I LOOKED AT MY NOTES AND I DIDN’T LIKE THEM. I’d spent three days at U. S. Robots and might as well have spent them at home with the Encyclopedia Tellurica.
Susan Calvin had been born in the year 1982, they said, which made her seventy-five now. Everyone knew that. Appropriately enough, U. S. Robot and Mechanical Men, Inc. was seventy-five also, since it had been in the year of Dr. Calvin’s birth that Lawrence Robertson had first taken out incorporation papers for what eventually became the strangest industrial giant in man’s history. Well, everyone knew that, too.
At the age of twenty, Susan Calvin had been part of the particular Psycho-Math seminar at which Dr. Alfred Lanning of U. S. Robots had demonstrated the first mobile robot to be equipped with a voice. It was a large, clumsy unbeautiful robot, smelling of machine-oil and destined for the projected mines on Mercury. But it could speak and make sense.
Susan said nothing at that seminar; took no part in the hectic discussion period that followed. She was a frosty girl, plain and colorless, who protected herself against a world she disliked by a masklike expression and a hypertrophy of intellect. But as she watched and listened, she felt the stirrings of a cold enthusiasm.
She obtained her bachelor’s degree at Columbia in 2003 and began graduate work in cybernetics.
All that had been done in the mid-twentieth century on “calculating machines” had been upset by Robertson and his positronic brain-paths. The miles of relays and photocells had given way to the spongy globe of plantinumiridium about the size of a human brain.
She learned to calculate the parameters necessary to fix the possible variables within the “positronic brain”; to construct “brains” on paper such that the responses to given stimuli could be accurately predicted.
In 2008, she obtained
her Ph. D. and joined United States Robots as a “Robopsychologist,” becoming the first great practitioner of a new science. Lawrence Robertson was still president of the corporation; Alfred Lanning had become director of research.
For fifty years, she watched the direction of human progress change and leap ahead.
Now she was retiring – as much as she ever could. At least, she was allowing someone else’s name to be inset upon the door of her office.
That, essentially, was what I had. I had a long list of her
Published papers, of the patents in her name; I had the
Chronological details of her promotions. In short I had her
Professional “vita” in full detail.
But that wasn’t what I wanted.
I needed more than that for my feature articles for Interplanetary Press. Much more.
I told her so.
“Dr. Calvin,” I said, as lushly as possible, “in the mind of the public you and U. S. Robots are identical. Your retirement will end an era and-“
“You want the human-interest angle?” She didn’t smile at me. I don’t think she ever smiles. But her eyes were sharp, though not angry. I felt her glance slide through me and out my occiput and knew that I was uncommonly transparent to her; that everybody was.
But I said, “That’s right.”
“Human interest out of robots? A contradiction.”
“No, doctor. Out of you.”
“Well, I’ve been called a robot myself. Surely, they’ve told you I’m not human.”
They had, but there was no point in saying so.
She got up from her chair. She wasn’t tall and she looked frail. I followed her to the window and we looked out.
The offices and factories of U. S. Robots were a small city; spaced and planned. It was flattened out like an aerial photograph.