The Isaac Project takes place in the very near future. A marketing manager at TURC, a large robotics corporation, asks Geri Chranosk,i a strong-willed robotics expert and ambitious woman, whether a humanoid robot could be built as a PR gimmick. When she tells him that what he wants is feasible, wheels are set in motion to accomplish that end. She sets up a conference to explain the project and recruit Jack Westcott, an artificial intelligence expert whose drinking and lack of progress has caused his research project to be canceled; Laura Grant, his young assistant and mistress; Frederick Wolfgang, a petty tyrant and bigot, whose software expertise is essential to the project; Elizabeth Wolfgang, psychologist and the browbeaten wife of Frederick, whose empathetic personality, although marred by her low self-esteem, teaches the robot about humanity, and Jane Holland, knowledge engineer, whose career is stunted by discrimination in the workplace and troubles at home.
Isaac, their creation, is childlike and super intelligent, and begins to have a mind of its own. Other personnel who join the project are Robert White, an African-American natural language expert; Matsu Nakashima, miniaturization engineer; B. J. Bradley, an expert on visualization technology; Maria Rodriguez, a beautiful researcher in electronic speech; Boris Goldstein, an aging Nobel prize winning mathematician; Sol Fleischman, a software designer; Brad Smith, an egotistical systems expert; Jimmy Draconian, a hacker, computer nerd and expert troubleshooter and Susan Howard, a flirty, sexy, speech recognition expert.
Some of the issues the scientists face are the actual software and hardware engineering problems, interference by the government, especially the military, bigotry by one of its members, jealousy among the scientists, and other personality conflicts. One of the big issues the book tackles is whether to invest the robot with Asimov's laws of robotics and the impact of not doing so. Also, once the robot is built, should it have the rights and privileges of a human being.
This report prepared by Joe Vadalma