

This guy just lost a lot of my respect.  I've read most of his fiction online, and have been fairly impressed.  None of it was all that original, had that Neal Stephenson feel to it, but it was definately enjoyable.  (a lot of his fiction is availaible on-line at craphound.com)  To write an article that factually that off is rather distasteful. Especially when it's to slam a pillar of SF.

As for the whole slamming Asimov thing, well, that is neither here nor there.  Asimov is one of only two writers of SF that I ever had an english/literature teacher tell me they respected. (The other being Frank Herbert).  It's not uncommon for a writer or artist to slam one of the greats of his field.  I think part of it is publicitiy, part of it is image building.  Usually they do it with a sense of style though.  The linked article though just left a bad taste.  I know more about Asimov and I have never gotten around to reading anything he wrote.

Slamming Asimov? (none / 3) (#23)
by rusty on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 12:51:12 AM EST

I don't know. I thought it was a love letter. Is saying that he didn't write about some of the technologies that have come to transform the world a slam? I don't see it. Did you mean the parts about Asimov's writing being wooden? Have they replaced the article everyone else read with a different one?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Gah (2.50 / 4) (#24)
by sophacles on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 02:12:44 AM EST

Ok that settles it. No more posting before morning coffee. The article I thought I read (the linked one) is not at all what the article actually says upon re-reading.  Apparently I was in a bit grumpy this morning and reading with my cynical colored glasses.  

[ Parent ]
Heh (none / 2) (#25)
by rusty on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 03:08:54 AM EST

I've been there too. I know Cory somewhat, so reading the article I kind of hear him reading it, and I thought maybe that colored my interpretation of it a bit. I don't know for sure, but I have a hard time imagining him to be anything other than a great Asimov fan. It's good to hear at least someone who doesn't think I'm totally off base on this.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Did you read the last paragraph? (2.00 / 6) (#58)
by duff on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 03:44:01 PM EST

This guy is most certainly bashing asimov. And I'm also not sure why style keeps getting brought up? Every type of writing is a "style". What are you looking for?

Asimov's stories were interesting and good. They made me think.

But much of Corey's article leaves me with a 'So what?' opinion. Why do we care that Asimov's robots haven't appeared (and Corey has an assholish tone, like Anne Coultier). Why do we care that he didn't envision the internet (in it's exact form)? And as for Characters, he brings up Susan Calvin, wasn't she susposed to be a human more like a robot than a robot (on the exterior). What's with the friendster, Orkut comparison? (Another obvious bash, which is ok, if it made more sense). The TCP/IP protocol (I think he's thinking more of UDP, TCP has a lot of checks that try very hard not to drop a single packet) contrast with the laws is silly. I don't even know how to counter it besides, Seseme Street's "which one of these is not like the other"? He whines about Asimov not predicting the internet, when this guy doesn't understand it, and 40,000 understanding TCP/IP documents are out on the internet.

I wish Corey would explain himself. He makes a quick accusation, adds a few lines, then moves onto his next issue. I think this article is terribly written.

"Right up to the end, he wrote about his robots as though they were right around the corner."

What an asshole. Why bash the man in this way? What is Corey's problem? I don't understand what is wrong with writing about robot's as though they will be around the corner. Why the hell not? The future is unpredictable. Even if it's far fetched, it's silly to attack it like this; in this cruel manor.

Rusty stop sticking up for him like he is an Asimov fan. He isn't (and that would be fine that he isn't, except his article is the "anti-fan."

This article is complete fluff. Like Sport's Illustrated, Rush Limbaugh, and Jim Rome.

That aside a do like the discussions on this forum. Even if I don't agree with them, it forced me to think this little blurb up. Still I am often confused as to how people interpret things. And arguing writing, is like arguing art (not that I'm saying you can't, but not with Corey's candor).

I need someone whose opinion I value very much in on this conversation. Someone who was going to write stories, until people like Douglas Adams (1950-2000, unfortunately) and Kurt Vonnegut came on the seen with the same line, only better.


F. Scott Fitzgerald was stylistic, and he sucks.
[ Parent ]
Good point: (none / 0) (#99)
by sophacles on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 12:49:54 PM EST

The article is a lot of fluff. Great way of putting it.  When I raad it the first time i had just finished the k5 defense article.  That combined with my pre-coffee grumpiness made me see all the negatives and none of the rest.  After rusty's comment I re-read it.  Many parts of it read breathless fan-boy like, so I wouldn't claim it's all bash/slam.  Maybe Doctorow is disappointed with Asimov for some of this stuff.

However about the article being complete fluff:  it is.  The attitude you go in with is how you interperet the article.  It does nothing to change your attitude.   Maybe that's the point.  It just presents facts as Cory sees them? (Which would explain a lot, considering wired usually trys to tell you what to think, and article that doesn't coming from that source is confusing.)

[ Parent ]

I don't know him at all (none / 0) (#65)
by mcgrew on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 06:23:05 PM EST

Never met nor communicated with him, or read any of his fiction. From the article it's hard to imagine him as an Asimov fan.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Try it (none / 0) (#72)
by rusty on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 11:26:50 PM EST

Most of his writing is online, and freely available. http://craphound.com/fic/listing.html He is an SF geek of the Nth magnitude, and I don't think you can be that without being an Asimov fan.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
I don't know that he deserves that much credit... (none / 0) (#97)
by sophacles on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 12:37:53 PM EST

I stand by my original assesment of his fiction.  It's enjoyable, but has a very Neal Stephenson feel to it.  I never got the wow this is great feel from any of his stories.  I can't put my finger on it, but whenever I read his stuff, I always felt that I had read it before.  Not that there weren't some original twists and applications to what he had written, I liked the Disneyland story, and the one about the Ousters that wanted garage sale junk. (Niven reference on purpose).  I would only consider a SF geek of the Nth degree to have created something groundbreeaking.

Perhaps you are giving him extra credit for the licensing and distribution scheme that he uses. (Granted it has a direct mapping from the Disneyland story, if you like my stuff send me money).


[ Parent ]

Your Eng. Lit. teacher sucked (none / 2) (#80)
by nebbish on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 05:17:05 AM EST

HG Wells
JG Ballard
Daniel Keyes
Philip K Dick

Not only good writers, but each one is better than Asimov and Herbert put together...

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

Ah yes but (none / 1) (#101)
by GenerationY on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 02:13:51 PM EST

the rule is as soon as it is recognised a piece of sci-fi is particularly well-written all of a sudden its reclassified as literature. J.G. Ballard's "Supercannes", I read in the paper, was "speculative fiction" and so wasn't reviewed in the sci-fi appropriate genre sections.

I bet you thats the game his English teacher was trying.

[ Parent ]

Speculative fiction (none / 2) (#114)
by nebbish on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 04:41:10 AM EST

I fucking hate that term, for exactly the reasons you said.

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

This is all well and good (1.23 / 21) (#10)
by Melissa Rent5 Parakeet Cynic on Sun Jul 18, 2004 at 05:21:12 PM EST

But in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, how come snub fighter weapons were causing damage to a Death Star which was armored to repulse capital ship assaults?  Various canon sources cite capital ship weapons as being up to 200,000,000 (two hundred million) times more powerful than snub fighter weaponry.  X and Y wing blasters shouldn't have been able to so much as scratch the Death Star.

Can you answer that, sir?

This account has been disabled. You are invited to check the comment history (including the parent comments) and draw your own Ko5clusions as to why.

What are these (none / 2) (#12)
by rodoke3 on Sun Jul 18, 2004 at 06:07:37 PM EST

Star Wars of which you speak?

I take umbrage with such statments and am induced to pull out archaic and over pompous words to refute such insipid vitriol. -- kerinsky


[ Parent ]
Oops, my mistake (1.22 / 9) (#13)
by Melissa Rent5 Parakeet Cynic on Sun Jul 18, 2004 at 07:49:36 PM EST

Sorry, I thought we were just wanking off about utterly unimportant science fiction minutia that nobody who'd ever had intimate relations with another adult human could possibly care about.  I must have been thinking of some other site.

This account has been disabled. You are invited to check the comment history (including the parent comments) and draw your own Ko5clusions as to why.
[ Parent ]
Lady, this is no ordinaty geek... (none / 1) (#18)
by mcgrew on Sun Jul 18, 2004 at 08:48:00 PM EST

Asimov not only wrote science fiction, but he wrote textbooks as well; damned fine textbooks.

Star Wars is nice escapist fiction, but this was literature. They'll be teaching this shit in scholl in another 50 years.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

That's funny (1.20 / 5) (#33)
by Melissa Rent5 Parakeet Cynic on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 06:31:51 AM EST

How many billions did Pepsi pay for the licensing rights to I, Robut?  In fifty years time, the schools will be teaching classic Disney.

This account has been disabled. You are invited to check the comment history (including the parent comments) and draw your own Ko5clusions as to why.
[ Parent ]
The sad part is (none / 2) (#55)
by Intelligentsia on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 02:07:14 PM EST

you're probably right, at least in the US anyway...

We need to prove that we can spread rumors just like the mainstream media.—waxmop


[ Parent ]
IT WAS YOU! (none / 2) (#59)
by Dr Caleb on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 04:33:17 PM EST

The statement below is false.
The statement above is true.

It was your stinking logic that caused all the Robots to go all schitso. I don't know why I keep coming back to this damn planet anyway.


Vive Le Canada - For Canadians who give a shit about their country.

There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Time waster (none / 0) (#161)
by eejit on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 05:03:52 PM EST

The statement below is false.
The statement above is true.
Dammit, wasted 3 minutes of my working day thinking about that. Thanks. I could have been using my time productively, ie browsing other stories on k5. But ohhh no

[ Parent ]
Too late (none / 1) (#63)
by mcgrew on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 06:19:32 PM EST

They already are.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

+1FP informative (1.50 / 6) (#15)
by RandomLiegh on Sun Jul 18, 2004 at 08:07:24 PM EST

well, waddaya know. I thought he only wrote text books.

