escape

"Escape!" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov. It was first published as "Paradoxical Escape" in the August 1945 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and reprinted as "Escape!" in the collections I, Robot (1950) and The Complete Robot (1982).

Chapter 7

Many research organizations are working to develop the hyperspace drive. US Robots are approached by their biggest competitor with plans for a working hyperspace engine that allows humans to survive the jump (a theme which would be further developed in other stories). But they are wary because, in performing the calculations, their rival's (non-positronic) supercomputer destroyed itself.

US Robots find a way to feed the information to their own computer, a positronic one known as The Brain (which is not a robot in the strictest sense of the word, as it doesn't move), without the same thing happening. The Brain then directs the building of a hypership.

Powell and Donovan board the ship, and the ship takes off without their being initially aware of it. They also find that The Brain has become a practical joker; it hasn't built any manual controls for the ship, no showers either and it only supplies tinned beans and milk for the crew to survive on.

Eventually, the ship does successfully return to Earth after a hyperspace jump, and Susan Calvin discovers what has happened. A hyperspace jump causes the crew of the ship to cease existing for a brief moment, which is a violation of the First Law (albeit temporary) and this frightens the AI of "The Brain" into irrational, childish behavior as a means of coping.

Major theme

This story again relies on the differences in interpretation of the Laws of Robotics between the human members of US Robots and their mechanical creations. The important factor in this robot is its personality; it allows the supercomputer to calculate the answer to the hyperspace problem, but causes it to behave immaturely as an idiot savant when confronted with the issues of human death.

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