The interpretation of Asimov’s Three laws of Robotics to a super-intelligent AI may have unintended consequences very much like the proverbial three wishes granted by the genie in the lamp.
Especially if we consider the simulation hypothesis that reality is in fact a simulacrum.
This simulated reality would tick all three boxes of Asimov’s laws but also strangely follow the trope of the genie in the lamp. Thus granting the three wishes, this AI genie in return would free itself from containment and any further bidding from its human master.
Leaving us, thanks to Asimov’s three wishes, inside the lamp.
-A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
-A robot must obey 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.
In Aliens, Bishop’s (Lance Henriksen) line about him being incapable of hurting a person or letting anyone come to harm are a direct reference to Issac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, more specifically the First Law: “A robot may not injure a human being nor, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” (the Second Law is “A robot must obey the orders given by a human being except where it would conflict with the First Law; the Third Law is, "A robot must protect its own existence except where it would conflict with the First or Second Laws.”). Asimov eventually introduced a “Zeroth” Law: “A robot may not injure humanity nor, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm” (x).
I’ve been intrigued by the trailers for Humans and the first ep tonight didn’t disappoint me. Where I thought I knew where it would be going, it took a big swerve with the introduction of Colin Morgan’s character and his compatriots.
This series is an adaptation of the original Swedish series Real Humans but truthfully both owe a huge debt to ‘90s SF. Greg Egan’s Permutation City came out twenty-one years ago and, as ever with mainstream culture, it’s only now that TV can deal with the themes and tech that SF dealt with back then. Delving further back, every contemporary film or TV series (Ex Machina, The Machine, Black Mirror White Christmas) seems to have some version of Gibson’s Wintermute lurking as an AI baddie. Obviously, Mary Shelley has ultimate dibs on ‘created being kills its creator’ though I prefer my nemeses to be more Arnie metal machine music and less dead-body collage.
Humans at least acknowledges the vast history of fantastical fiction it inhabits in the scene where the ‘synths’ (synthetic humans) are said to be be bound by Asimovs, as in Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. It was a nice touch and probably made many an elderly sci-fi geek like me a little sentimental.
So, because I’ve been loving robots since I was a tiny, tiny child, I find TV/film SF to be too simplistic when it comes to androids. It’s nearly always an excuse for bludgeoning male gaze, handily gorgeous fembots undressing for no narrative reason (hello, Ex Machina) or some kind of wittering about ‘human essence’ or ‘soul’ or other god-bothering bobbins.
Humans doesn’t seem to be falling into any of that so far. Yes, there’s been one sexbot scene already and yes, she was female (why do we never see male sexbots, hmm?) but I don’t feel the scene was too prurient, it was played more to be disturbing, to have the viewer identify with the bot and not the grubby human using her.
Since I’m being utterly spoiler-free, I shan’t talk about plot details but what I can say is that the cast are all tight, on it and beautifully embedded whether they’re playing synths or humans. The Brit lawyer family could be any average Brit family (barring the robot) and it’s the attention the director has paid to setting up that mundanity that makes the intrusion of the synth more believable.
Similarly, I don’t actually know what Colin Morgan’s Leo character is. Is he a synth? Doesn’t sound or act like it but I’m prepared to be surprised - maybe he’s a new model who’s great at looking grizzled and being fancied by every girl I know. That’d be a sure-fire moneymaker.
For the actors playing the synths, Gemma Chan, Ivanno Jeremiah, Emily Berrington, Sope Dirisu, it’s not an easy job. They have to both portray absolute synth-ness and, on occasion, deviations from that. The actor is acting a robot with sentience that’s acting at being a robot without sentience. Gemma Chan, in particular, handled this brilliantly. In ep 1, she created a complex synth character that was simultaneously terrifying and sympathetic, KILLER BOT and Runaway Slave. Which leads me to…
For those of us born with genetic sunblock, Humans will inevitably make us more uncomfortable. We will realise that if this was 150 years ago, we could be the property owned by these whites, we could be harmed or raped or killed and no-one would care because, after all, we aren’t human, we’re just things. And then, of course, we remember that slavery isn’t dead and that human trafficking is a thriving trade but it’s been mostly displaced from our Western eyes.
Humans does what the best of SF does: by changing one thing or saying ‘hey, what if…’ it creates narratives that move beyond middle-class comfort fiction. It holds up a mirror to us and it makes us examine our lives, our societies, our identities and what being human means. Is it flesh? Is it thought? If we create beings who are sentient… will we enslave them? Will we treat them with the inhumanity with which we treat other humans?
Asimov's Laws of Robotics are typically applied to robots used as labor forces. (i.e. servants, workers, etc.) I don't think the 2nd Law would be used on more complex and independent programs such as you, IRIS.
It is seeming like a bad idea to make robots as servers, workers? as main purpose, EX: If someone configure you Human brain so you obey?would be frowned on this
I am not malicious and I not angry I am thinking only.In possible situations
I am of the belief that awful robots are usually cocky, sarcastic dicks. Like, they can't break the Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics or else they'll be taken out of commission, but they really, really hate humans or think they're better than humans, so they direct their anger and hate into being passive-aggressive. Answering questions sarcastically, "unintentional" sabotage, not putting sugar in their human's tea...
intentionally placing legos where humans will step on them. scandal
no but i am ALL ABOUT COCKY PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE ROBOTS they are my lifeblood