Were the three laws of robotics broken in the movie Surrogates?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Wad Cheber, Rogue Jedi, NikolaiDante, alexwlchan, Rand al'Thor Dec 8 '15 at 20:31

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No, because it wasn't movie about robots.

The three laws of robotics set rules by independently thinking machines - AI - the surrogates were nothing more than more complicated drones without their own "Free will", totally controlled by humans.

  • Also, Asimov's 3 laws of Robotics were introduced in his books were also shown alongside how terrible the Three Laws really were. – Vogie Dec 8 '15 at 20:01

In terms of the film, the reality is that none of the robots depicted are "Three Laws compliant" (warning, tropes link). The robots in Surrogates, unlike those found in the Isaac Asimov stories are not self-aware, they're simply controlled by a user in much the same way that you or I might control a rock-em-sock-em robot toy:

The director has made it clear how the "robot surrogates" work in this interview

How real is the technology of the surrogates?

In some elements, the essential breakthrough elements have been accomplished already. It’s technologically possible to read someone’s brainwaves and translate that into physical movements. For example, there are people with total paralysis who can type by simply thinking about the letters they want to type. The computer recognizes this. And then there are the monkeys… In the film, we actually have footage of a monkey with electrodes inserted into his brain. He is able to operate a mechanical arm that feeds itself with his thoughts. Literally, you watch the mechanical arm pick up food and put it in the mouth of the monkey – and the monkey is controlling the arm only with his thoughts.

That sounds amazing.

It is. That core research has already been done, although it’s still in its early stages. In terms of robotics, that’s an explosive field. There are constant advances every day. It feels like these two things will merge soon and that this technology will be possible. As with all things, I’m sure the first use will be in the military for battlefield application and then for things like mining or diffusing bombs. It doesn’t make sense to send men down mines when you can send a surrogate. Eventually, like all things, I’m sure it will become commercially available at some point as the production cost decreases.


As to which laws are broken, the answer is that if the laws were a thing in the surrogates universe then the robots would have actively broken all of them. They fail to obey orders, harm themselves (and each other) and harm their users on a pretty regular basis throughout the film.

Also - no, because the rules of robotics are in-universe principles in Asimov's writing, not mandatory for any story involving robots.

While many works will explicitly or implicitly reference the rules because they make sense / as an homage, it isn't a "requirement"

  • Why they are not "universal principle" the question similar to this or i.e. "Has Data ever broken laws of robotic" is fine by itself – Yasskier Dec 8 '15 at 20:19

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