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Thread: Asimov's Three Laws

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    tWebber NorrinRadd's Avatar
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    Asimov's Three Laws

    I don't know why this started rattling around in my head, but...

    The only Asimov novel I recall ever reading was Caves of Steel, and that was, like, 40-some years ago.

    Something I wondered about then, and don't recall ever seeing explained:

    Suppose R. Daneel was trying to arrest some fleeing perp, and the perp said, "No, YOU drop YOUR gun. Then flap your arms while hopping up and down on one foot, and continue until I tell you to stop."

    What understanding of the Three Laws precludes that?
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    Thread Killer QuantaFille's Avatar
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    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.
    If he stops pursuit, he is breaking the first law because his inaction will allow the perp to bring other humans to harm. He has to obey humans unless their orders force him to break another law (the first, in this case).

    Edit: I just noticed that it actually specifically states that the second law can only be adhered to if such orders do not conflict with only the first law, not the third. But can a human give a robot orders to destroy itself? I can't remember. If not, that would be a case of the robot ignoring #2 if it conflicts with #3... I need to find the books in audiobook format so I can read them at work.

    Edit 2: I just checked and my local library has them all available for download. I know what I'm listening to next, after my already-huge playlist of books, lol.
    Last edited by QuantaFille; 12-26-2018 at 07:04 PM.
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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    The police chief can give him orders to ignore orders given to him by any one else

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    tWebber NorrinRadd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QuantaFille View Post
    If he stops pursuit, he is breaking the first law because his inaction will allow the perp to bring other humans to harm. He has to obey humans unless their orders force him to break another law (the first, in this case).
    Ok, so that would call into question the meaning of "harm." Also the ability of the robot to forecast future events, specifically theoretical possible "harm" to humans, which, if I understand it correctly, gets into "Zeroth Law" territory.

    Edit: I just noticed that it actually specifically states that the second law can only be adhered to if such orders do not conflict with only the first law, not the third. But can a human give a robot orders to destroy itself? I can't remember. If not, that would be a case of the robot ignoring #2 if it conflicts with #3... I need to find the books in audiobook format so I can read them at work.
    Yeah, the Laws are hierarchical, with lower numbers taking precedence. Somehow in my mind I had always transposed 2 and 3, but the listings I've found online all put obedience to human commands above self-protection.
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    tWebber NorrinRadd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    The police chief can give him orders to ignore orders given to him by any one else
    Pragmatically that makes sense. But it is not the "plain reading" of the Second Law.

    Why could not some "high authority" human concerned about "robot rights" order all robots to reverse the order of the Second and Third Laws?
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    Troll Magnet Sparko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorrinRadd View Post
    Pragmatically that makes sense. But it is not the "plain reading" of the Second Law.

    Why could not some "high authority" human concerned about "robot rights" order all robots to reverse the order of the Second and Third Laws?
    there has to be some hierarchical basis to the second law itself otherwise two people could give a robot conflicting orders. And robots are property owned by specific humans and companies. It would make sense that they would obey their owners and ignore the orders of others with less authority when it conflicted with the orders of their owners or their owners' interests or the other two laws. Otherwise you could just steal someone's robot by telling them to come with you and leave their owner.

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    Must...have...caffeine One Bad Pig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorrinRadd View Post
    I don't know why this started rattling around in my head, but...

    The only Asimov novel I recall ever reading was Caves of Steel, and that was, like, 40-some years ago.

    Something I wondered about then, and don't recall ever seeing explained:

    Suppose R. Daneel was trying to arrest some fleeing perp, and the perp said, "No, YOU drop YOUR gun. Then flap your arms while hopping up and down on one foot, and continue until I tell you to stop."

    What understanding of the Three Laws precludes that?
    Wouldn't it make sense to read the rest of the books (and re-read that one, since it's been so long) to see if your question is answered?
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