Short Story #55: Reason by Isaac Asimov

Title:  Reason 

Author:  Isaac Asimov


Damon Knight - A Century of Science Fiction
Two men put together a new type of robot to take over administration of the spaceship they are on because it's a tedious job being stranded for long stretches on the ship just to be in the right position to protect Earth from harmful rays.  When they assemble the QT1, the robot perceives itself as a higher being than the two humans and stops listening to them, believing that the control center of the ship is the true "master."  Despite the arguments that Powell and Donovan make, the robot finds them highly irrational.  Eventually, QT (or Cutie) takes command of the other robots and takes control of the engine room, prohibiting the two men from anywhere near them.  They are isolated while QT and the others worship the control center.  Despite Donovan and Peterson's worries about QT being able to run the ship, his methods worshiping actually fall in line with the tasks the ship has to perform in order to protect Earth.  As their turn on the ship comes to an end, they realize that although QT seems absolutely crazy on their end, he is doing what he was designed to do.  


This is one of Asimov's great stories.  It has it funny moments yet at the center of it is of course, a deep philosophical question about what it means to be alive, how we make sense of our own existence, and how we use (often faulty) logic to get there.  But the balance between the story and the ideas is well-balanced.  You're never overburdened with the deep philosophy but it is there.  This is probably one of those short stories that you could use to have deep conversations about bigger things and I may have to use it in the future for my course.

Short Story #55 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  2/22/2014
Source:  A Century of Science Fiction, edited by Damon Knight.  The story can be found at this link (PDF).  There is a radio version of it as well that is assembled on this YouTube playlist.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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