---
Thought of the week: There is no thought this week.
---
Really Disappointing (2.50 / 12) (#20)
by localroger on Sun Jul 18, 2004 at 09:32:16 PM EST

I would have expected a lot better from Cory. Sure, from our lofty perch here in 2004 we can look back and see all the stuff Asimov didn't get right, but the point is that Asimov (and to a certain extent Campbell) thought all this shit up in the 1940's.

Yes the Three Laws have holes in them you could drive the starship Enterprise through; Asimov was writing stories about this before television had become widespread, much less computers. Asimov didn't envision the Internet? He envisioned planetary information systems; true they were centered around big-ass mainframe computers, but this was back when you needed a human operator to help you place a phone call to someone two states away, and it cost a fortune for a few minutes of talk time. And Asimov envisioned library systems that are almost indistinguishable from the way we use the resources like Google and Wikipedia today.

How does Cory think Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is gonna look in 2060? I just hope he gets better reviews than the one he gave Asimov, if anyone even remembers who he is by then.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min

About mainframes (none / 2) (#54)
by duffbeer703 on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 01:41:18 PM EST

What is google? It's not an S/390, but it isn't a simple Linux box either.

I always thought that Asimov's premise was that individuals, not grand schemes were the keys to historical events.

In every one of his Foundation books, a single individual was key to making his psychohistory magic work. The invdividual was the key, not the sweeping theories and societal forces.

[ Parent ]

Quite the opposite (none / 0) (#134)
by gidds on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 04:40:04 AM EST

One of us has completely missed the point... And I hope it's not me :)

AISI, the point of the Foundation is that social forces do overwhelm individuals! Psychohistory is a statistical science; it's very hard to predict individuals or small groups, but large groups are fairly predictable, and the larger the better.

Seldon's Plan relies on this - it looks at the galaxy, and assumes that individual actions have negligible effect. As he tells them: "...you were manoeuvred to the point where you no longer have freedom of action. From now on, and into the centuries, the path you must take is inevitable. You will be faced with a series of crises, as you are now faced with the first, and in each case your freedom of action will become similarly circumscribed so that you will be forced along one, and only one, path."

Yes, the stories are told through individuals; they'd be even harder going otherwise. And we see the effects of social forces on individuals, and their responses. But in most cases, those individuals are really just pawns, working out the inevitable. It's not until half-way through the second book where we see even a single individual who's capable of turning the social tide -- the Mule -- and that's only because he's, er, well, if you've read the books you'll know why!

But he's the exception that proves the rule (so to speak). Just as Asimov formulated the Three Laws, and thereafter nearly every robot story tried to push holes through them, so the Foundation stories work on trying to find exceptions to the rule that individual actions have negligible effect. But the rule is there, and holds in general.

Andy/
[ Parent ]

I think you're both right. (none / 0) (#155)
by cburke on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 11:02:34 PM EST

I've only read the first Foundation book.  Still, I think you both are correct.  Psycohistory has determined the broad course of events, and the characters themselves realize that they are following a prescribed path.  Yet, at the very crux of each portion of the plan it is the ingenuity and creativity of individuals who actually make the plan work, which is by no means a forgegone conclusion.  For at least a brief period the actions of the individual are not negligible, but paramount.

This give and take between the dictates of the overwhelming masses versus the actions of a few driven individuals at critical points of history is what made the book interesting.  Seldon predicted using the religion of technology to secure Foundation's position; it was the President (name escapes me) who staged the coup to save Foundation from the fleet threatening it.

The fact that psychohistory cannot predict individual behavior is proof that these people are exercising free will.  Yet, as Oedipus Rex teaches us, an Oracle can predict history by creating it, and these individuals that Seldon supposedly has no way to determine the actions of know what has been predicted.  The King tried to avoid his future, these people are actually seeking it.

So, I think the point is that there is no way to say which is dominant.

[ Parent ]

Google (none / 0) (#156)
by cburke on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 11:26:05 PM EST

Google is a lot -- thousands -- of simple Linux boxes.  I'm not sure what architecture, but I think x86.  But they have racks upon racks of them.  There are advantages and disadvantages versus an S/390, but for Google's application it gives a hell of a bang for the buck.

[ Parent ]
Cory (none / 0) (#159)
by fenri on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 12:25:01 PM EST

I'm not sure I got the same impression you did when reading Cory's article. No, I don't think Cory's editorial was altogether accurate (for instance, he early on suggests that Asimov thought the three laws were wonderful things, but plugs a late afterthought that Asimov's writing about robots centered on the fallacy of the laws and the unfairness of this imposure on the robots themselves). But, you seem to have read a certain amount of antagonism on Cory's part.
I think Cory reveres Asimov, as any SF writer should. I also think Cory is a bit full of himself and suffers the same technical writing problems that Asimov did (stories built on settings vs. stories built on character...I read Cory's stuff, but I think there are far better up-and-coming writers that deserve more attention).
I am a fan of yours. A *huge* fan, no less. I recommend MOPI constantly to people, and I just recently ordered my very own print copy. Your comment about how DaOitMK will seem in 50 years is very accurate (because it's built on setting as opposed to being a timeless story of character). MOPI isn't, for me, at least, about Prime Intellect. The story is Caroline's. That's what makes it stand out. You had the concept of PI, but telling a story about it alone would've been interesting and very dry (like much of what Cory does, with a few exceptions). However, you too are susceptible to this error, I think. I've particularly noticed this with the Passage series (with the exception of one entry).
The big screw-up that most SF writers make is thinking their story is about technology and/or speculation of some other sort. How wrong. SF is, as is any genre, about humanity. No matter what trappings we don, we are still the same, squishy apes with the same social complexities. SF's job is to analyze this in a setting with interactions that no other genre does (which, to me, is what defines genres--a different way of looking at humanity's eternal problems and questions). Asimov failed to recognize that most of the time, and so does Cory...and, on rare occasion, so have you.

There are holes in my arguments above that have matching plugs, but I'm just too damn lazy to put them in at the moment.

[ Parent ]
I think you drastically misread (2.73 / 19) (#22)
by rusty on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 12:47:18 AM EST

I read Cory's Wired article and I think you totally misread its intent. The basic points Cory's makes:
  1. Asimov is a giant in the field of SF, and was always a class act.
  2. Asimov wrote a lot about robots.
  3. Asimov's Three Laws were a reductive device for thinking about human behavior, and many of his stories hinge on their breach.
  4. "Three Laws" type thinking does not apply well to actual human interactions, and that's why so many social network systems online are so retarded.
  5. Asimov's vision of robotic is, as yet, nowhere to be found in the real world today.
  6. Asimov was, stylistically, a crappy writer. Aside from all of his obvious merits as a thinker, plotsmith, and all around human being, his actual writing is wooden and his characters are generally flat.
Your understandable desire to spare a favorite writer any criticism has, I think, totally blinded you to reading what Cory's actually saying. The initial quibbles about first stories and what a positronic brain is seem completely irrelevant. Others have pointed out that what Cory says is entirely true, even if it isn't what you would have written.

The point about Asimov writing stories that mainly dealt with terrestrial matters (as opposed to the details of traveling in space) is a general one. Sure, some of Asimov's stories are set in space, or during space travel. But he wasn't particularly interested in writing about the finer points of rocketry, which did set him apart from many of his early contemporaries. Your pique at this assertion is puzzling, since I can't see how you can read it as any kind of criticism of Asimov.

You get a bit to entrenched in your idea that this article is entirely about Asimov's work here:

Doctorow then confuses robots with real people when he says "The idea that we can take our social interactions and code them with an Asimovian algorithm ("allow no harm, obey all orders, protect yourself") is at odds with the messy, unpredictable world."

Cory's taking a swipe here at online social networking systems, which attempt to codify people's relationships with "Three Laws" type simplicity, and fail miserably. No one ever said Asimov had real people obeying the three laws. Asimov knew better.

Whether Asimov was a good writer or not (quite aside from his skills as a thinker) is a matter of taste. He has certainly proven able to entertain millions with his stories. I would agree that he wasn't much of a prose stylist, nor are his characters generally any better than they absolutely have to be to move the plot along. You can disagree, but if you do, I would recommend reading a lot more.

Overall, I am puzzled and sort of embarrassed by your wild overreaction to what is a total fluff article by someone who (I can assure you) is a great fan of Asimov. Your response reads like the work of a hysterical fanboy who has seen his idol insufficiently praised by one not worthy to praise him. I'm sure you have the best intentions, but I think this time you're shooting the wrong duck.

____
Not the real rusty

Crappy writers and SF (1.71 / 7) (#26)
by driptray on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 03:36:01 AM EST

Asimov was, stylistically, a crappy writer. Aside from all of his obvious merits as a thinker, plotsmith, and all around human being, his actual writing is wooden and his characters are generally flat.

Name me a SF writer who isn't crappy "stylistically". Seriously, I'm completely with the literary snobs on this one - there are no good SF writers, unless you start counting people like William Burroughs and JG Ballard as SF writers.
--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]

Which authors have you read? n/t (none / 3) (#27)
by brain in a jar on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 04:03:16 AM EST


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.
[ Parent ]

I hate Stephen King's work (none / 2) (#64)
by mcgrew on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 06:20:35 PM EST

I can't put the damned things down and then I get creeped out for a month. I stopped reading King after Sphere. No other book has given me the willies like that book did.

I love Adams' work, and your sig is an example of why.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Michael Crichton - Sphere (none / 2) (#73)
by nollidj on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 11:35:12 PM EST

Stephen King - not Sphere.

Was Sphere really that creepy?

muahaha. MuaHaHA! MUAHAHAHAHAHAAAHAHAHAA!!!!
[ Parent ]

I thought Sphere was pretty dull... (none / 2) (#84)
by alby on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 05:48:54 AM EST

... not Crichton's best work. Then again pretty much all Crichton's books are the same: some sort of science disaster happens, someone gets called in to fix things, bad stuff happens, the good guys win and the bad guys get their comeuppance.

