122 votes
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What prevents Asimov's robots from locking all humans in padded cells for the humans protection?

The robots in Asimov's works generally don't have the 'mental' sophistication needed to look ahead for abstract harm in the manner you suggest. For them, the 'inaction' clause must mean the robot ...
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  • 786
111 votes
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Asimov's story where a man's speech contains no information

This is the Foundation classic. (Link) In a comparative article The Art of Saying Nothing the author recounts Asimov's Foundation exactly as described: In the Isaac Asimov sci-fi classic Foundation, ...
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  • 5,653
94 votes

When does the copyright on Isaac Asimov's works expire?

There are various terms for US copyright and when the works published in that situation nominally expire. However, since the 1980s every 20 years a new copyright extension act that includes all works ...
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  • 5,147
76 votes
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When does the copyright on Isaac Asimov's works expire?

This question is covered by the Asimov FAQ: All of Asimov's work, fiction and non-fiction, was under copyright at the time of the Good Doctor's death. Under current U.S. law, the copyrights for his ...
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75 votes
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How does Asimov's second law deal with contradictory orders from different people?

Consider, all Robots stories are short stories or novellas published during a very long time span, so they are not 100% coherent among themselves sometimes, though the overall framework is. As ...
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69 votes

How did Isaac Asimov come up with the 3 laws of robotics?

The Three Laws developed gradually. It started with Robbie, aka Strange Playfellow, Asimov's first robot story, which he wrote in 1939. Asimov thought of robots as “industrial products […] built with ...
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  • 9,724
60 votes
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Story about a world where darkness drives people mad

That would be "Nightfall" by Isaac Asimov (publication history). Their planet has multiple suns, and because of the complex interactions between them, they've only recently discovered the &...
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58 votes
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A short tale of a robot male house servant which the lady owner falls in love with

It's possible the story you are looking for is called "Satisfaction Guaranteed". It is one of Asimovs robot stories and, as you mention, features a woman with a male humanoid robot assigned ...
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  • 9,978
55 votes

Did Asimov model the character of the Mule in his Foundation series on any particular historical person?

One influence was Timur, also known as Tamerlane, a Turco-Mongol conqueror: [My] notion of the Mule as someone who destroyed an apparently inevitable sweep of victory, which was then reconstituted ...
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  • 9,724
54 votes
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What's with the word "sardonic" in sci-fi?

Oddly enough, you might be right. I ran a search on the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and it turns out that the word sardonic does indeed appear more in sci-fi than in "straight" ...
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  • 4,293
50 votes
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In Asimov's robot story "Liar!", why does Dr. Calvin show no mercy for Herbie?

Because it is the one time that we see Calvin revealed as a person, as a human being, as a woman. In every other story, she is presented as being absolutely cold and calculating, always right and if ...
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48 votes

Meaning of "gay ladies' man"?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word "Gay" as old-fashioned happy (for example) "We had a gay old time down at the dance hall." This was the common use of the word in the ...
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  • 614k
46 votes

Which Asimov story has malevolent 3-law AI?

I remember one novel by Isaac Asimov in which it was revealed, toward the end of the book, that one brilliant scientist had been working hard on a plan to use positronic brains to conquer the other ...
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46 votes

Which Asimov story has malevolent 3-law AI?

Genocide of non-humans In Foundation's Edge it's implied that the robots using time travel shenanigans are the reason why humans never meet any aliens in the milky way, only empty planets ready to be ...
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46 votes
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Daneel or Giskard quote about functioning more efficiently, similar to happiness

I found it! It's in the third book of the Robots cycle, The Robots of Dawn (chapter 2: "Daneel"), and said by Daneel, as you correctly guess (emphasis mine): “Of a certainty, Partner Elijah....
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44 votes

Isaac Asimov story featuring the end of the world

Hmm ... I'm not coming up with any Asimov story on that, but an Arthur C. Clarke story, The Nine Billion Names of God, was published in Thinking Machines, one of Asimov's young adult anthologies and ...
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  • 188k
44 votes

What's with the word "sardonic" in sci-fi?

The words sardonic and sardonically were most frequently used just before the period when Asimov began writing. So I'd say he was just using the popular language of the time. Here's a Google Ngram ...
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44 votes
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What did Asimov find embarrassing about "Marooned Off Vesta”?

I believe that the embarrassment is from the autobiographical snippets provided by the authors at the end of the magazine, rather than over the story itself. There are two sentences which might be ...
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43 votes
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Blurb from dust jacket of the first edition (1950) of Isaac Asimov's Pebble in the Sky

Legible if you view full size. from here For the past several years the name of Isaac Asimov has meant top-drawer fast-action stories to the readers of science-fiction magazines. Dr. Asimov's ...
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42 votes
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What was Asimov's postcard short story?

According to the Wikipedia entry on Asimov, the short story is called "About Nothing" (1975), which first appeared on a postcard and then was included in the Winds of Change and other short stories ...
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41 votes

Short story, possibly Asimov, about an engineer sabotaging a floating city's engines, causing it to crash on Earth and killing everyone on board

That would be Shah Guido G. (1951), I believe. It is, indeed by Asimov, and is one of the stories where the entire plot is nothing but the setup for an atrocious pun. (Specifically, it's what's ...
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38 votes
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Asimov story about a scientist who foils an attempt at genocide through genetically engineered food

This is "The Winnowing", a short story by Asimov first published in Analog in 1976. The plot is essentially as you described it. In the future world of 2005, with the world's population at 6 ...
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38 votes
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When was the origin of the "Nightfall" quotation found?

The quotation wasn't really obscure. Once The Early Asimov was published, where Asimov said that he couldn't find its source, he was immediately informed about it by several readers: A few years ago, ...
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37 votes
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Why is Trantor, from Asimov's Foundation, all underground?

Short answer, it's not all underground. "Trantor's buildings are all subterranean or under domes due to worsening weather conditions" as indicated by Wikipedia, sourced to Prelude to Foundation, pages ...
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  • 188k
36 votes
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A short tale about a dim-witted man with outstanding presence, being taught how to deliver a speech by reading from elaborate scripts

Sounds like Ignition Point! by Isaac Asimov, originally published in The Winds of Change and Other Stories in 1983. From Tropedia: "Ignition Point!" is about a man who figures out how to ...
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35 votes

Asimov's robot and the Trolley Problem

As far as a classic "Three Laws" robot is concerned, the answer is very simple indeed. As we see in Liar!, a robot who, either by action or inaction would harm a human simply mentally implodes. The ...
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  • 614k
35 votes
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Asimov's robot and the Trolley Problem

The short story "Liar!" has been referenced as the source for the claim that the robot would be unable to take action, or burn out after doing so. However, this story is mentioned, and in a ...
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35 votes

How does Asimov's second law deal with contradictory orders from different people?

In some stories, robots distinguish importance of an order based on amount of urgency/importance in the language and on who gave the order. I am thinking of Little Lost Robot as mentioned by ...
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  • 447
34 votes
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Short story about astronauts landing on a planet of shapeshifters

This is Asimov's Green Patches aka Misbegotten Missionary. It ends with the little organism mimicking a wire thinking The main air locks were about to be opened -- And all thought ceased. ...
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34 votes

What Asimov character ate only synthetic foods?

Could you be misremembering the Chief Judge from Asimov's "Good Taste"? From the TV Tropes entry for Future Food is Artificial: The protagonist enters (and wins) the annual cooking contest, ...
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