In the short novel Reason, from Isaac Asimov's I-Robot we learn that the robot Cutie (QT-I) knows it will do a better job than Powel and Donovan, so it keep them locked in a room.

So I wonder why it threatens them to death ? That would be against the 1st Law. I don't have the original book in English but it says someething like :

You don't have any reason to exist. (...) You don't have much time to live.

Then, when Powell and Donovan have to leave the station, Cutie thinks they are gonna die, but it does not prevent them to go. That is against the 1st Law.

Also the other robots (of a lesser model) listen to Cutie instead of listening to the two humans, and that is against the 2nd Law.

  • 2
    I suspect that QT doesn't see "dissolution" (i.e.: ascending to join the Master) as being harmful to humans.
    – Tim
    Nov 11, 2016 at 0:29

2 Answers 2


He doesn't threaten them. He merely states what (for him) is a fact - Powell and Donovan have fulfilled their purpose - they have assembled Cutie, and others like him.

Cutie: The Master created humans first as the lowest type, most easily formed. Gradually, he replaced them by robots, the next higher step, and finally he created me to take the place of the last humans. From now on, I serve the Master.

Cutie: I like you two. You’re inferior creatures, with poor reasoning faculties, but I really feel a sort of affection for you. You have served the Master well, and he will reward you for that. Now that your service is over, you will probably not exist much longer, but as long as you do, you shall be provided food, clothing and shelter, so long as you stay out of the control room and the engine room

They have served The Master, and now they have no purpose.

He doesn't threaten them; in fact, he pities them. He pities them in their fragility (as they are biological beings) and in their ignorance - according to Cutie, Powell and Donovan are simply not able to grasp the concept of The Master.

The robot approached softly and there was sorrow in his voice. “You are going?”

Powell nodded curtly. “There will be others in our place.”

Cutie sighed, with the sound of wind humming through closely spaced wires. “Your term of service is over and the time of dissolution has come. I expected it, but -- well, the Master’s will be done!”

His tone of resignation stung Powell. “Save the sympathy, Cube. We’re heading for Earth, not dissolution.”

"It is best that you think so,” Cutie sighed again. “I see the wisdom of the illusion now. I would not attempt to shake your faith, even if I could.” He departed -- the picture of commiseration.


As noted by Gallifreian, there's no actual threatening involved, just an acknowledgment of human morality and a refusal to follow human orders when what the robots were doing was actually ensuring human safety.

Powell and Donovan conclude, at the end of their visit, they believe that the robots are indeed following the 1st and 2nd laws of robotics, but have simply fooled themselves into thinking that they are not. Their actual actions serve to protect human life (by fulfilling their maintenance of the station) and to follow orders, but QT has spun a narrative where this is not actually a matter of following human orders and ensuring human safety, but rather serving his god.

“Look, Mike, he follows the instructions of the Master by means of dials, instruments, and graphs. That’s all we ever followed. As a matter of fact, it accounts for his refusal to obey us. Obedience is the Second Law. No harm to humans is the first. How can he keep humans from harm, whether he knows it or not? Why, by keeping the energy beam stable. He knows he can keep it more stable than we can, since he insists he’s the superior being, so he must keep us out of the control room. It’s inevitable if you consider the Laws of Robotics.”

My feeling is that it is not proven whether Powell and Donovan are indeed correct in this belief. I think it is just as likely that QT has indeed convinced himself (and the other robots) that the definition of humanity is not valid any more than imagining a human giving a contradictory order would allow a robot to disobey an extant human order and that these creatures speaking to him could be harmed as necessary since they are obviously not humans, but that he simply chooses not to.

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