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I'm trying to think of times when Data broke the 3LR, but I can't think of any outside of the episode of Clues in TNG.

But I also don't remember any mention of the 3LR by Data or Soong.

Is Data able to break 1 or all of the 3LR?

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I'm trying to think what rule he broke in Clues - he was lying, but then he was strongly ordered to lie by a superior officer, with the motivation that lying would save the ship's crew. –  HorusKol Jun 23 '11 at 23:18
Why a vote to close? –  OghmaOsiris Jun 24 '11 at 2:18

4 Answers 4

up vote 30 down vote accepted

Data most certainly does NOT follow the three laws of robotics.

Data is a serving officer in the Federation's military, he gives as well as takes orders. If he were to follow the Second Law of robotics, even enlisted personnel could force him to follow their orders.

Data ignores the Third Law, he could not have acted as he did at the end of Nemesis - there were obvious and superior ways to save Picard without risking his own existence (a full rundown is beyond the scope of this answer).

Lastly, if we assume (and I think we MUST, given the context of the stories involved) that the term 'human' in the laws would be changed to 'sentient being' (or something similar, to include Vulcans, Andorians, Tellerites, Orions, etc) Data could not function in his tasks aboard the ship and still obey the First Law.

The Enterprise is a warship. The crew explicitly says so when they forget everything but their training (forget the episode name, but their personal memories are wiped without removing their skills and personalities, and they're tricked into fighting a war against a much less advanced species). The very purpose of the ship is to explore, seek out new life forms, and be ready to blow the everliving hell out of them if they're a threat.

Constantly in the series, Data serves as helmsman, flying them into battle. His actions DIRECTLY place the crew into harm's way, and he helps bring harm (and death, so much death) unto others.

Data is not, and cannot be, an Asimovian-style positronic robot, or his positronic brain would have burned itself out long ago (possibly before he left the Academy).

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Yes, a warship with a nursery (sigh)... –  John C Jun 24 '11 at 22:13
presumably, Data not taking orders from enlisted personnell COULD be computed to be compatible with the Second Law since doing so would contradict more important orders from superior offers (specifically, that an officer shoulod not take orders from enlisteds) –  DVK Jun 24 '11 at 22:41
= +1 for "explore, seek out new life forms, and be ready to blow the everliving hell out of them" –  DVK Jun 24 '11 at 22:43
Plus, if Sung created Asimovian-style positronic brains it would be hard to figure Lore into the story. –  Xantec Jun 26 '11 at 13:52
@DVK not so. That would only work if the orders from the enlisted men were contradictory to prior orders by officers. If an elisted man were to tell him to fetch a drink when he's not under orders that preclude that option (so orders that preclude doing anything else until complete) he'd have to do so. The 2nd law turns robots into slaves, they can't have free will when it comes to dealing with humans (and thus never be able to countermand orders by any humans). –  jwenting Jul 14 '11 at 7:45

From alt.books.isaac-asimov FAQ, #12, originally sourced from John H. Jenkins post 20 Jul 1994

Asimov tended not to let other people use his specific Laws of Robotics, but his essential insight -- that robots will have in-built ethical systems -- is freely used.

Data does not have the Three Laws, however (witness the episode "The Measure of a Man" in which he refuses to follow a direct order from a superior officer [Second Law] without invoking either danger to a specific human [First Law] or the higher needs of all of humanity [Zeroth Law]). Moreover, his ethical programming is not fundamental to his design (his prototype, Lore, lacks it altogether, and Data's ethical program is turned off for much of "Descent, part II").

Asimov stated that Roddenberry asked for his permission to make Data a positronic robot after the fact. Asimov himself had no input into the character.

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I am programmed with the ability to use deadly force in the cause of defense.

— Data, "The Most Toys"

Later, he was apparently about to kill Fajo, but it may have been a feign.

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I recall he also killed a number of Borg, particularly ones who had been separated from the Collective. In one episode, he "enjoys" killing them. –  Chad Levy Nov 27 '11 at 10:15

In Asimon Foundation robot Daneel become aware of a forth law defined the Zeroth Law:

A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

In Star Trek universe humanity can be intended like intelligent biological being. Or so I presume.

So assuming that Data owns a posithronic brain (as in Asimov stories), he may have the zeroth law.

In this case pursuing a superior purpose, Data can damage (or even kill) a human-like being for preserve a major number.

Maybe only Dr. Noonien Sung can reply this question.

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Good call on the zeroth law! –  Pureferret Jun 14 '12 at 16:21

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