For Tuesday: Asimov, I Robot: “Escape!” and “Evidence”

The robot eye of H.A.L. from 2001: A Space Odyssey
Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: In trying to ascertain whether or not Byerley is a robot or not, Dr. Susan Calvin remarks, “To put it simply—if Byerley follows all the Rules of Robots, he may be a robot, and may simply be a very good man” (221). How might this statement allow Asimov to use Byerley as a metaphor for how a “cleaner, better breed” should act like in society? Where do we see Byerley functioning like this in the story?

Q2: Dr. Susan Calvin remarks in “Escape!” that a robot’s brain “is built by humans and is therefore built according to human values” (177). Why is this a significant statement, and how does it help explain why the Brain acts as he does? Why would Calvin argue that the Brain acted the way a human would act, rather than the way a robot would?

Q3: Byerley refuses to submit to X-ray tests and other investigations which he considers a violation of his personal rights, even if they would immediately expose the lies about his robotic identity. As he tells Quinn, “You have little concern with the rights of the individual citizen. I have great concern. I will not submit to X-ray analysis, because I wish to maintain my Rights on principle” (230). Why might this also be a political statement on Asimov’s part, one that raises concerns about due process in the 1950’s—as well as in our own age?

Q4: In both stories, it initially seems like the robots are breaking the First and the Second Laws of Robotics. However, it later turns out that to truly obey these laws requires a fair amount of deception, secrecy, and creativity. Do you think this is justified? Are these merely the “white lies” necessary to save humanity? Or are these robots taking too many liberties in deciding what is good for us—and what isn’t?


  1. Q1. Asimov uses this statement as a metaphor to simply show that it is easier to assume that he is a robot rather than a good man. Dr. Susan Calvin is hinting towards the fact of robots being a "cleaner, better breed" rather than humans.

    Q2. Dr. Susan Calvin is arguing for the sake of the robot brain. So many people in this story are attacking the brain, when it was created by humans, to think in a human-like way. Calvin is using this logic to argue the side of the brain, because it is doing what it believes we would do.

  2. Q1: The people would rather believe he is a robot than a good man because its easier to blame a robot for their mistakes then a good man who hasn't done anything wrong. The people in general are dirty, and can make mistakes robots can't so they would be a "cleaner, better breed/versions" of us without all the parts that make us human.

    Q2: In the story "Escape" the Brain is a machine built by humans so its programming would resemble some of the ways humans work. Humans designed the Brain to be more child-like than the rest of the robots who are more like adults. They designed it this way so they could see how it would approach tough situations and study its logic to get through the situation it was in. Robots have 3 rules they have to follow, rule one being don't hurt the humans. In a situation like in the book where the humans have to die for a minute and will come back to life, the robots can't figure out the situation. The Brain who is more child-like makes the situation a game and is easily about to figure out and perform the task at hand.

    Bailey Copeland

  3. Q2. In escape the brain is using humor, as many humans do, to alleviate stress in the situation at hand. When robots from other stories, and this one also, got stressed, they broke down and could no longer function. the Brain used humor to make everything a game. If it's just a game then it's no big deal and he can solve the problem at hand.

    Q4. I feel like as people we use secrecy, deception, along with a little creative thinking to bend the rules in a way that helps us. We created these robots to be like us, so they're going to behave like us. That's what we wanted. You can't program a robot to follow rules, make him smart enough to get around said rules, and then expect him not to bend them a little.

  4. Q1.) They want to believe he is a robot because if he is then any bad things he does, they can just say "oh he's a robot" but if he's human then he has to take responsibility for his actions. Dr. Susan Calvin is hinting that robots are a "cleaner, better breed" than humans, because we as humans make more mistakes because we have feelings, but as for robots they don't have feelings they just have rules they follow.

    Q2.) In "Escape" Dr. Calvin is defending the Brain because it was built and programmed by humans, so when the Brain makes a decision he believes its what the humans would do. Since the Brain is child like, he uses humor and made everything a game so the rules didn't really apply. He finds a loophole around the rules, he thinks its okay but the humans were not happy about it.

  5. Kristin Thomas
    Q1)Calvin is hinting that robots are a "cleaner better Breed" by stating that robots don't let feelings get in the way of their actions so they do everything nicely and in order and they don't let feeling ruin that making them a cleaner better breed, as to why people aren't believing that Brain is human because he is acting basically too good to be human.

    Q2) Calvin would argue the fact as to why Brain acted as he did because they made him more child like therefore he is going to do things that are more childlike in order to complete a task, so by him doing that his way was to make a game out of it so he could complete the task without harming anyone else, and also to relieve his stress on the task he was given.


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