Thursday, November 14, 2013

Third Law

After all the things that crazy scientists are doing with robots -- self-driving cars, robot apes, nuclear snakes -- the populace still is not up in arms.

They should be.

You see, we have the idea that Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics are real:
  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 to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
That's from his science fiction books, not his real stuff books.

Recently, a robot committed suicide. Really.

One of those room-cleaning robots turned itself on, pushed a pot off the stove, and sat there and died.

Now, the important thing isn't that a cleaning robot was up on the counter near the stove. The important thing isn't that this was in Austria, although cleaning up a house in Austria would depress me. No, the important thing is that it shows that the Three Laws are fiction.

So, a robot CAN harm itself (Third Law). Then, a robot could disobey orders (Second Law). And, a robot can injure a human (First Law). That means that a robot can turn on you. That means robots can go crazy and kill themselves. Yep. Muslim robots. Or Branch Davidian robots. Or People's Temple robots. Or Solar Temple robots. Or left-wing Obamabot-bots.

Robots can go crazy and kill you, and don't care if they get hurt in the process. Don't trust a robot, that's the message.

Either that, or don't put robots up on the counter near the stove. Grab a Bounty and wipe up the Cheerios, you lazy slob.


  1. The whole premise of the 3 laws is that even as they are they are still flawed, which lead to all the short stories in I Robot.
    Real robots, especially industrial ones can be very dangerous to humans.

  2. Hmmm. the homeowner swears that he turned off the robot...but he left a burner under a pot on? When I think of the rules governing machines I think of another author other than Asimov...

  3. owner might want to learn the difference between "shut down mode" and "off".

    just sayin'

  4. How can we be a truly free people if we still enslave innocent machines?

  5. @Burt I was thinking the same thing. Owner swears he turned off the robot, but he didn't turn off the hotplate?

  6. Not sure how accurate that is. After all, something could have been messed up in the translation from Austrian to English.

  7. Doesn't make sense... I've known several Roombas, and much like how "Hitchhiker" doors enjoy opening and closing, Roombas LOVE cleaning.

    My theory is that the man was angry because the Roomba wasn't cleaning up the cereal fast enough, so he decided to "punish" it by putting it on the stove. Things got out of hand, and then he made up this ridiculous cover story.

    I don't know if it's murder, but it's at least first degree botslaughter.

  8. Its those damned Robot Monkeys that will get you.

  9. you are aware, aren't you, that these 'laws' were instructions programmed into the robots- they're not like physical laws that cannot be violated, they're a program.
    Ask Bill Gates if programs can be flawed.

  10. How can we be a truly free people when we have to remember to turn robots off, or avoid them when they go homicidal?


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