Thursday, August 02, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Asimov and the Three Laws of Robotics

Building upon Tuesday's Turing Test topic, today we look at the Three Laws of Robotics, as laid out by the coiner of the very word "robotics", Isaac Asimov.

Back in the days before the Terminator films, there was Asimov and his Three Laws of Robotics.

Ah, those wonderful days of simplicity, where all intelligent robots were expected to follow these standard rules; hardwired into their very circuitry. It formed the consistent logic behind Asimov's multitudinous short stories and novels, and were my introduction into science fiction when I read Caves of Steel way back when I was 13 or so.

The rules, although useful, always seemed to me to be rather ... artificial in themselves. Especially with evidence like Terminator. To my 13-year-old brain, it was difficult to try to square the circle of how R. Daneel Olivaw (from Caves of Steel) and the Terminator could both come from a future of robotics. (I also had trouble in trying to understand how there could be "berserker" robots, courtesy of Fred Saberhagen.) I mean, why didn't terminators and/or berserkers end up killing off humanity and their Asimovian three-rules robots?

... yeah, I was involved in silly omphalskepsis from an early age. However, it turns out that I wasn't the only one (so deeply ingrained was Asimov's use of the rules of robotics), and Asimov's three rules seem to be a basis upon which people have started to think about how to ingrain morality into robots (or at least ingrain human safety into artificial intelligence):

END NOTE: On scientists and their crazy facial hair

Two very influential scientists in my formative years were Isaac Asimov and Charles Darwin (moreso than Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie, etc.), and not for the reasons of the influence and presence that they had in their respective fields, but because of the strange and interesting facial hair, specifically the massive sideburns:

Charles Darwin

Isaac Asimov

I don't know why I found these two men's lambchop sideburn styles to be so captivating, but they always have done so, and it burns me that I can't grow out my own to such luxuriant lengths. Ah, well.

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