a strange tomorrow

D was speculating on what it would be like to have a personal robot, so I took my parental prerogative to insist on reading some of I, Robot to him.  I had forgotten how old the stories were.  The copy we have was Tony’s mother’s — it’s the first Signet paperback printing, dated 1956, with the cover reading "Man-like machines rule the world! Fascinating tales of a strange tomorrow."  The collection as a whole is copyright 1950, with the first story (Robbie) originally published in 1940 (and supposedly taking place in 1998).

The stories remain quite readable, although the vocabulary is a bit hard going for a 7 year old, even with me reading to him.   Seeing where, and how, Asimov’s predictions were off is fascinating.  While the "primative" nursemaid robot of Robbie remains far out of
reach, the "talking robot" that can answer factual questions is well
within our capacity.

Even beyond the robots, there’s a whole bunch of technologies that he assumed we’d have which we don’t — jet cars and space travel.  But at the same time that he’s predicting these things, the concept of a miniature audio recorder seems to have escaped him: "I was taking it down verbatum on my pocket-recorder, trying not to show the knuckle-motions of my hand.  If you practice a bit, you can get to the point were you can record accurately without taking the little gadget out of your pocket."

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