I, Robot

Isaac Asimov’s science fiction classic, I, Robot, can spark discussion with multiple disciplines. The ideas here focus on the story “Runaround,” which famously hinges on Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.


  • Computer Scientists
  • Engineers
  • Entrepreneurs


  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Driverless Cars

Teaching Ideas

The following ideas are drawn from the syllabus of “Reading with Scientists: How to Export Literature,” a class taught by Abigail Droge in the UC Santa Barbara English Department.

“Runaround” lends itself well to paired readings and resources about issues of contemporary technology and robotics, such as artificial intelligence and driverless cars:

  • Radiolab podcast, “Driverless Dilemma” (Sept 26, 2017)
  • Jason Millar, “Ethics Settings for Autonomous Vehicles” (from Robot Ethics 2.0)


For more about the experience of teaching Asimov, see the blogpost below, originally published on the WhatEvery1Says website by Abigail Droge under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. WhatEvery1Says is a Mellon-funded public humanities project. Click on the title to read the full post.

Reading with Scientists: Isaac Asimov and Driverless Cars

Which is scarier: a technology that follows human orders or one that acts for itself? After bringing to a close our encounters with Frankenstein’s rebellious Creature, “Reading with Scientists” turned to Isaac Asimov’s classic short story “Runaround” to consider the opposite extreme: a creation that does what it’s told. “Runaround,” originally published in 1942 and collected in I, Robot in 1950, is famous for its depiction of the Three Laws of Robotics, a set of pre-programmed rules which each robot must obey [Read more…]