The Caves of Steel (1954) is set three thousand years into the future. Humans live on Earth in completely enclosed underground cities (caves of steel) while their robot servants work in mines and farms in the open country. Another type of human, the Spacers, live in outer space and on many other planets outside the Solar System. They have 350 year lifespans and are free from disease. One of these spacers, Roj Sarton, is killed in a Spacer colony just outside New York City. Elijah Baley, a human detective from New York, is assigned to investigate this murder case. Much to Baley's dislike, the Spacers insist that he have a android partner, R. Daneel Olivaw, to assist him with the case. Baley and Olivaw eventually discover the murderer and become friends in the process.
1. What is the robot's role/function? Why was it created?
There are two types of robots in this novel: the laborers and human assistants. Daneel Olivaw, the robot detective and Elijah Baley's partner, is programmed with a strong sense of justice and is perfect for his role as investigator. The robots in this story, while seemingly happy and well-behaved, are really just the servants of humanity. Humans are protected from harm incurred by robots becase they are programmed with the Three Laws of Robotics.
2. How human is it? How human is it meant to
Daneel Olivaw is designed to look indentical to a human being, specifically, he looks exactly like the Spacer who was murdered. Daneel even has the ability to eat, presumably to make humans more comfortable with his presence: the useless food is later removed from a "food sac." After Baley's accusations that Olivaw is actually human, the android peels the skin from his arm and shows his circuitry. At one point in the novel the humanoid shape of robots is justified by the argument that the humanoid form is the best generalized ans useful form.
3. How do humans react to it?
There are two basic attitudes towards robots in this novel: the Earthmen who distrust robots and fear that they will take their jobs, and the Spacers who advocate human/robot cooperation. The Medievalists, a radical "Luddite" group that calls for a return to primitive life, are extremely ani-robot. Baley is extremely distrustful of Daneel at first, fearing that if the robot solves the case first he will lose his job. Baley's reaction to Daneel is typical of most Earthmen.
4. What are the consequences of the robot in
Daneel, while helping Baley solve the murder case, also has a more important role: he changes Baley's attitude towards robots. Near the end of the novel, the once anti-robot Baley trusts Daneel more than anybody else. Baley even starts to agree with the Spacers that humans and robots should work together to colonize the Galaxy. One of the final scenes of the novel is Baley and Daneel walking arm-in-arm; Daneel helped Baley see that robots and humans can live together. A robot also unwittingly become an accomplice in murder. Sammy, a robot office worker, is ordered to carry a weapon over the open land (which humans cannot tolerate) and bring it undetected into the Spacer colony. The murderer, who entered the colony normally, takes the weapon from the robot and completes the crime. Since the robot did not know the motives for its actions and did not actually kill the victim, it did not violate the Three Laws of Robotics.
5. What ideas did it introduce to the theme of
robot? / Conclusion:
Like many of Asimov's other robot stories, Caves of Steel tries to banish the stereotype of the "evil robot." Asimov's robots are not something to be feared, and are not abominations of nature created by humans. They are fundamentally good creations, governed by the Three Laws of Robotics, and will not turn on their masters. Daneel and the other robots are not threats to human jobs, or beings that will eventually replace humans, but they are creations that will help humans and lead to a better way of life for all.