--
Alby
[ Parent ]

Actually, I feel the same way. Sphere was creepy. (none / 3) (#87)
by Kasreyn on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 06:23:35 AM EST

It was also his best, IMO.

Andromeda Strain, Congo, Jurassic Park... all of them introduced ensemble casts of characters who I was never able to give two shits about. So what, some guy gets eaten by a T. Rex or clobbered by an ape. I never cared. Plus the science in JP was very sketchy.

The Terminal Man and Sphere were able to grab me, though, because for a change Crichton made me care about his characters. He made me really deeply care that the guy in The Terminal Man somehow be saved. He made me cast a critical eye on all 3 of the main characters in Sphere, trying to figure out who the crazy one was, or if they all were. Sphere was a "locked room" mystery kinda like a Christie story, IMO. The science of The Terminal Man is 100% believable, while that of Sphere is theoretical but I was able to suspend disbelief. And the ending is only creepy in that it's *implied* (at least, to my thought) that Dr. Halperin might have reneged on her part of the agreement... still makes my skin crawl every time I read it.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Same here (2.60 / 5) (#29)
by rusty on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 04:33:49 AM EST

And it doesn't stop me from reading it. It's not like you can't recognize that something is rather turgidly written and yet enjoy it all the same. That assertion is, however, a source of endlessly entertaining arguments about the literary merits, of, e.g. Red Mars.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Stylistic suckyness isn't inherent in SF (2.80 / 10) (#30)
by nusuth on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 05:45:06 AM EST

How about Iain M. Banks, Stanislaw Lem, Ursula K. LeGuin, George Orwell, Frederick Pohl (OK, I know we won't agree on this Pohl)... Hard-sf writers are usually educated in engineering or science, so it is no suprise that you don't have good style and inner-workings of the GUT engine explained in the same book, but SF is not just hard-sf.

[ Parent ]
That used to be true (2.71 / 7) (#36)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 07:50:29 AM EST

But I'd put writers like William Gibson and David Brin up against any "popular" author any day. If you're looking for a science fiction version of Hemingway or Faulkner - I'd look at Umberto Eco. Sure he doesn't use space ships as props in his stories but I think a lot of his work qualifies as "speculative fiction".

Now where did I put that clue? I know I had one just a minute ago!
[ Parent ]
William Gibson? (none / 3) (#69)
by driptray on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 09:33:24 PM EST

He's a cut above the other SF writers I've read, but the fact that SF folks love his writing just indicates that SF folk have a tin ear when it comes to language. Gibson's writing is so clunky and second-rate. I read Neuromancer and thought it was interesting, but I really had to hold my nose while reading it.

I actually think Neal Stephenson is a little better. Bruce Sterling is abominable - I can't stand the way he writes.

Note that I'm making no judgment on the subject matter here, nor on the themes in their work. I'm talking only about their facility with the language.

So who do i think is good then? Cormac McCarthy. Nick Cave. Irvine Welsh. Bret Easton Ellis. Peter Carey (though I think his books are mostly boring). F.Scott Fitzgerald. Hunter Thompson. Graham Greene.
--
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]

yay Blood Meridian! (none / 0) (#98)
by Battle Troll on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 12:47:43 PM EST

Also, someone's been fuckin' my watermelons.
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Wait. (none / 1) (#130)
by Zerotime on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 01:00:59 AM EST

Since when has Irvine Welsh been writing sci-fi?

---
"I live by the river
With my mother, in a house
She washes, I cook
And we never go out."

[ Parent ]
Dan Simmons. Ursula K Le Guin. (2.80 / 10) (#41)
by Russell Dovey on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 09:16:35 AM EST

Vernor Vinge. Iain M Banks.

WILLIAM FUCKING GIBSON.

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Yep (none / 2) (#48)
by Drog on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 12:39:55 PM EST

You beat me to it--Dan Simmons was the first author to pop into my head also. His 1989 novel Hyperion, which won the Hugo award, oozes with literary style and competence. I remember being blown away by it. William Gibson, of course, also belongs to this list. I always found his writing to have a refreshingly unorthodox style.

Looking for political forums? Check out "The World Forum". News feed available here on K5.
[ Parent ]
Neuromancer was awesome . . . (2.50 / 4) (#56)
by Gumpzilla on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 02:23:28 PM EST

. . . but I've yet to read anything else by Gibson that is as well written or grabs me in the same way. Admittedly, I haven't read much else - Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive. I started reading Virtual Light but got bored with it pretty quickly and now have no memory of it whatsoever. I'd like to read Pattern Recognition, but haven't done so yet.

Neuromancer is unquestionably a superb book, but before I start extolling the virtues of Gibson as an excellent author (as opposed to a pretty good author who wrote one amazing book), I'd like to find something else.

[ Parent ]
Personally I don't think (none / 3) (#90)
by GenerationY on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 08:37:48 AM EST

William Gibson is particularly good stylistically. His pacey writing was perhaps new to the sci-fi audience but not outside that. He also suffers from not being able to construct a McGuffin-free plotline. And finally, given the Wired guy was laying into Asimov for not foreseeing the internet as such, where the hell are the mobile phones in Neuronmancer huh? They were in existence at the time (albeit as the kind of brick used by Gordon Gecko in "Wallstreet").

Actually I quite like Gibson, I just don't see him as a great stylist (c.f., Martin Amis, Saul Bellow, Nabakov, maybe even Thomas Pynchon for a fairer comparison).

[ Parent ]

Gibson vs. your crew (none / 1) (#92)
by Gumpzilla on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 11:02:46 AM EST

Never read anything by Amis or Bellow, so I can't compare to them. Nabokov is big shoes to fill, and I'd agree that Gibson doesn't stack up to him. But, I'd also say that Nabokov is considered one of the finest English language writers of the 20th century, so you can still be pretty damn good and still not be as good as him. As for Pynchon, eh. I read Gravity's Rainbow, and there were certainly a bunch of good scenes. The book as a whole left me feeling empty. Ditto for Crying of Lot 49, which I can barely remember at all, now. Pynchon and DeLillo are two authors that I don't really get all the fuss over, after reading a couple of their books.

As I mentioned in my post, I don't consider Gibson to be that great an author. Neuromancer was very, very good, but I've yet to see anything out of him that even approaches it in quality.

[ Parent ]
Gibson (none / 1) (#154)
by crucini on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 10:12:08 PM EST

Agreed - although I quite like Count Zero and MLO. I remember when I though cyberpunk would be full of books as good as Neuromancer. Then I learned that cyberpunk's defining threads were quite different, and to me, tedious.
I still haven't found a scifi book that measures up to N, in all the obvious ways.
Of course, it's rooted more in hardboiled crime fiction than scifi. Gibson simply glued a thin stylstic facade onto a macguffin-driven Maltese-Falcon-clone. But he did it well!

[ Parent ]
Vernor Vinge?! (none / 2) (#68)
by Polverone on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 08:40:28 PM EST

Are you thinking of someone else? I've loved his ideas, but his construction-of-textual-art skills don't seem to be unusually good.
--
It's not a just, good idea; it's the law.
[ Parent ]
Writers and Scientists (2.40 / 5) (#46)
by schrotie on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 11:15:00 AM EST

People who write good Science Fiction are commonly bad writer while good writers usually exploit the freedom of setting inherent in the genre for writing compelling Social Fiction.

Jeff Noon broadly counts as SF and he's really surprisingly good (stylistically). But his Science is close to nil. He's all style but in this he's close to classics like Caroll.

Georg Orwell was is counted among the major writers of the 20th century for a reason. But again his science is pretty close to nil.

The Strugatzi Brothers may be the best SF stylists whose scince is worth more than a dime, but they too are specialized in Social Fiction.

Douglas Adams was a great writer but again more in the league of Lewis Caroll and Jeff Noon than in hard science Fiction.

To my knowledge no great (meaning World Literatur) book has ever been written about science. Great books are always about people not abstract laws. The reason is probably the wiring of the human brain. You just can't move a reader with abstract concepts as with human affairs. Yet Greg Egan can make any educated head spin and set it in motion in ways that are closed to classical fiction. I count thas as a literary achievement not to be abated.

Thorsten

[ Parent ]

Second (none / 1) (#49)
by illustir on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 12:43:55 PM EST


I agree, the more literature I read the harder it becomes for me to go back to the SF/Fantasy I used to read.

I may have been spoilt by books like Ian McEwan's "Atonement" but name one SF that manages to even come close to that book.

[ Parent ]

Obviously it must be (2.50 / 4) (#70)
by TheBeardedScorpion on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 10:56:54 PM EST

Kurt Vonnegut. You can't tell me he doesn't write SF (Cat's Cradle, Player Piano, Siren's of Titan). You also can't tell his style is crappy.

[ Parent ]
Zelazny (none / 1) (#75)
by pb on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 12:12:39 AM EST

Of course, I'm no literary snob, but I know what I like. :)
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
There's a few (none / 1) (#78)
by towerssotall on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 03:24:45 AM EST

Normally the more powerful ideas crush whimsical prose. But Jeff Noon, William Gibson, Iain M. Banks and Alaistair Reynolds are all very good authors outside of genre.

"the fate of Charles the First, hath only made kings more subtle
- not more just."

- - Thomas Paine
[ Parent ]

Orson Scott Card... (none / 1) (#82)
by Insoc on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 05:45:56 AM EST

has always engrossed me with his all his Ender's-universe books. He's a prick in real life, but his books give me that "grab-n-tug" that I usually look to fantasy to give me, though he doesn't explain all his science, so maybe you wouldn't classify him as tradionalist s/f.

