Asimov – urbanism taken to the future

AsimovAm re-reading Asimov’s “Caves of Steel”, “Naked Sun” and “Robots of Dawn”. Still a great read.  A detective story, a robot story, also a great social fantasy.

On an over-populated earth, people recede  into huge  cities that are totally covered by steel domes.  Asimov imagines the present day’s underground transit connected to malls and apartment blocks, extended to a point where no one ever exits to the outside world.  These covered cities are the Caves of Steel, wombs packed with people, people that havie little privacy and comfort, people that are protected and comforted by sheer force of numbers. To the extent that no-one  ever leaves the caves.

Asimov paints a grim situation of an Earth dealing with an extremely large population and of luxury-seeking Spacers on outer planets who limit birth so that each may have great wealth and privacy.  Robot labor is shunned by Earth and embraced by Spacers, making the divide even deeper.  In essence, Asimov works out the possible effect  free – robotized  – labour can have on human society. He   contrasts man and machine, robots being precision-engineered calculating machines that can have no appreciation of art, beauty, or God; robots can understand only concepts expressible in mathematics.

This is all interesting stuff – urbanism taken to the future. It’s the descriptions of situations where the main character, Elijah Baley,  encounters sensations like direct sunlight, feet on grass, wind on the face that stayed with me most all these years. Re-reading them they have lost nothing of their narrative power.

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