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Second Foundationby Isaac Asimov
Reading Group Guide
1. Do Asimovs now-famous Three Laws of Robotics mirror humanitys ethics code in any way? Whose orders are human beings required to obey? Do our definitions of “harm” ever lead to the same confounding dilemmas experienced in I, Robot?
2. Why was Glorias mother unable to accept Robbie as an excellent nursemaid? Was Robbie premonitory on Asimovs part—a prediction that children in the twenty-first century might form intense emotional attachments to electronics?
3. Cutie (QT) questions his origins and finds it impossible to believe that a human created him. In what ways did Powell and Donovan reinforce this belief?
4. Does the case of Stephen Byerley indicate that robots might make better politicians? Would this only hold true if, as the novel envisions, nations dissolve into massive world regions?
5. What is the ultimate commodity produced by U.S. Robot & Mechanical Men, Inc.? Does our global workforce follow this model in any way? Were humor and compassion inevitable traits in the robots? Do these traits interfere with productivity in the world of I, Robot?
6. In the books closing lines, Dr. Susan Calvin tells the narrator, “You will see what comes next,” as robots stand between mankind and destruction. How did her career lead up to such a precarious conclusion?
7. I, Robot has been turned into a major motion picture starring Will Smith. How does the movie compare with your book-reading experience? What do you think of the adjustments made and liberties taken when converting this collection of stories to one seamless film adaptation?
8. Foundation opens with the perspective of Gaal Dornick, “a country boy who had never seen Trantor before.” What is the effect of opening the novel with Gaals observations? Why did Hari Seldon extend such an invitation to Gaal?
9. In the trial portrayed in chapter 6, the Commissions Advocate repeatedly rejects Haris deductions regarding the future. What has made Hari a target for exile? Why are his projections—supported by seemingly irrefutable logic and mathematics—so easily dismissed by his accusers?
10. Part 3 of Foundation begins with an entry from the Encyclopedia Galactica that reads, “Undoubtedly the most interesting aspect of the history of the four Kingdoms involves the strange society forced temporarily upon it during the administration of Salvor Hardin.” In what ways does Hardin distinguish himself from the other rulers described in the novel? What conditions fostered his rise to power?
11. The Foundation is intended in some ways as a kind of religious center. What are its doctrines? Can a religion of science fail?
12. Discuss the novels references to energy—in this case, nuclear power—in relation to political and economic supremacy. What other forces drive the novels hierarchies of dominance? How does the role of the Traders evolve in the novels closing chapters?
13. What were the root causes of the Foundations fall? Could its demise have been avoided, even after war had begun?
14. As Lord of the Universe, is Cleon II naïve or perceptive? In what ways do his sensibilities affect his fate?
15. What, ultimately, is the source of the Mules power to perform Conversions in Foundation and Empire? What role did psychology play in his own origins?
16. Do the Independent Trading Worlds accurately perceive their vulnerabilities? In contrast, what perpetuated Neotrantors survival?
17. Baytas final conversation with the Mule explains his moniker as well as his perceptions of how power is perpetuated. What does this dialogue indicate about gender roles in the realm of the Second Foundation, and about the possibility of democracy?
18. Discuss the spectrum of characters affected by the Mule in Second Foundations five opening interludes. In what ways do the Mules tactics vary?
19. In what ways does Bail Channiss personality reflect a cultural shift from the previous Foundation novels?
20. Near the beginning of the fifteenth chapter, Arcadia is described as “dressed in borrowed clothes, standing on a borrowed planet in a borrowed situation of what seemed even to be a borrowed life.” In what ways is she both an unlikely and an ideal savior?
21. Scholarship such as the Encyclopedia project represented Haris belief in the power of learning (and even the power of the mind itself, in the form of neural microcurrents). To what extent is a civilizations success measured by the survival of its knowledge?
22. The final chapter of Second Foundation offers a thoughtful coda to the novel. What is the “true” question to that chapters “answer that was true?”
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