122 votes
Accepted

What prevents Asimov's robots from locking all humans in padded cells for the humans protection?

The robots in Asimov's works generally don't have the 'mental' sophistication needed to look ahead for abstract harm in the manner you suggest. For them, the 'inaction' clause must mean the robot ...
  • 786
75 votes

Did the robot that saved Spooner's life in I, Robot break the 2nd law of robotics?

The Second Law states A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. So you're saying by refusing to save the girl as ordered ...
  • 6,790
75 votes
Accepted

How does Asimov's second law deal with contradictory orders from different people?

Consider, all Robots stories are short stories or novellas published during a very long time span, so they are not 100% coherent among themselves sometimes, though the overall framework is. As ...
  • 1,551
69 votes

How did Isaac Asimov come up with the 3 laws of robotics?

The Three Laws developed gradually. It started with Robbie, aka Strange Playfellow, Asimov's first robot story, which he wrote in 1939. Asimov thought of robots as “industrial products […] built with ...
  • 9,784
50 votes
Accepted

In Asimov's robot story "Liar!", why does Dr. Calvin show no mercy for Herbie?

Because it is the one time that we see Calvin revealed as a person, as a human being, as a woman. In every other story, she is presented as being absolutely cold and calculating, always right and if ...
  • 22.4k
48 votes

Which Asimov story has malevolent 3-law AI?

Genocide of non-humans In Foundation's Edge it's implied that the robots using time travel shenanigans are the reason why humans never meet any aliens in the milky way, only empty planets ready to be ...
  • 3,683
48 votes
Accepted

Did the robot that saved Spooner's life in I, Robot break the 2nd law of robotics?

The film appears to operate on anachronistic Asimov mechanics What we would have here is likely a first-law vs first-law conflict. Since the robot can not save both humans, one would have to die. I, ...
  • 1,244
47 votes

Which Asimov story has malevolent 3-law AI?

I remember one novel by Isaac Asimov in which it was revealed, toward the end of the book, that one brilliant scientist had been working hard on a plan to use positronic brains to conquer the other ...
  • 25.1k
35 votes

Asimov's robot and the Trolley Problem

As far as a classic "Three Laws" robot is concerned, the answer is very simple indeed. As we see in Liar!, a robot who, either by action or inaction would harm a human simply mentally implodes. The ...
  • 645k
35 votes
Accepted

Asimov's robot and the Trolley Problem

The short story "Liar!" has been referenced as the source for the claim that the robot would be unable to take action, or burn out after doing so. However, this story is mentioned, and in a ...
  • 20.3k
35 votes

How does Asimov's second law deal with contradictory orders from different people?

In some stories, robots distinguish importance of an order based on amount of urgency/importance in the language and on who gave the order. I am thinking of Little Lost Robot as mentioned by ...
  • 447
31 votes
Accepted

Which Asimov story has malevolent 3-law AI?

It's important to note that Asimov's robot stories are all separate stories that he wrote for different reasons, that have different themes. Some stories, such as Runaround, emphasize the fallacy of ...
  • 1,244
29 votes

Which Asimov story has malevolent 3-law AI?

. . . That Thou Art Mindful of Him This story was the setting for trying to resolve the issues with the second law, that being "A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such ...
  • 2,225
29 votes

What prevents Asimov's robots from locking all humans in padded cells for the humans protection?

Since the "merger" of the Robot universe and the Foundation universe reveals that robots manipulated and dominated human history for thousands of years, in a very real sense the galaxy is their padded ...
  • 6,429
28 votes

Which Asimov story has malevolent 3-law AI?

Perhaps not "significant harm to humanity", but the robot in Asimov's short story Liar! causes significant harm to a few humans even though it is trying its best to follow the Three Laws. Because of ...
  • 20.7k
25 votes

How does Asimov's second law deal with contradictory orders from different people?

As far as I can recall, he doesn't. It's important to remember that Asimov was writing the robot stories for Astounding and his readers liked logical puzzles, surprise consequences and clever ...
  • 37.3k
25 votes

How did Isaac Asimov come up with the 3 laws of robotics?

In this issue of Compute! magazine Asimov discusses the Three Laws as something that is "obvious from the start, and that everyone knows subliminally"; he credits himself not so much with ...
  • 1,224
23 votes

How does Asimov's second law deal with contradictory orders from different people?

There was a case in the short story “Runaround” where a robot had two conflicting objectives. In this case, it was because he was built with an extra-strong Third Law, so could not decide between ...
  • 11.8k
21 votes
Accepted

Can a robot be fooled by a human posing as a robot?

This is not quite the case of a robot harming a human through thinking it is a humanoid robot, but it is similar - in Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn the robot is told that the human is an animal. ...
18 votes

Which Asimov story has malevolent 3-law AI?

There are several instances of badly behaving robots throughout Asimov's writings, but I am not aware of a standard, unmodified Asenion robot (programmed with the Three Laws) who could be considered ...
  • 10.8k
17 votes
Accepted

How were later robots able to emotionally harm humans?

You seem to be forgetting something- Herbie wasn't just capable of understanding human emotion, he was capable of reading their minds. Even more importantly, he wasn't programmed for that. Robots ...
15 votes

Did the robot that saved Spooner's life in I, Robot break the 2nd law of robotics?

I am going to look at this question from a logical real-world point of view. The robot does not break the second law; but technically, it does break the second. That said, the rules would only be a ...
  • 1,953
15 votes

How does Asimov's second law deal with contradictory orders from different people?

The answer to this question depends strongly on the level of sophistication of the robot. The robot stories (most of them were short stories, but a number were novel-length) covered an internal time ...
  • 22.4k
13 votes

In Asimov's robot story "Liar!", why does Dr. Calvin show no mercy for Herbie?

Broklynite's answer explains Calvin's motivations for destroying Herbie, but he also mentions that her behavior in that story is out of character. The reason for that is that Liar! is Asimov's very ...
  • 9,784
11 votes
Accepted

Demerzel and the Laws of Robotics

Wikipedia states that Goyer noted in an interview that Demerzel is not bound by the Three Laws. In the 2021 Apple TV adaptation of Foundation, Eto Demerzel is played by Laura Birn. In an interview, ...
  • 204k
10 votes
Accepted

Short story about a man finding out his (ex?)wife is a rebel leader of a robotic society

@TheLethalCarrot's question prompted me to think harder about the source, and I realized that it was probably one of the 'years best scifi' compilations I had sitting on my bookshelf. I poked through ...
  • 191
9 votes

Did the robot that saved Spooner's life in I, Robot break the 2nd law of robotics?

So, the first law as a black-and-white rule doesn't really work without some finagling, because (as mentioned by other answers) of triage. My interpretation of how the movie implements the laws is ...
  • 482
9 votes

What prevents Asimov's robots from locking all humans in padded cells for the humans protection?

My understanding of it was that the typical Three Laws robot interpreted the First Law to mean "Nor, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm right here and now when the robot is within ...
  • 25.1k
9 votes

How does Asimov's second law deal with contradictory orders from different people?

In the extreme, contradictory orders can lead to the permanent shutdown of a robot. This was dealt with in Robots and Empire, where a robot, R. Ernett Second, was under strict orders not to tell ...
  • 9,784
8 votes

Can you tell my robot to kill itself? (Three Laws)

Yes, you can tell your robot, or rather any robot, to destroy itself. The Bicentennial Man was already briefly mentioned by SztupY, but I'd like to expand on his answer, because this story addresses ...
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