The Issue of Robot-Human Relationship in the Story 'I, Robot'

Due to the wide variety of plots and characters discussed in the novel “I, Robot”, the decision to be analyzed in greater depth comes from the short story, “Robbie” and the parent’s decision to keep or return their child’s robot, Robbie back to US Robots and Mechanical Men. In this story, the parents can be seen as leaders or managers of their daughter, Gloria who has be-friended the family robot, Robbie. The bond between Gloria and Robbie becomes very strong and Gloria considers Robbie to be her best friend, a real true (human) friend. Her mother becomes concerned that Gloria is becoming too attached to a “machine”, a robot, a non-realistic thing that cannot build human relationships, such as friendship and as a result forces the father to return Robbie to US Robots and Mechanical Men. Gloria is deeply saddened and feels she has lost her only real friend, her best friend. After many attempts to distract her loneliness and forget losing her best friend, her parents return to the busy city for a tour to help prove robots aren’t real, set up by her mother. In a twist, the father plans for an “accident” which allows their former robot, Robbie, to save Gloria and re-instill their friendship, bond and confidence and Robbie’s good nature and positive presence in their daughter’s life. At this point, the mother has almost no choice, but allow Robbie to come back home with the family.


In this cultural issue, Gloria’s mother has a clear fear of her daughter’s attachment and bond with Robbie, an un-human robot. The mother sees on a daily basis Gloria’s dependence on Robbie as a friend. Gloria believes Robbie to be her best and only real friend. As her mother continues to analyze the situation and relationship, her concerns and fears grow stronger. Gloria’s mother does not believe that a human, specifically her daughter, can have a real, true friendship with a machine.

This fear of machines can come from the fact that Gloria’s mother has never experienced this type of connection or friendship with a robot before as robots were not available to her family when she was a child. This uncertainty of the unknown and dis-belief can persuade her decision to remove Robbie from her daughter’s life. In analyzing the available solutions, Gloria’s mother cannot limit her daughter’s bond as that growing connection is out of her control to her knowledge and her only foreseeable solution is to remove Robbie from their household. This may have seemed like a drastic decision but from the mother’s viewpoint, it was her only way of micromanaging and controlling her daughter’s life and social development.

After time away from Robbie, Gloria is deeply saddened and cannot seem to find distractions to help her move on from losing her best friend. Gloria’s parents take a trip to the city to tour US Robots and Mechanical Men where an accident is stage by the father which allows Robbie to save Gloria and re-spark their friendship. At this point the mother’s other decision to keep Robbie away is questions and up for re-evaluation.

Gloria’s mother must once again analyze the situation with her daughter’s deepest desire to have Robbie return home with them in comparison to her fear of robots and her daughter’s dependence on them and possible effected social development. At this point, the mother’s fear of robots is slightly negated by the fact that Robbie did in fact save Gloria’s life, for which she can never repay him for and will forever be grateful. Robbie shows obvious benefits to the safety and well-being of her child.

To review the effects of a friendship with a robot, at this point in time as robot popularity is growing, it would seem biased and unsupported that it would have negative effects on a child’s development if monitored correctly. Gloria’s mother needed to asses these concerns and can address them as Gloria continues to mature to ensure she has a clear definition in true friendship and a robot who obeys her every command. This concept also relates to the prominence of technology in everyday life. While technology is continuing to improve and enhance our lives, as shown by the joy in friendship Gloria has with Robbie, it can be managed and is controllable. This fear should not overrun our lives and stop the growth of technology and its advances.

Implications and “What ifs”

As a parent, the safety and well-being of your child is always the highest priority in your decision analysis. There will never be a guarantee that your decision will necessarily be the “correct” one in everyone’s eyes, but the ability to assess the situation, possible scenarios and developmental outcomes and make the most statistically accurate decision is always the most desired goal. In this situation, Gloria’s mother begins to develop a fear of her daughter’s social development when she befriends Robbie. Some questions that may be analyzed by the mother include:

  • Has this friendship gone too far?
  • Is this friendship with a “machine” real?
  • Is it safe for Gloria to develop feelings for a machine?
  • Is she missing out on human-interaction and development?
  • Will my intervention cause tension on my relationship with my daughter?
  • What if I allow Robbie to return home?

