Study Guide

I, Robot Rules and Order

By Isaac Asimov

Rules and Order

I, Robot is full of rules that may or may not help people to live full lives: there are the robots' Three Laws, there are the government's rules (including banning robots first and then joining into one world government), and there are even unwritten rules of human behavior. Sometimes these rules work correctly to help people (like the Three Laws, which at least work some of the time), and sometimes these rules get in people's way. Does this book have a lesson about rules and order?

Questions About Rules and Order

  1. How do rules and order interact with other themes, such as power? Are rules always supported by power? Or are some rules supported by morality?
  2. How do different characters relate to rules and order? Are there characters who support rules and others who disobey rules more often? For instance, Kallner seems like a rule supporting character—but then, he's one of the people who wanted the robots built with a modified First Law, so he doesn't totally support all rules. Are there any characters who obey all the rules?
  3. Are there any historical connections about rules and order that help us to understand these stories? For instance, the 1940s was a time where people were worried about the threat of Communist infiltration; does that help us understand their fears of being replaced by robots?
  4. We see several types of rules in this book, including government laws and military rules. What other types of rules do we see and when do we see them? For instance, with Powell and Donovan, since they are equals, do we hear a lot about orders and power? Or do they talk more about traditions and customs?

Chew on This

I, Robot gives us several stories where people have the choice to disobey rules and order, but no moral reason to.

I, Robot gives us a system of rules and order that help people to survive with robots—the Three Laws. But we never see US Robots come up with these Three Laws, so we never get to ask the question: "Who comes up with the rules?" That makes the rules seem more neutral.