[ Parent ]
yeah, I've met him too. (none / 1) (#94)
by pb on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 11:20:54 AM EST

You wouldn't classify him as Hard SF, at least. As for his science, he got the idea of the ansible from Ursula K. LeGuin, so I guess that could also give you an idea of the sort of stuff he writes. And really, what is fantasy but science fiction without the "ingenious use of scientific patter".
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
I'll suggest (none / 0) (#125)
by thepictsie on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 06:48:23 PM EST

Richard Paul Russo

Look, a distraction!
[ Parent ]

SF writers who aren't crappy (none / 0) (#163)
by nh1 on Sat Jul 24, 2004 at 01:04:36 AM EST

Name me a SF writer who isn't crappy "stylistically". Seriously, I'm completely with the literary snobs on this one - there are no good SF writers, unless you start counting people like William Burroughs and JG Ballard as SF writers.

Firstly, why not count Ballard and Burroughs? Several of the following were part of the New Wave SF movement of the 60s that Ballard was a leading figure in.

Gene Wolfe, Michael Moorcock (not all he writes is fantasy), Theodore Sturgeon, PK Dick, Ursula Le Guin, James Tiptree Jr, John Sladek, George Orwell, Alfred Bester, Harlan Ellison... Many more, and I personally go for story before style, so I'm not au fait with those who could be counted as stylists. (Some of the above are uneven, and have produced some sub-par books, so don't just quote some early crappy writing to discount them, I'm talking about their respective best work.)

As for the snobs: The Glass Bead Game won Hermann Hesse the Nobel for literature. I found it rather boring and pretentious myself, but of course the literati didn't want to admit that was SF.

[ Parent ]

In all fairness (2.60 / 10) (#31)
by GenerationY on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 06:09:40 AM EST

if Cory doesn't want people to confuse his writing about Asimov with his writing about social networking software, perhaps he shouldn't ride his hobbyhorse through a pen portrait of Issac Asimov? It has nothing to do with anything frankly; its a bit much to hold a dead science fiction writer to account for all bits of reductionist thinking in the world after his death.

Furthermore, I think you are wrong with regard to the discussion of the application of the laws of robotics. It is foreshadowed here: "Asimov considered them an algorithm for right robot living and applied them to each of his stories. He even proposed a parallel Three Laws of Humanics for people to follow to make for a happy and good life."
You (or is it McGrew) miss the more telling lines:
"Yet Asimov's reductionist approach to human interaction may be his most lasting influence...Asimov tacitly acknowledged that his algorithmic approach to the world is problematic."
So (Rusty), he is definitely having a swipe at Asimov here, although (McGrew) I'm not sure Asimov would have disagreed necessarily.

[ Parent ]

Well yeah (none / 3) (#53)
by rusty on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 01:18:06 PM EST

perhaps he shouldn't ride his hobbyhorse through a pen portrait of Issac Asimov?

I can't necessarily argue with that, although it does add a different angle to what could have been Just Another I, Robot Article.

So (Rusty), he is definitely having a swipe at Asimov here

That I don't know about. It may be his most lasting influence, but I don't think anyone can really blame Asimov for that, and I don't think Cory does. Asimov used the Three Laws as a plot device, and his stories were all about exploring where they fail. For other people to go on and act like that's a reasonable approach seems like maybe they weren't really paying attention.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Actually... (none / 3) (#67)
by mcgrew on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 06:51:05 PM EST

I think Asimov thought himself a hack. He certainly never took himself very seriously, although he took his non-fiction work seriously.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Point #6 (3.00 / 10) (#35)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 07:46:19 AM EST

Asimov was, stylistically, a crappy writer. Aside from all of his obvious merits as a thinker, plotsmith, and all around human being, his actual writing is wooden and his characters are generally flat.

Well, Asimov's style wasn't really all that different from Clarke's or other writers of the time, but yeah, by modern standards that's true. Actually, I think Asimov would have agreed with that assessment.

One of the times I met him was when Foundation's Edge was first published. He talked about being talked into writing FE by his publisher and how the publisher basically convinced him by writing an advance check that was somewhat more than all the money he had ever made for all his early work combined.

"So", Asimov said, "I went back and re-read the original Foundation Trilogy to see what I could do and I discovered something interesting. Nothing ever happens in those books. People talk about what happened, what will happen and what is happening, but nothing ever actually happens. So I wrote a fourth book just like the first three and it seems to be doing rather well."

By the way - please don't consider the above to be a direct quote, it's my memory of what he said almost 20 years ago. In another instance he remarked that one of the reasons he had stopped writing fiction (until FE came out) was because he felt the genre had left him behind.

Now where did I put that clue? I know I had one just a minute ago!
[ Parent ]

-1 Loser, Knows a Lot About Asimov. (1.20 / 5) (#43)
by Kax on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 09:53:14 AM EST

just kidding. :)

[ Parent ]
you know (2.75 / 12) (#45)
by Wah on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 11:06:13 AM EST

Overall, I am puzzled and sort of embarrassed by your wild overreaction to what is a total fluff article by someone who isn't a great fan of Doctorow.
--
umm, holding, holding...
[ Parent ]
I don't think so (none / 3) (#62)
by mcgrew on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 06:18:59 PM EST

Asimov is a giant in the field of SF, and was always a class act.

But Cory said "Asimov's stories aren't brilliant fiction... his characters, especially women, are wooden and one-dimensional."

As to the "class act," well yes, I acknowlegdged that Cory said that

Asimov wrote a lot about robots.

But he said Asimov wrote mostly about robots and that most of his stories were on Earth. This simply wasn't true.

"Three Laws" type thinking does not apply well to actual human interactions, and that's why so many social network systems online are so retarded.

But as I mentioned, the three laws were not meant to apply to human interaction. They were meant only to apply to the robots actions and say nothing of how people act.

Asimov's vision of robotic is, as yet, nowhere to be found in the real world today.

Nor is it likely to be in the near future, and it is very highly unlikely that "positronics" will come to the fore any time soon. However, people keep insisting that computers can think. While true there are no Asimov style robits, people think that stupid dog robot or that robot vaccum cleaner is. No science fiction writer could possibly get everything write without being a prophet. Even Jules Verne, as prescient as he was with "From the Earth to the Moon" had them being shot from a cannon, rather than a rocket.

And I'm still waiting for Asimov's "Sally," the car with a positronic brain. That story was set in 2020 so I guess we only have to wait 16 years for the perfect cruise control!

Asimov was, stylistically, a crappy writer. Aside from all of his obvious merits as a thinker, plotsmith, and all around human being, his actual writing is wooden and his characters are generally flat.

Yes, that's what he said, and I vehemently disagree with all but the "no stylist". As sophacles puts it, "Asimov is one of only two writers of SF that I ever had an english/literature teacher tell me they respected."

Space travel

Doctorow said Asimov's stories mostly took plave on Earth. They didn't. He also said "Perhaps he shunned space because of his acrophobia - he avoided air travel whenever possible his whole life." But Asimov himself said that he thought that was the reason that most of his stories were set in outer space.

Whether Asimov was a good writer or not (quite aside from his skills as a thinker) is a matter of taste

I'll agree with that. Personally, I think Shakespeare was awful, despite the fact that he is the most revered writer in the English language.

Cory's taking a swipe here at online social networking systems, which attempt to codify people's relationships with "Three Laws"

Ididn't even see the social networking mentioned in his piece, can you quote pls?

"Your response reads like the work of a hysterical fanboy"

I'm going to have to plead guilty here. It's just that I think Wired could have found somebody to do a better piece on Asimov. Doctorow doesn't sound like a fan, he sounds like a jealous detractor.

If it had been a real slam at Asimov I would likely not have written up a response. But he is "damning with faint praise." It's like somebody saying that Ghandi was a nice guy and all, but never really did anything important.

I think localroger said it better than me- "...the point is that Asimov (and to a certain extent Campbell) thought all this shit up in the 1940's."

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Ok then. Moving on... (none / 2) (#71)
by rusty on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 11:24:20 PM EST

Ididn't even see the social networking mentioned in his piece, can you quote pls?

Yet Asimov's reductionist approach to human interaction may be his most lasting influence. His thinking is alive and well and likely filling your inbox at this moment with come-ons asking you to identify your friends and rate their "sexiness" on a scale of one to three. Today's social networking services like Friendster and Orkut collapse the subtle continuum of friendship and trust into a blunt equation that says, "So-and-so is indeed my friend," and "I trust so-and-so to see all my other 'friends.'" These systems demand that users configure their relationships in a way that's easily modeled in software. It reflects a mechanistic view of human interaction: "If Ann likes Bob and Bob hates Cindy, then Ann hates Cindy." The idea that we can take our social interactions and code them with an Asimovian algorithm ("allow no harm, obey all orders, protect yourself") is at odds with the messy, unpredictable world.

pp 7, page 2

"...the point is that Asimov (and to a certain extent Campbell) thought all this shit up in the 1940's."

Kinda. But really he started writing in the 40's, and continued well into the age of the computer. But it doesn't really matter either way, because I don't see how anyone can dispute what Cory actually wrote, which is just that Asimov didn't write much about the stuff that, to date, has actually happened. You read it as a criticism, I read it as a simple statement of fact, with no judgement implied.

To (hopefully) move beyond this disagreement (which I think we won't solve anyway), I would say that I think it's likely that Asimov's enduring popularity is actually a result of the fact that the stuff he wrote about hasn't happened yet.

There was a satirical cartoon in the New Yorker, just after the invention of the TV. It shows a family, sitting on the living room couch, watching a TV on the opposite wall. This was hilarious at the time, because the idea of the whole family just sitting silently and watching some box on the wall was absurd. Show that cartoon to a person today, and they just totally don't get it. It isn't even clear that it's supposed to be funny.

That's the problem with speculative fiction that gets close to the truth. Read a book from the 40's which features a global network of communication devices that can provide you with just about any piece of information, anywhere, anytime, and most people today will say "why is the interface so clunky?" If that's what the story was built around, there ain't much left to enjoy.

