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Giskard is Not Sexy!

by david    March 25, 2002

My laptop (a Mac Powerbook G3 400 "Pismo," in case you care) is named "Giskard." That is, the name I've given the root level directory on my harddrive is "Giskard."

For those of you not "in the know," "Giskard" is the name of a robot who played prominently in Isaac Asimov's Robot novels, and eventually in his Foundation series as well. A common humanoid serving robot, Giskard was accidentally imbued with the ability to read human minds, which allowed/forced him to sacrifice himself in order to save humanity, but not before passing this ability onto his companion, a robot named R. Daneel Olivaw. He is a pure and true hero, selfless in every way, both by way of his programming, and his free will to expand upon those directives. I sincerely hope that, someday, when my beloved Powerbook finally becomes sentient, it will choose to emulate it's namesake and act for the good of all humanity. What better role model could ever be chosen for a computer? Cartainly not "HAL" which, while a common choice for computer "names," could only be a destructive role model for a newly-aware PC, despite the fact that he turned out (in 2010) to be not malicious but, rather, just confused.

But, I digress. My computer's name is Giskard. This past week, I scanned several paintings of Giskard from a beautiful Michael Whelan coffee table book I own, to use as background screens (the pictures are from the Naked Sun, Robots of Dawn, Foundation and Earth, and The Second Foundation). Pleased with my beautiful new background screens, I showed them to my wife, who is most often relatively tolerant of my geekhood.

When I got to the picture from the cover of Robots of Dawn, the look of boredom on her face was suddenly replaced with a look of horror.

"What the hell is that?" she cried.

I looked at the picture again. Whelan's work on this cover is probably my favorite of his paintings -- Giskard stands on a small hill, looking up at the sun with his "eyes" shielded, his posture mimicking that of the scattered trees behind him (whose verticle lines mirror those of the towers Whelan used to signify the Galactic Empire in his Foundation covers, which take place millions of years later, by Asimov's timelines). I was once again struck by the composition and subject, combined with the beautiful golds and reds that make up this painting, which make this painting truly spectacular.

"What?" I asked.

"Why do you have a sexy picture of a robot?!"

I looked at the picture again, in surprise. "What're you talking about?"

Shannon snatched the laptop from my hands. "Look -- his hips are swayed to the side, his arms are up over his head -- he's practically sticking his boobs out." She thrust the Powerbook back into my hands. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

"It's not sexy!" I cried. "It's a robot! It has no gender. Or sex organs. Besides -- it's not sexy -- he's looking up at the sun!"

Shannon threw her arms over her head, mimicking Giskard's pose. "Look -- sexy."

"Well, of course it's sexy when you do it! You're hot."

"Oh, no!" An all-too-familiar mocking tone crept into her voice, "I hope Giskard doesn't get jealous!" She struck the pose again, and began to chase me through the house. "Touch my robot boobs! You know you want to! I'm a noble robot!"

Eventually, I collapsed in a heap, sobbing. After kicking me in the ribs several times, she snorted and walked away. I curled into a ball on the emerald-green carpet of our guest room and cried silently to myself. "Why must she pervert everything good and pure? Why must she inject sex into the noble story of a robot that saves mankind?" My fists clenched and unclenched in rage and frustration, green carpet fibers catching under my fingernails. "What could possibly be wrong with mutual respect and, yes, perhaps even love between a man and a robot?! Or, say, a Powerbook?"

"Nothing," I reassured myself. "Nothing at all."

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