The Three Laws of Robotics and Why Isaac Asimov Annoys Me

This is Titan the Robot.  According to Isaac Asimov, Titan

  1. may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
  2. must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law
  3. must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law

He made these laws up and published them in 1942.  My issue with Mr. Asimov comes from every book or comic about Sci Fi that I read in the 1970’s feeling the need to reprint these rules as if they were the ten commandments.

How much fun would movies and TV be with these laws in place?  The Terminator would fail at Rule 1 and need a name change.  If you though T3 and Terminator Salvation were crap, imagine them without violence.  The Cybermen’s plans to crush humanity and conquer the world would also be in violation of these tenants and the invasion would have to be cancelled.  The world of Sci-Fi like many cults/genres/religions has its prophets and Asimov was seen as one for the second half of the twentieth century at least.  Anything that he said carried greater importance than it really needed to and was carried to the masses as a fact.  This might be due to lazy journalism more than Isaac himself.  Why bother writing anything new when you can reprint the last article with some new photos?  In recycling, journalism has always led the world.

The first and third photos show the difference in quality between colour Fuji film and monochrome Ilford.  The bottom one has quite a lot of grain whereas the top is smoother and has a lot better texture around the jaw line.  Despite the lack of colour, the monochrome image is more lifelike.  This is also with the resolution turned down to make it fit on the internet.

3 thoughts on “The Three Laws of Robotics and Why Isaac Asimov Annoys Me

  1. Just like Electro, the robots in his sci fi stories were safe and friendly products of a large corporation Asimov, 1968, 1968a .


  2. Asimov’s three laws aren’t rules that apply to all robots. They aren’t even rules that *should* apply to all robots, as though seeing a robot which didn’t was something geeks would scoff at as a technical mistake. At most Asimov made a prescription for societies, not remotely a rule for entertainers. There is a vast difference between “these simple rules would make coexistence with artificial intelligence feasible” and “any story that uses this trope ( is wrong because robots follow these laws I made up.”

    Terminator is great. Nobody cares that those robots didn’t follow the laws. At most, some people might say that Terminator makes a good argument for the importance of having something like Asimov’s laws to prevent the whole robopocalypse from actually unfolding in real life. Asimov’s collected novels and short stories that all follow his three laws of robotics are a setting that is loved for its consistency and range – he explored the consequences of what happens with any two laws, or slight modifications of the laws, and each makes for both an entertaining story and a consistent moral – “don’t mess with the laws”.



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