Asimov's stuff still reads like "the future" because the idea of thinking robots is still as far from our daily experience as it was to readers in the 40's, if not farther, now that we've seen how woefully crappy actual robots are.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

the interesting thing (none / 1) (#77)
by towerssotall on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 02:21:21 AM EST

Isn't it interesting though that we seem to be further away from both of the necessary (and unrelated) technologies to make Asimov's robots than their proponents imagined 50 years ago? Specifically AI, and robotic bodies. Energy storage AND AI hit the wall big time didn't they?

[ Parent ]
Pronoun question. (none / 0) (#157)
by LukeyBoy on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 07:42:59 AM EST

Why do you - and basically everyone else - call Isaac Asimov "Asimov", while you refer to Cory Doctorow as "Cory"? It's because he has a blog, right?

[ Parent ]
+1 FP, Asimov (1.42 / 7) (#28)
by outis on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 04:21:24 AM EST



Feh. You failed to fix your factual errors. (2.83 / 12) (#34)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 07:39:25 AM EST

Nightfall was not Asimov's first story. Nightfall was published in 1941. Asimov's first published story was Marooned off Vesta. He was 19 years old and he was paid the princely sum of 64 dollars for it. This would be from the mouth of the man himself.

Index of Asimov's short fiction.

Now where did I put that clue? I know I had one just a minute ago!

EEEEK!!! (none / 1) (#61)
by mcgrew on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 06:10:24 PM EST

Where the hell have you been all weekend??? You are correct. I wish you had logged in yesterday or Saturday and made an editorial comment so I could have fixed it.

My books are still mostly packed or I would have checked. The whole thing is from memory.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

+1, slams Cory Doctorow (2.09 / 11) (#37)
by komet on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 07:52:11 AM EST

am I really the only person here who thinks Doctorow is a pompous git?

YOU HAVE NO CHANCE TO SURVIVE MAKE YOUR TIME.

if you think Cory's pompous (none / 3) (#74)
by Lode Runner on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 11:35:32 PM EST

then you ought to have a look at EL's recent commentary.

On a related note, I blame K5 and /. for the geekward skew of the Google results for "Doctorow".

[ Parent ]

Asimov (none / 3) (#40)
by D440hz on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 08:56:05 AM EST

It was an interesting article all the same.
i never really understood the attraction to asimov.
personal taste a fickle thing.
D-440Hz
damn it. (1.00 / 25) (#44)
by rmg on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 10:24:52 AM EST

how did this crap make it to the front page? i explicitly said "dump it!"

you're diverting attention from the much more important clearchannel article (and more importantly still, my posts therein) below it and you don't even have a correct reading of the wired article in question!

science fiction is crap anyway. i realize your literary sensibilities never advanced beyond "danger will robinson," but you'd probably do well to get out and read some real literature before you go off on everyone who suggests your favorite pulp author isn't god.

_____

if i do not respond, it is because you wrote nothing worthy of response.

dave dean

Disappointed (1.60 / 5) (#47)
by haydentech on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 12:22:12 PM EST

From the title I thought this was going to be an exposé of the Democratic Party. Oh well.

"Rise" (none / 0) (#52)
by Wah on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 01:10:57 PM EST

it would have to be on the neocons.
--
umm, holding, holding...
[ Parent ]
No, The dems are famous for (none / 0) (#66)
by mcgrew on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 06:47:29 PM EST

sexual piccadillos. Kennedy, Kennedy, Clinton, and of course, Kennedy.

Hense the "rise"

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Fundamental (none / 1) (#50)
by illustir on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 12:52:13 PM EST

The problem is not that the Three Laws have holes in them but that they are a fundamentally flawed way of having AI's do The Right Thing ™. No matter how many laws you make, things will always go wrong someway.

This recent site treats this problem and presents the solution as engineering robots to be moral beings. That way they will always do what they think is right.



nitpicker. (none / 2) (#57)
by grendelkhan on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 03:30:23 PM EST

Your points all seem kinda nitpicky. (What ieactly is the 'misleading' part about characterizing "Robbie" as Asimov's first robot story?) So I'll add a nitpick of my own.

Has there ever been a more destructive robot in the history of science fiction?

The Von Neumann probe from The Forge of God vaporized Earth. I think that beats "radioactive wasteland".

--grendelkhan
-- Laws do not persuade just because they threaten --Seneca

Berserker (none / 1) (#123)
by Grimmtooth on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 04:39:03 PM EST

... or Fred Saberhagen's Berserkers, that destroyed entire worlds rather matter of factly (and which predates Bear's "Probe" by a few years, and which were predated by numerous other similar bots in the "golden age")
// Worst. Comment. Ever.
[ Parent ]
A. E. Van Vogt, Harry Harrison (none / 1) (#129)
by Zerotime on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 12:52:13 AM EST

In Van Vogt's short story "Dormant", a robotic nuclear weapon knocks the Earth out of its orbit into the sun (only about a gigayear  later than intended).

Harry Harrison's "Survival Planet", from the book "War with the Robots" is about a robot torpedo (with a built-in deathwish) capable of vaporising a planet sent to specifically destroy a stone-age civilisation.

There's probably a billion more of these even in my tiny collection of cold-war-era sci-fi, but those two were the only ones I could remember off the top of my head.

---
"I live by the river
With my mother, in a house
She washes, I cook
And we never go out."

[ Parent ]

GAH! (none / 1) (#60)
by mcgrew on Mon Jul 19, 2004 at 06:08:25 PM EST

Another error! The end-blockquote tag is a paragraph too low; it should read:
And as vividly as Asimov imagined a future propelled by robots, he conspicuously ignored technologies that have truly transformed our world, namely the computer and the computer network. When they do make appearances in his fiction, they're cursory: Computers are remote controls for robots over unreliable networks; invariably they lead to disaster.

Hackers don't figure in, either. Rather than the eclectic, self-taught, transgressive cyberpunk antihero, Asimov favored protagonists in white lab coats that do Jerry Lewis spit-takes in the presence of a girl.

On the contrary; many, many Asimov stories, written in computing's infancy in the 1940s, envisioned the internet. Asimov called it "Multivac," a huge, city-sized (or larger) computer with millions of vaccum tubes and relays that actually ruled the world, controlling factories, roads, homes, communications, and taking the place of governments.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

The Gods Themselves (none / 2) (#76)
by Yoshi Mon on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 12:50:23 AM EST

The Gods Themselves was a pornographic look at the sex lives of aliens living on an alien planet.

While I love slamming Wired I had to stop right there in your artical and reply. Misrepresenting this book, while no where on the scale of what I, Robot does, kills a lot of the credability that you were building.

While I have not re-read my Fawcett Crest paperback copy in a while I know for sure that to characterize it with the word pornographic is just as misleading as calling Hardwired (The orignal script title.) I, Robot.

The Gods Themselves is about an alternate source of power that humans discover and then make use of, The Electron Pump. And one man's crusade to stop it. Then fully a 1/3rd of the book is written from the alien POV. Finally, the last 1/3rd of the book describes a lifestyle on the moon that resembles a nudist colony more than anything else. Any 10 pages of a Heinlein novel would be more pornographic than all of The Gods Themselves.

However, sex sells and even on the back cover of my copy in the 2nd paragraph they write, "New breeds of humans who have created their own enviroment and freed themselves from everl social and sexual taboo." Once again funny because by reading the back cover you only find out the main theme of the story 2 paragraphs later, "And this final, glorius step in mankind's technical progress has been achieved: the discovery of an unlimited, non-polluting energy source." It was almost as if the writer for the back of the book was given a Cliff Notes version of The Gods Themselves which itself had been horrably botched.

All in all I think that if we are going to call a spade a spade, lets all do our research. I'm not going to say that Asimov was above writeing softcore pron, his very last book in the Foundation series sure felt like it to me, but The Gods Themselves is far from pornographic and undeserving of such a label.


Really, I know what I'm doing...Ohhhh, look at the shiny buttons!
It was a stretch but (none / 0) (#153)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:47:29 PM EST

face it, I'm sure it got a few of these pervs to start reading Asimov!

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Brilliant fiction? (none / 1) (#79)
by l3nz on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 04:56:52 AM EST

"Asimov's stories aren't brilliant fiction". Might be. Sure I like them much more than Cory Dotcrow's - being a brilliant writer is more than coming up with the brilliant idea of Whuffie.

Popk ToDo lists - yet another web-based ToDo list manager. 100% AJAX free :-)

I thought it was the Buddhists (none / 0) (#83)
by outis on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 05:48:27 AM EST

who invented the notion of whuffie.

[ Parent ]
the hindus (none / 0) (#100)
by Wah on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 01:04:14 PM EST

usually get some credit for the fine concept, too.
--
umm, holding, holding...
[ Parent ]
not exactly (none / 0) (#168)
by l3nz on Wed Aug 31, 2005 at 03:19:26 PM EST

whuffie is a human costruct, the k thing is impersonal. :-)

Popk ToDo lists - yet another web-based ToDo list manager. 100% AJAX free :-)
[ Parent ]

SPELLING MISTAKE (1.33 / 9) (#81)
by CAPS LOCK on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 05:38:18 AM EST

YOU SAY "ASS", IT'S SPELT "ARSE".

XENOPHOBE! (NT) (none / 2) (#88)
by Ta bu shi da yu on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 06:44:27 AM EST



---
AdTIה"the think tank that didn't".
ה
[ Parent ]
Also... (none / 0) (#152)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:45:54 PM EST

I spell the rubber around your wheels "tires" despite the fact that they were invented in Scotland!

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Such a boring story (none / 2) (#85)
by trezor on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 06:19:06 AM EST

Such a dissapointment. I mean, given a title like that and all, and all you do is slam wired.

Bah.


