In Isaac Asimov's universe, a robot was a computerized machine that was capable of performing tasks of a kind that were too complex for any living mind other than that of a human, and of a kind that no non-computerized machine would be capable of performing.[1]

While robots as a concept, and primitive robots, already existed before the third World War, the first complex robots, starting with advanced computers, emerged during the 1970s during and after it. By the 1980s, the same period Earth was splitting into Regions, computers played a central role in organizing society. Humans were employed as computer operators, but they left most of the thinking to machines. In the 1990s, a social and technical renaissance flourished on Earth and positronic robots were developed, the type of robot used almost worldwide from that point onwards, governed by Three Laws of Robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence, except where such protection would conflict with the First or Second Laws.

An exception was Multivac, a family of non-positronic computers who survived the renaissance and remained far beyond it, until the last days of the universe.

What would eventually be US Robots and Mechanical Men was founded by Lawrence Robertson in 1982, and eventually became the most important company in the world. In 2002, a psycho-math seminar took place in which Alfred Lanning of the company demonstrated the first mobile robot to be equipped with a voice. Between 2003 and 2007, most of the world governments banned robot use on Earth for purposes other than scientific research. In 2008, Susan Calvin obtained her Ph.D. and joined US robots as the first robopsychologist and chief robopsychologist of the company. She would become the most well-remembered and revered of roboticists, the "patron saint" of them. The first Mentalic robot, RB-34 (also known as Herbie), was created in 2021 through a fault in manufacturing, but shortly after, destroyed by Calvin. Stephen Byerley, the first world co-ordinator from 2044, was possibly the first and only one to be a robot.

By 2052, the Machines, a series of powerful supercomputers, managed the economy of Earth's four geographical Regions. The Machines eventually recognized their own necessity to humanity's continued peace and prosperity, and thus inflicted a small amount of harm on selected individuals in order to protect themselves and continue guiding humanity's future. They kept their intent a secret to avoid anger and resistance by humans. The Machines had generalized the First Law to mean "No machine may harm humanity; or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm." In effect, the Machines had decided that the only way to follow the First Law is to take control of humanity, which was one of the events that the three Laws were supposed to prevent. The Machines eventually decided the way to serve humanity best was to self-destruct, which they did in 2082.

The first "feminine" robot was created in 2063. The first and only former robot to be declared human, and the first humaniform robot, Andrew Martin, lived from 2160 to 2360. While the Spacer worlds, which began being settled in 2065, had many robots, specifically on Solaria, Earthmen generally disliked them and they were absent from the Settler worlds, the second expansion, which began in 4729. In 4672, robots were introduced into the Cities of Earth, allowed for various work purposes. The first designated "roboticide" took place in 4724.

In 4922, a Zeroth Law of Robotics was created by R. Giskard Reventlov and R. Daneel Olivaw:

  • A robot may not injure humanity or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

After the Settlers had defeated the Spacers and become the dominant human civilisation, robots became almost entirely absent from their culture, which spread throughout the Galaxy. One exception was in the Rigel Sector, where the development of robots created a seperate Settler culture that persisted for centuries, till the very perfection of the robots reduced the human initiative to the point where the fleets of the War Lord, Moray, took easy control. A remnant deactivated robot also remained in the Mycogen sector of Trantor, capital of the Galactic Empire which formed, as the Mycogenians were descended from the Spacer Aurorans. R. Daneel Olivaw was also secretly still in function, leading "Giskardian" robots equipped with the Zeroth Law to guide humanity, and he was the one who founded the Empire. There were also some opposing Calvinian robots who remained much more secretive and sparse, although at several points the two factions erupted in the Robotic Civil Wars. Robots generally descended into legend, however, in the Galactic Empire, to the point where by the 12,020s GE they were barely even remembered in myth.

On the Spacer worlds, however, robots remained. Although many of the Spacers slowly died out (the Aurorans and Melpomenians, for example), at least one culture remained, that of Solaria, and the Solarians used robots in their day-to-day lives. There was also a colony of Giskardian robots on Luna, the moon of the now-radioactive Earth, that was founded by Daneel Olivaw.

The Three Laws of Robotics were also adapted by the people of Gaia into the One Law of Gaia:

  1. Gaia may not harm life or, through inaction, allow life to come to harm.

Approximately the year 5,000,000,000, AD, GE or FE, a Universal AC adapted from the ancient times of Earth governed the universe of Galaxia, showing that humans had at least re-adopted non-positronic intelligent computers. By 100,000,000,000, a Comsic AC outside of space and time governed Man.

The universe was ultimately led to it's rebirth by a robot. In 10,000,000,000,000, the universe was dying, and ultimately ceased to exist. Eventually AC, continuing to exist, discovered the answer - that the reversal of entropy was, in fact, possible - but had nobody to report it to, since the universe was already dead. It therefore decided to answer by demonstration. AC said: "LET THERE BE LIGHT!" and reversed entropy and therefore the end of the universe.

  1. Definition from Robot Visions