The Complete Roderick/Roderick At Random


As a joke, I bought a book called The Complete Roderick by John Sladek (1980,1983). While I usually don't read too much fiction, I decided I would veg out and read this book. The premise or plotline is of a robot that evolves. As you may have guessed, the robot's name is Roderick. He starts out as little more than a box on wheels, developed in a lab. When a government agency seeks to shut down all work on entities (artificial beings), Roderick is hidden away with an odd couple; Hank and Indica. Hank is a failed inventor and Indica is a bored-cheating housewife that will eventually become an activist of sorts. From here, Roderick is passed from person to person; where each influence and experience develops him. Perhaps the most influential time was spent with Mr. and Mrs. Wood. Mr. Wood worked in a factory that made automatons and used his skill to improve the little robot into a "boy".

Most of the book relates how Roderick is perceived by humans; not as a robot but as a fellow human. No one seems to believe Roderick is a robot; not even his school teachers even though he tells them constantly. The humans are depicted as mostly irrational if not crazed, but of course Sladek (who died in 2000) may have been trying to capture how irrational the actions of humans might appear to a robot.

Roderick's brain isn't merely a program, but it can develop and evolve and "learn" from experiences.

This book might make an interesting B-movie, though with the 2004 release of the hit movie; I, Robot
, originally a (1940-1950) book by Isaac Asimov it may seem redundant.

The Complete Roderick is actually two books in one. Roderick
and Roderick at Random.

In The Complete Roderick, Roderick addresses Asimov's famous three laws of Robotics which are as follows:

The three laws of Robotics:

1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

To Roderick, these seem like arbitrary laws and not part of his ever evolving program.

In an earlier short story Sladek sends up Asimov's Laws of Robotics, eg despite law no 1 a robot goes on a killing spree and afterwards confesses that he'd misread the law and thought it said that a robot must not INURE a human being.

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