Elijah Baley, the detective from The Caves of Steel, is given a new assignment to investigate the murder of a Spacer (long-lived humans that colonize space), Demarre, on a distant world called Solaria in The Naked Sun (1957). This world is the exact opposite of Earth in which all humans have a fear of being alone and in wide open places. People on Solaria, who are used to wide open spaces, cannot tolerate the physical presence of another human being, and communicate remotely by "trimension," wear covering over their bodies when contact is unavoidable, and even procreate by laboratory fertilization. Daneel Olivaw, Baley's robot partner from The Caves of Steel, also assists him in this investigation. Daneel and Baley eventually solve the murder and Baley overcomes his agoraphobia in the process.
1. What is the role/function of the robot? Why was it created?
Daneel Olivaw, as in The Caves of Steel, is the humanoid robot designed to investigate mysteries and aid Elijah Baley. In The Naked Sun he also has the underlying task of investigating the threat of Solarian culture to the rest of the Spacers. The Solarian robots, on the other hand, are the sole means for the survival of their human masters. They not only serve their masters and labor for their survival, they also help rear the Solarian children. After one month of gestation a Solarian fetus is taken to a laboratory and raised by human-supervised robots. The Solarian fear of human presence makes contact with their own children impossible, and thus they rely on their robots for this task. The robotic nannies train their human charges to abhor the presence of other humans and thus turn them into proper Solarians. A roboticist called Leebig, who eventually turns out to be the murderer, plans on creating spaceships with positronic brains that would be instructed to destroy any other ship they encounter--Leebig's instrument for Galactic domination. He would avoid the Three Laws of Robotics in this case by programming his ships with the assumption that all other ships also contained only robots.
2. How human is it? How human is it meant to be?
Daneel Olivaw, again, is an exact replica of a human. The Solarians' robots are also humanoid since they carry out many human tasks. Except for Daneel, androids and humans are not confused in this novel.
3. How do humans react to the robot? What is their attitude?
The Solarians are very trusting and completely reliant of their robots, which explains why they are so shocked by Leebig's plan to conquer and kill humans with his positronic spaceships. Their trust, and the Three Laws of Robotics, puts into question a robot's role in the murder of Demarre.
4. What are the consequences of the robot in the novel?
The robot servant of Demarre unwittingly becomes the instrument for his murder. Leebig designs a robot with detachable arms that is programmed to remove and offer its arm to Demarre's wife the next time she gets in an argument with him. When she holds the robotic arm in a subsequent argument, the arm, without the robot's command and thus avoiding the Laws of Robotics, kills Demarre. The only way for a robot to be a murderer is for a human to somehow avoid the Laws, as in The Caves of Steel. There are more curious twists to the Three Laws in this novel. The murdered roboticist before his death was trying to train the nanny robots to spank unruly children, but the robots would've been breaking the First Law by this act. In addition, Baley tries to open a window blind on Solaris to aid the conquering of his agoraphobia, but Daneel stops him because he knows that Baley will come to harm, regardless of the long-term benefit of Baley's confrontation with his fear.
The robots in The Naked Sun, as in other Asimov stories, are the innocent pawns of their human masters. They only want to help humanity, but humans constantly use them for evil purposes: all they know is their own programming. While the robots in this novel are undoubtedly good, they are helping humans live a lifestyle that is seemingly perverse. Asimov's robots, again, are only the tools of humans and their good or evil depends on the human "pressing the button."