It is clear a strong bond has developed between the young girl, Gloria, and her robot, Robbie. From the mother’s perspective, fear on her daughter’s dependence on a machine begins to grow. The lines of a healthy human relationship become blurred. If the friendship continues, will her daughter be able to make more human friends or will this attachment to what can be considered an “unreal” machine effective her social and relationship skills development for the future. If the mother ends their relationship now, will the daughter still be happy and safe without her loyal companion.

These concerns are genuine fears by the mother which are clear in her emotional reactions in calling Robbie “a machine” and “not real”. However, is it acceptable to let her fears run her daughter’s life. If it is to what extent will the mother take control and face these fears and possibly break child rearing norms.

With technology on the rise and specifically in this cultural assessment, one must come to terms to defining a real relationship. Can a human have a real friendship with a robot? Are robots capable of developing feelings? In this situation Gloria has developed true feelings for Robbie when she calls him her best friend. Robbie, on the other hand, is following the three laws of robots and is programmed to follow her every command and protect her safety. Does this define a true friendship? To young Gloria, it does; however, to her mother is does not. Her mother must assess to which degree, she will allow Gloria to believe this is a true friendship. This is another possible outcome of how Gloria’s mother can handle the situation and decide to keep Robbie or not. Is there a specific age or maturation level where Gloria must understand Robbie’s programming. These factors must contribute to the decision making of Gloria’s mother to balance her fear of hindering her daughter’s social development.

Next, as previously discussed, after Gloria’s mother initially sends Robbie away, she is re-introduced to the cultural decision to allow Robbie to return home with the family or keep him away from the family after he saved Gloria’s life and re-ignited their friendship. At this point, all the previous analysis and outcomes are reviewed along with several new ones. Will continuing to force separation between her daughter and her “best friend” cause tension in their mother-daughter relationship? The joy sparked in Gloria’s life once re-united and at ease after being saved by Robbie, tugged on her mother’s decision. It had been extremely hard on the family to move past Robbie’s initial dismissal and Gloria’s life lacked a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment. This desire to keep peace and ensure happiness in her daughter’s life reinforced the decision to allow Robbie to come home.

Finally, when analyzing the decision to allow Robbie to return to Gloria’s life, another managerial perspective can be taken. Gloria’s mother has initially sent Robbie away from the family, if she was to allow Robbie to return, she would be back tracking her initial word and showing confusion, coward-like decisions and lack of authoritativeness. When raising a child or managing a business, knowing your audience and consistently are some of the most important factors in assessing these situations to make the best decisions possible. Is Gloria old enough to fully understand her mother’s reversal in decision. Will this affect her in believing her mother does not stand firm in her choices? Will allowing Robbie to now return home have any negative effects on the authoritative power Gloria’s mother have over her? After consideration, the positive impact Robbie has on Gloria’s life, happiness and well-being outweigh the possible negative effects and Robbie is allowed to continue his friendship with Gloria as the family’s robot.


In summary, there are some cultural issues such as discussed with an example from a science fiction novel, I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. In this situation, the mother of a young girl, Gloria, develops a deep bond and friendship with the family robot, Robbie. Out of fear and uncertainty, Gloria’s mother initially decides to send Robbie away, thinking that it is unhealthy and unrealistic for her daughter to have such a relationship with a robot. However, after setup accident and re-encounter with the strayed robot, Robbie, who resultingly saves Gloria’s life, the mother re-assesses the situation and allows Robbie to return home. These decisions made by the mother were impacted due to social development concerns, fears of the unknown and dis-belief. In this special instance when given a second chance, the mother is able to view her daughter’s growth and development as a whole system and reverses her decision and the bond between Gloria and Robbie is renewed.

07 July 2022
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