--
Richard Dean Anderson porn? - Now spread the news

Asimov's Writing (2.00 / 5) (#86)
by fenri on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 06:21:56 AM EST

I hate to break it to you, but Asimov *wasn't* a particularly good writer...Cory pegged that one, and it was no great insight of his own, either. In fact, many intelligent fans of Asimov that I've met (and hey, I'm one too), agree on this. But be careful not to confuse creativity with good writing. His stories were visionary (as far as settings and the accoutraments that constituted them), but his fiction, in general, blew. He just didn't know how to build a story (or character...3-way alien sex does not contribute to character dimensionality, btw).

You did have some points in this article, but you manage to destroy all of your credibility with the nit-picking (If *only* Cory had read more Asimov, he'd have known that Asimov's favourite colour is, in fact, a mild, dusted indigo...Cory is *such* a poser!) and way off-base observations on Asimov's writing.

IAWTP (none / 3) (#89)
by CAPS LOCK on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 07:31:23 AM EST

SAME GOES FOR PHILIP K DICK, HP LOVECRAFT AND A LOT OF OTHER WRITERS I CAN'T NAME RIGHT NOW. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A WRITTEN ENGLISH EXPERT TO HAVE GREAT IDEAS.

[ Parent ]
Harlan Ellison (none / 0) (#151)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:44:44 PM EST

My favorite short story of his wasn't actually a short story but a Star Trek episode.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Well, actually he was a great writer. (none / 0) (#116)
by lumpenprole on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 10:14:29 AM EST

Just not a great fiction writer. I strongly recommend anybody who likes non-specialist science books to read his non-fiction. He really raised the bar for clear, insightful science writing. My personal favorite is 'The Human Body'. It's like the owners manual you were missing. Of course a lot of it is out of date, but it's still a great read.

(I'm also agreeing he had great ideas in his fiction, but his writing was flat.)

[ Parent ]

Pedantic=Me (regretfully) (none / 0) (#158)
by fenri on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 11:54:08 AM EST

Agreed, but your subject line is a bit misleading. You aren't entirely disagreeing with me, but the thread really isn't about Asimov's non-fiction. I'm only suggesting that you're attacking a front I wasn't defending because it wasn't part of the discussion. But, no harm, no foul. :)

I read somewhere that Asimov was stuck in a loop with the Foundation series once. A friend pointed this out to him, and to break things up a bit, he had to create the Mule. Foundation had, ironically, become terribly predictable (problem arises, Seldon's Ghost appears to smooth things out at just the right moment, humanity moves forward...over and over again--not a good story structure). The Mule was literally and figuratively a method for disrupting predictability.

Again, cheers on observing Asimov's non-fiction was top-notch; you were very right to point that out (just please be more careful with those sneaky subject lines ;) ).

[ Parent ]
yeah sure but he wrote at least three good novels (none / 1) (#162)
by anonymous cowerd on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 10:26:09 PM EST

I really like the three "Empire" novels, Pebble in the Sky, Currents of Space, and Stars Like Dust. They're naturals for Hollywood too, they could make wonderful movies out of those books, so much better as source material than I, Robot, which was a collection of logic problems in short story form.

There's plenty to criticize about Asimov's plots, his characterizations, his style. But I don't buy this idea that everything a writer ever did has to have been excellent or else everything he wrote is beneath consideration, and I can forgive a lot of the author of those three lovely, dreamy Spaceship-and-Sun romances.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@ij.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
[ Parent ]

I, Robot movie, true to Asimov?? (none / 1) (#91)
by tji on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 10:19:14 AM EST

In the original Doctorow article, it includes blurbs about the movie saying that it's the most true to Asimov adaptation of his writing? Can anyone who has seen the movie comment on this? I am an Asimov fan. I've read "I, Robot", the Foundation series, and a few other series. I was planning on waiting for the DVD release of "I, Robot" because the trailer for the movie gave me the impression that it had almost nothing to do with the original story. In the book, each of the short stories focused on a subtle flaw in logic regarding the laws of robotics, and the investigators needed to figure out why the robots were malfunctioning. In the trailer, we see groups of robots attacking the human, causing great damage in the process. Not exactly a subtle problem of reasoning out the malfunctioning robot.

It's Will Smith does Asimov (none / 0) (#93)
by Nursie on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 11:20:27 AM EST

It nods towards asimov a couple of times. The female protagonist was called Susan Calvin. But she was closed minded and dumb, young and moderately attractive, rather than brilliant, willing to consider all possibilities and a bit old.....

For a better example of a nod towards the book:
WARNING, MINOR (though very minor) SPOILER HERE:
One of the early scenes is basically "Little Lost Robot", but done in 30 seconds with the characters all wrong. A robot hides amongst similar robots and does not come out when commanded. Will Smith says "Fine we'll destroy them all" (Calvin's line in the book) and Calvin is the one worried about money and being small minded.

Then rather than interview each one and put it through various tests (there are 1001 in this story, not 65) Will Smith threatens to shoot them all in the head, does so to one, and then waves the gun around until one of them flinches out of the way.

END SPOILER

I nearly walked out, not because it was insulting or offensive to asimov, but because it was boring, I don't much care for Will Smith, and the product-placement was pretty odious.

Also I wonder if the modem manufacturer paid to have the main company called US Robotics? 'cos it's US Robots in the books.....

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
It's interesting... (none / 0) (#118)
by DDS3 on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 11:02:41 AM EST

The movie is entertaining and a good flick.  Just the same, the movie was originally called, "Hard Wired", and was not set in the Asimov universe.  The script was adapted.  The result is a superficially limited Asimov movie.  Having said that, while I did enjoy the movie, the characters are not well developed and the story line is not deep.  They basically adopted one of the plots from a short story and wedged it into their pre-existing script.

When we consider that a deep story line requires people to think, it's obvious why they didn't go that route.  Deep movies, IMO, don't do well.  So, while I do consider it to be a fun movie to watch, don't expect it to give you an "Asimov" or "Robots" fix.  On the other hand, it does make me want to go back and read my collection of Asimov books.

[ Parent ]

They were high school teachers... (none / 0) (#95)
by sophacles on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 12:18:01 PM EST

So anything they said must be taken w/ a grain of salt.  And in retrospect, the teacher that liked Asimov may only have thought the Robot stories were any good because of the vast range of his other non-SF writings, that are really good.

D'oh (none / 0) (#103)
by sophacles on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 04:18:08 PM EST

This was supposed to be a reply to another comment.
Oops.

[ Parent ]
So What? (1.50 / 4) (#96)
by KrispyKringle on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 12:34:24 PM EST

Why should I care? You fail to make any interesting points here.

Oh, and you say, ``But the statement `his characters, especially women, are wooden and one-dimensional' I certainly cannot agree with. Obviously, Doctorow never read the Elijah Bailey novels, particularly The Robots of Dawn.''

I read a whole ton of those books when I was a kid. Face it. The characters are flat. Bailey is a stereotypical Holmsian detective, motivated by duty. Real inventive. The girl has no real motivations; she's just weak and clingy. Hell, most of his robots had more depth than his humans. Cut me a break. Asimov was a great author because his stories and his worlds were engrossing. But his characters were as flat as his writing.

Nobody's perfect. Not you, not Asimov, not Cory Doctorow. Get over it. We don't care.

My favorite asimov book... (none / 2) (#102)
by circletimessquare on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 03:58:25 PM EST

is Isaac Asimov's Book of Facts: 3,000 Of the Most Interesting, Entertaining, Fascinating, Unbelievable, Unusual and Fantastic Facts

i'm not kidding

i read some asimov as a kid

i robot was just ok, nothing spectacular

the foundation series put me to sleep (that whole psychohistory idea is stupid, arrogant)

but i devoured the book of facts, it was fantastic, all sorts of wonderful and amazing useless trivia

sorry to the fanboys, but i belive asimov's nonfiction stuff is far superior to his fiction

and his nonfiction works are absolutely spectacular, sagan's Cosmos level stuff


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

apparently not written by him [nt] (none / 0) (#105)
by Sacrifice on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 04:50:33 PM EST



[ Parent ]
doesn't asimov have a whole bunch of nonfiction?nt (none / 2) (#106)
by circletimessquare on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 05:22:01 PM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Yes. (none / 2) (#109)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 11:12:24 PM EST

I'd be willing to argue that the majority of his work was non-fiction.

Now where did I put that clue? I know I had one just a minute ago!
[ Parent ]
His nonfiction... (none / 0) (#148)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:32:16 PM EST

was mostly every bit as good as his fiction, and often better than much of it. That's one thing about the Doctorow piece that rubbed me the wrong way- no mention at all of any of Asimov's non fiction works, but instead portrays huim as just a below-average out of date science fiction writer that didn't have much style.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

psychohistory isn't arrogant at all (2.66 / 3) (#111)
by taste on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 12:14:37 AM EST

I'm not a sociologist but Asimov does have a point regarding mob movement and predictability. The greater the mob, the more predictable you become as the individual actions are neutralized by the decisions of the mob as a whole. I am bad at analogies but when there is a fire, a large crowd in the area of the fire would be more likely to panic and flee, whereas a lone individual in the vicinity might act alot differently.

If we consider the Foundation universe, where worlds are treated like cities and mankind has already expanded till the 'ends of the galaxy', the figure of the mob would be collosal and the great the numbers, the better it is their actions can be mapped with psychohistory.

Psychohistory did have its flaws though (which in true Asimovian style I believe he intended it to be that way) which was why Asimov introduced the Mule (though it could have just been any other kind of mutant) to express that point.

Realisitcally speaking, I doubt we can actually achieve the advanced psychohistory of the second foundationeers however I think the basic psychohistory is possible since psychohistory deals with statistics and probabilities.

It's not about the fiction or non fiction. I believe it's his writing and creativity. Though Asimov uses several writer tricks such as forcing a conclusion onto you (to allow for a shocking revelation later on), I found the clever plot twists and turns incredible. Look at the various conclusions his characters came up with on the location of the Second Foundation at the end of the book. That, and the defeat of the Mule by Bayta were one of the better endings to some of the books I've ever read in my teens.

