The Origin of the Three Laws
In the early 1940’s well before the invention of modern robotics Isaac Asimov had a goal to sell several short stories to a science fiction magazine and needed a central idea to tie them all together. Remember, this is not our modern times, and most of what we consider science fact could only have been concieved of as science fiction back then. Modern computing was still a fantasy, and even penicillin as an antibiotic had just barely been discovered. Finding a unifying theme that he could weave into his stories was both a challenge for himself as a writer and a way to guarantee several stories being published. At this time Asimov was already a respected Chemistry Professor but since the age of 11 he had been writing science fiction stories. When asked why he began writing so young he attributed it to being a voracious reader who’s family could not afford to buy very many books.
The literary concept that he came up with was able to fill nine short stories for magazine publication and also several books from the Robot Series and we know it today as the three laws of robotics.
The Three Laws
as quoted from the Handbook of Robotics, 56th Edition, 2058 AD are
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
It is important to point out that later Asimov added a fourth law commonly known as the 0th law because it is meant to precede the others which states: A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
Listen to the rest of the podcast to learn more about:
Problems with the Three Laws as written by Isaac Asimov
Problems with the Three Laws as discussed by AI Researchers
Problems with the Three Laws from the viewpoint of the US Military
Problems with the Three Laws according to Me the host!
and Isaac Asimov’s final decision about whether the Three Laws should be implemented in real life Artificial Intelligence
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