[ Parent ]

your words are honest (none / 3) (#112)
by circletimessquare on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 02:21:57 AM EST

but i still think psychohistory is arrogant shit

it is simple hubris, a symptom of the stridently optimistic flying cars and rocket packs and martian colonies by 1990 attitude of the era asimov wrote in

good scifi is more than just a sales pitch for geewiz isn't that neat conceptualizing


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Oh come on, asimov is more than that! (none / 2) (#135)
by Nursie on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 11:25:32 AM EST

Asimov writes quite darkly,of murder and intrigue in the Elijah Bailey (baley?) novels. He writes of subterfuge and politics in foundation, he even writes about the flaws in his own inventions (robots, psychohistory, whatever).

He's by no means a "Wow, look! shiny stuff!" author.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
If it were only (none / 0) (#149)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:39:15 PM EST

"a sales pitch for geewiz" I'd agree with you.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

psychohistory in its infantcy? (none / 1) (#117)
by DDS3 on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 10:53:05 AM EST

Let us not forget that some very, very complex statistical models were used to constantly win at the stock market.  It nearly bankrupted the entire US market.  IMO, it failed to take some aspects of choas theory into account, but just the same, one could argue that the infancy of psychohistory has already arrived.

So, I completely agree with you.


[ Parent ]

"The Great Educator" (none / 0) (#147)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:26:53 PM EST

He wasn't called that for his fiction.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Speaking of factual errors... (none / 0) (#104)
by jreilly on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 04:48:43 PM EST

Runaround had nothing to do with distributed computing. It was about a robot that was ordered to go fetch some object, but ended up circling around a danger source close to that object when "the impulses of the 2nd and 3rd laws balanced exactly" or some such. It did, however, take place on Mercury =)

You're thinking of a different story, but to write this article, you should be getting basic facts about his works right.

Oooh, shiny...
crap you're right (none / 0) (#146)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:25:39 PM EST

WTF was the name of the story I was thinking of with the five robots controlled by the sixth?

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Name of story (none / 0) (#166)
by Smokinn on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 10:22:49 PM EST

It was "catch that rabbit".

[ Parent ]
A Heads-Up (none / 0) (#107)
by gilrain on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 06:18:21 PM EST

Before anyone wastes too much thought on mcgrew's opinion of any literature, I thought I would highlight this comment he made below. It's a perfectly valid opinion to have, but to anyone who has studied and understood literature it should serve as a tip-off that his opinions on this subject are to be taken with a grain of salt.

mcgrew wrote this:
Personally, I think Shakespeare was awful, despite the fact that he is the most revered writer in the English language.


So? (none / 2) (#108)
by labradore on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 11:11:40 PM EST

Speaking as someone who has not given years of life (only a few months in years past) over to studying Shakespeare, I'll say that there are some valid reasons for avoiding his work.
  • It's esoteric. Written nearly 400 years ago, the language cannot be appreciated without a heavy helping of sidebar notes. Even then, it may take two or three readings or some extra references to appreciate the more convoluted lines. Speaking of lines...
  • What you've got to read is mostly in the form of plays or poetry. These are forms dwarfed in popularity today by prose. That makes it even more unfamiliar. No matter how interesting or entertaining they might be for a reader, plays and poetry are almost always better witnessed than read. With Shakespeare's plays the witness absolutely must read the script (probably several times) before he can begin to fully appreciate the range and detail of expression found in them.
  • Finally, there's the personality factor. Some people just aren't interested in literature as art. There's plenty of sci-fi that isn't literature and isn't art but is excellent writing nonetheless. Stories can have dynamic, well-devopled characters, involved, engaging plot, conflict, dialogue and all the rest without being considered particularly artful.

I would argue that the difference between a simple good story and art is more in the intent of the author than in his skill as a writer. So maybe Asimov was no great artist--I don't know enough about his work to tell. But, don't discount someone's opinion because he prefers good story to good art.

[ Parent ]
Because! (none / 0) (#115)
by gilrain on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 10:04:46 AM EST

Perhaps it was merely poor word choice, but he didn't say, "Shakespeare is no longer relevant because..." Or, "I find it hard to enjoy Shakespeare in its original form." Or, "Shakespeare innovated literature in his time, but the form has since become..."

No, he said, "I think Shakespeare was awful..."

[ Parent ]

Well, shit. (none / 0) (#128)
by Zerotime on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 12:31:23 AM EST

Obviously mcgrew deserves a lynching for daring to have an opinion different to yours.

---
"I live by the river
With my mother, in a house
She washes, I cook
And we never go out."

[ Parent ]
Roger Miller? (none / 0) (#145)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:23:52 PM EST

Dang me dang me, they ought to take a rope and hang me

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Well, have *you* ever read Shakespeare? (none / 0) (#137)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 12:40:26 PM EST

Personally, I find him to be a hack writer who relies on every tired old cliche in the plot writer's text book.

(I'm kidding, I'm kidding - put down that dagger!)

Now where did I put that clue? I know I had one just a minute ago!
[ Parent ]

Actually... (none / 0) (#144)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:21:47 PM EST

Ol' Billy Bard considered himself a hack. Michaelangelo considered himself only a craftsman, no different than a carpenter or a plumber.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

You have that exctly right (none / 0) (#143)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:19:06 PM EST

My studied field was visual art, not literature. And one of my instructors (actually the dean iirc) was fond of saying "I don't know what I like, but I know what Art is".

I can barely read Shakespeare. Plus, he claims that "'tis better than to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all". Bullshit!

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

That Shakespeare guy (none / 0) (#167)
by geoswan on Mon Aug 23, 2004 at 02:02:41 PM EST

Yeah. I kept hearing what a great writer too. But you know what? But you know what I found, when I actually tried reading some of his stuff?

He couldn't have been a very original thinker. I found Shakespeare's dialogue to be chockful of over-used cliches!

lol.

[ Parent ]

If I'm not mistaken: (none / 0) (#110)
by taste on Tue Jul 20, 2004 at 11:23:37 PM EST

If Doctorow had read half as much Asimov as I had, he would likely have found the foreword Asimov wrote for some robot story where he explained his choice of "positronic brain" as a term for the robot's computer in Asimov's own words. A little research goes a long way. I think this was written in Asimov's Robot City, a spin off series from the original Robot City books by another author (which was none the less a great read!)

hmm.... (none / 0) (#119)
by transient0 on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 11:50:55 AM EST

i definitely recall reading what sounds like exactly the same piece by the good doctor that mcgrew read. and i never read Robot City.

i can't recall exactly where i read it but i think it was in the foreword to a reprint of one of the Lije Bailey books.

though it may have actually been in an editorial in IASFM.
---------
lysergically yours
[ Parent ]

No (none / 0) (#142)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:15:10 PM EST

I never read "Robot City" or any of the other spin offs.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Rise of the Clueless? I agree. (none / 1) (#113)
by ok on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 03:06:32 AM EST

Doctorow then confuses robots with real people when he says "The idea that we can take our social interactions and code them with an Asimovian algorithm ("allow no harm, obey all orders, protect yourself") is at odds with the messy, unpredictable world." But Asimov's people didn't follow these laws, robots did.

I don't think Doctorow is confused – in that he's surely aware of what you point out after the quote – but you both may be missing the point. For me, at least, Asimov's extensive exploration of the laws of robotics implied these questions:

  • Are humans capable of creating a set of laws that ensure perfect harmony?
  • If so, would you have to be a robot to be capable of following these laws?

Consider the Zeroth (0th) Law, "A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm," which allows a robot to harm a human in the name of humanity.

Would you kill your mother to save humanity?

To simply state that "Asimov's people didn't follow these laws, robots did" seems to suggest that there's a whole realm of clue into which you've not yet ventured yourself.



There are vast realms of clues (none / 0) (#141)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:14:21 PM EST

that I've not yet ventured myself. I am far, far more ignorant than knowledgable.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

A few points (none / 1) (#120)
by jd on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 02:04:58 PM EST

First, Asimov speculated on a "Zeroth Law", which read something like "A robot shall allow no harm to humanity", with the standard three laws modified to provide exceptions if the zeroth law was violated.

Asimov finally decided that the Zeroth Law was unenforcable. The concept of humanity or society was too vague, too undefined, for such a law to work.

In this day and age, where "Zeroth Law"-type mindsets are dominant, Asimov's warning that the concept doesn't work should be listened to. Sure, we all want life to get progressively better, but Asimov's conclusion was that this is not possible with a Zeroth Law.

When the Spacers set off a bomb to make the world radioactive (no, it was NOT a robot who did this, it was a human! PLEASE read the book again!), the two robots who sought to stop this happening couldn't. In part, because it was impossible to determine if Earth as the "home" of humanity was helpful or harmful. It took Daneel a considerable time to conclude that humans need to have some "center" to go back to - that the elimination of Earth (over a long time!) merely caused humans to adopt Trantor as the new center.

Psychohistory - the analysis of groups of people over long periods of time - was interesting, but in his later Foundation novels, he concluded that this too was unsustainable. It works great, where you are dealing with knowns (in this case, humans - the technology was irrelevent) but would be useless in dealing with unknowns (aliens, Gaians, even just your ordinary mutants).

Asimov repeatedly, in his short stories and in the later Foundation novels, played around with the concept of a "group mind". At first, he rejected it. His short stories dealing with the idea usually ended up with "individual" humans beating the "group mind". However, we can see the idea staying in the back of his mind, and we can see it emerge in its final form as Gaia, in the Foundation series. This time, having exhausted the possibilities of explicit and implicit laws, semi-anarchistic societies where all needs are met by machine, forced evolution, and (almost) passive monitoring with occasional corrections, he seems to have reached the conclusion that "group minds" are actually quite a decent trade-off between the rights of the individual and the needs of society.

Probably the first person to seriously suggest computers could think was Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician who created the field of computing, basing it on the abstract ideas in cellular biology. This was in the 30's, and I strongly suspect that much of the "intelligent machine" sci-fi came out after the wider world started digesting the concept.

Certainly, the idea of "electronic brains" predates the 1940s and even predates the computer itself.

(The other recognised co-founder of computing, Von Neumann, also started off with cellular biology and the abstract field of cellular automata. He wanted to know, for example, the abstract rules required for a machine to contain within itself a blueprint for replicating both machine and rules, without using infinite recursion. IIRC, this predates the discovery of DNA, so he had to develop such abstract models with NO knowledge of any comparable real-world system.)

One other aspect of Asimov's work, that isn't often covered, is that his books are dark. One hero of the Foundation series ends up dying in a slave-pit. The First Foundation had plenty of corruption and paranoia (eg: seeking to kill off the Second Foundation, not because they posed any kind of threat, but because it was politically expedient). In the Spacer novels, you saw no real communication or efforts to reconcile, Spacer culture with Terran culture, or robot-using Terrans with robot-haters. "Consensus" meant that one side had used enough force to intimidate the other two.

Other "dark" elements: Daneel obliterated a child's mind, in order to download herself into her brain. The argument was two-fold - positronic brains had reached their limits (implying a biological brain can become more complex) and that the child hadn't a future anyway (errr - no way of proving that, as psychohistory doesn't work on individuals or short time-spans).

Another time, in a short story, a robot built a machine capable of vaporizing the top of a mountain. It was powered by two ordinary flashlight batteries. How's this dark? Well, by implication, absolutely anyone else on the planet was capable of constructing a weapon of devastating power, with very minimal resources. One way to read this story is to argue that security exists only through ignorance. Not a reassuring thought!

In the early days of the Empire's collapse, Seldon's adopted son goes missing and is presumed dead. Presumably, in part because of the collpase of the Empire and the havoc that was causing, no effort was made by Seldon, beyond a few basic enquiries, to find out the truth. He accepts what he is told, and shuts up. And this is the most independent, secure, free-thinking individual in the entire Empire! Doesn't speak well of the rest, does it?

two things (none / 1) (#127)
by Lugh on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 11:19:35 PM EST

Thing One
Asimov finally decided that the Zeroth Law was unenforcable. The concept of humanity or society was too vague, too undefined, for such a law to work

This is both true and false -- yes, in the circumstances under which Giskard first postulated the zeroth law, "humanity" was too vauge and slippery to really pin down. However, it was this this vaugeness that led first Giskard, and then Daneel, to guide the evolution of tools to help define humanity, first psychohistory, and then Gaia/Galaxia, so that they could apply the law.

Thing Two
When the Spacers set off a bomb to make the world radioactive (no, it was NOT a robot who did this, it was a human! PLEASE read the book again!), the two robots who sought to stop this happening couldn't.

This is a little more tricky. Yes, the Spacers were the ones who actually set up the device and pulled the trigger. However, IIRC, after the spacers activated the device and Daneel was bemoaning that he hadn't been fast enough to stop it, Giskard explicitly stated that he had telepathically slowed Daneel's response in order to allow the destruction of Earth, in compliance with the zeroth law. Unfortunately, Giskard hadn't been able to properly/fully incorporate the law into his positronic brain and ended up suffering roblock under the imperative of the first law. So, to sum up, the Spacers pulled the trigger, but Giskard actively interfered to allow them to do so -- six of one, half a dozen of the other. *shrug*

Remove the obvious falsehood to e-mail me.
[ Parent ]

+1 fp! (none / 0) (#140)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:11:06 PM EST

Seriously, I can see you are a fan of the Foundation series. True, Giskard disn't actually cause the radiation directly, but he controlled others' minds as well as reading them. Daneel, too, later.

"Green Patches" was a very creepy story about a group mind, and iirc it was written in the 1930s, making it one of his earlier stories.

I need to unpack all my books so I can check this stuff.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Asimov, the human being (none / 3) (#121)
by jd on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 03:22:46 PM EST

Although there is little question that Isaac Asimov was very generous to fans and other complete strangers, and whilst there are plenty of stories of him smuggling himself into lectures he was supposed to be giving (overzelous security guards often insisted he couldn't be Asimov, because of the way he looked), there's another side to Asimov which needs to be addressed.

Asimov's relationship with his own family is largely unknown. His private life, for someone so famous, was remarkably and impressively kept out of the public eye. So far, nothing mysterious and nothing to be concerned about.

Then his son was arrested for posessing child pornography. This is a really big indicator that something was very very seriously wrong in the Asimov family. Psychology is not an exact science, but there's a general rule-of-thumb that abuse victims who don't deal with their past will re-enact it in one form or another. There are some fairly obvious - and extremely serious - implications that go along with that.

Ultimately, whatever the truth turns out to be, one thing seems certain: Isaac Asimov's fascinating study of what it means to be human and to be part of humanity did not extend to his home.

the implication (none / 2) (#122)
by pantagruel on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 04:34:01 PM EST

so let me see if I get this right, the implication is that asimov sexually abused his son, no matter what the truth of the matter might turn out to be.

[ Parent ]
Hi there (none / 0) (#165)
by psychologist on Mon Jul 26, 2004 at 07:06:21 PM EST

You created my face. Email me.

[ Parent ]
What utter crap <nt> (none / 1) (#124)
by GenerationY on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 05:19:07 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Crude... consider though (none / 0) (#139)
by mcgrew on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:01:30 PM EST

Perhaps it's true, that Asimov's son was abused. Why do you assume it was Asimov that did this unproven abusing?

I think if I had a child who was abused by someone, I certainly wouldn't trumpet it to the world for fear of further damage to the child.

And speaking of which, I'm actually surprised Asimov bred. He wrote an incredible amount of bytage, over 200 books and countless short stories. When did he ever have time for sex? For that matter, when did he have time to eat enough to get that fat?

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

Cites, please. (none / 1) (#160)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Jul 23, 2004 at 01:10:29 PM EST

You go around claiming something like that without facts to back you up, you can get sued.

Now where did I put that clue? I know I had one just a minute ago!
[ Parent ]
Fact Snippets ... (none / 0) (#126)
by suquux on Wed Jul 21, 2004 at 06:51:12 PM EST

doctorow:Asimov's editor at Astounding (now published under the anachronistic name Analog) was John Campbell.

Special to space.com posted: 05:28 pm ET 24 November 1999
Even though it's celebrating its 70th birthday, Analog -- or Astounding as it was known before 1960 -- isn't the oldest SF magazine currently in publication.

What is Analog?
Astounding/Analog (often all-encompassingly just called ASF) is often considered the magazine where science fiction grew up. When editor John W. Campbell took over in 1938, he brought to Astounding an unprecedented insistence on placing equal emphasis on both words of "science fiction." No longer satisfied with gadgetry and action per se, Campbell demanded that his writers try to think out how science and technology might really develop in the future-and, most importantly, how those changes would affect the lives of human beings. The new sophistication soon made Astounding the undisputed leader in the field, and Campbell began to think the old title was too "sensational" to reflect what the magazine was actually doing. He chose "Analog" in part because he thought of each story as an "analog simulation" of a possible future, and in part because of the close analogy he saw between the imagined science in the stories he was publishing and the real science being done in laboratories around the world.


doctorow Tuesday, June 3, 2003 Homeland security honcha has phony PhD
A senior technical official in the Homeland Security Department has a phony Ph.D. from a diploma mill. I'm thinking that I'd like to get one of these and join my parents (Dr. and Dr. Doctorow) as Dr. Doctorow, Jr.


Conclusion: <put your favourite diagnosis here>

CC.

P.S.: At least, Doctorow is not anachronistic.
All that we C or Scheme ...
Question for all Azimov readers (none / 0) (#131)
by mcburton on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 01:25:13 AM EST

I admit that I am only a partial Asimov fan (I just haven't read much of his stuff for some strange reason...) So I am unqualified to pass any judgement on Cory's article, this is all besides the point. I am trying to remember an Asimov short story I heard many years go. It detailed the history of the universe and then the rise of mankind. Man eventually uses up all the available energy in the universe and all human's conciousness melds together into some god-like thing which then causes a big bang (or something) starting the cycle of the universe again. I hope I'm not being retartedly vague...I just can't remember it was so long ago. I was hoping maybe someone knew the story and could help me find it. I really loved that story, it was great. cheers! mcb

The Last Question (none / 0) (#132)
by matthewg on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 02:52:08 AM EST

The story you're looking for is The Last Question.

[ Parent ]
One of my favorite stories. (none / 0) (#136)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 12:36:26 PM EST

Thanks for the link.

Now where did I put that clue? I know I had one just a minute ago!
[ Parent ]
Actually a FAQ (none / 0) (#138)
by Chuan-kai Lin on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 05:10:27 PM EST

Someone had given you the right answer; I just want to point out that this topic is actually listed in the Isaac Asimov FAQ:

Q:There's this really neat story by Asimov, but I can't remember the title...

A:The story is probably "The Last Question". ... There is a mathematical possibility that you're thinking of a story other than "The Last Question", but it's very slight. Asimov's own experience was that if someone couldn't remember the title of one of his stories (and especially if they weren't entirely sure if it was by him), then it was "The Last Question."

[ Parent ]

R2D2 and Death Star torturebot (none / 1) (#150)
by crucini on Thu Jul 22, 2004 at 09:39:16 PM EST

The ultimate insult to the Rebel Alliance? The upper half of its body is an R2 unit's head, just repainted.
Whoever wrote this (I'm not clear if it's Doctorow) seems to think that R2 units are somehow the property of the rebel alliance. I think the movie makes it pretty clear that R2 droids are commonplace throughout the "galaxy far away". Most likely they are specified by the Empire's military and made by lots of defense contractors.
Maybe it's the fact that R2D2 is presented as a "good guy" that made the author think all R2 units are "good guys".

Rise of the Clueless | 167 comments (155 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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