The "Official" Laws
_Handbook of Robotics_
56th Edition, 2058 A.D.
The NS robot with a modified First Law . The new law was stated as "No robot may harm a human being".
Susan Calvin first suggested the existence of a Zeroth Law of robotics. "No robot may harm humanity or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm". The First to Third Laws should be amended accordingly.
Elijah Baley claimed, during a murder investigation on Solaria, that the First Law had always been misquoted. He suggested the First Law should be restated as "A robot may do nothing that, to its knowledge, will harm a human being; nor, through inaction, knowingly allow a human being to come to harm".
The Three Laws of Susan Calvin
The planet-organism Gaia,
adapted the first law as a philosophy.
1. Gaia may not harm life or, through inaction, allow life to come to harm.
Asimov attributes the Three Laws to John W. Campbell from a conversation made on December 23, 1940. However, Campbell claims that Asimov had the Laws already in his mind, and they simply needed to be stated explicitly.
The Three Laws were extended by a fourth law, the 'Zeroth Law', so named to continue the pattern of lower-numbered laws superseding higher-numbered laws. It was supposedly invented by R. Daneel Olivaw and R. Giskard Reventlov in Robots and Empire, although it was mentioned earlier in "The Evitable Conflict" by Susan Calvin. In Robots and Empire, Giskard was the first robot to act according to the Zeroth Law, although it proved destructive to his positronic brain, as he violated the First Law. Daneel, over the course of many thousand years, was able to adapt himself to be able to fully obey the Zeroth Law.
0. A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm
A condition stating that the Zeroth Law must not be broken was added to the original Laws.
Otto and Bud in car in alley
[Bud snorting a line: Jesus Christ.]
Bud: Never broke into a car.
Never hot-wired a car. Kid. I never broke into a trunk. I shall not cause harm
to any vehicle nor the personal contents thereof. Nor through inaction let that
vehicle or the personal contents thereof come to harm. That's what I call the
repo code kid. Don't forget it etch it in your brain. Not many people got a
code to live by anymore.
Bud: Hey! Hey look at that. Look at those assholes over there. Ordinary [fucking] people I hate 'em.
Otto: Me too.
Bud: What do you know? See an ordinary person spend his life avoiding tense situations. Repoman spends his life getting into tense situations. [Assholes]! Lets go get a drink.
first mention of the Three Laws in Usenet:
From: David Levine (davidl@orca.UUCP)
Subject: Three Laws needed
Date: 1983-08-17 21:00:18 PST
The following article cropped up in this evening's paper and I thought that, with the recent interest in this net about how SF prophecies are coming true (someone's query about waldos recently, for one thing) it might be of interest. It seems that the time when the Three Laws of Robotics are required is fast approaching... faster, in fact, than the time when we can build machines which are smart enough to obey them! (This raises intriguing questions about ethics and technolgy which I don't feel like going into right now.) The alternatives are to surround the robots with safeguards (which reminds me of the laws requiring automobiles to be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag) or to make them smarter. The additional processor power required to interpret and obey the Three Laws is presently more expensive than mechanical safeguards (e.g. a fence around the robot) and so we won't be seeing moral robots for some time, if ever. A thought to think about: at what point does the phenomenal expense of intelligent robots outweigh the cost in lives and injury incurred by dumb ones? (This, of course, assumes that robots smart enough to distinguish a "human being" from a trash can, never mind avoid harming one, are technically possible.) Given normal business ethics, is there any situation in which the Three Laws would be preferable (i.e. cheaper in the long run) than mechanical safeguards?
The following article appeared in The (Portland) Oregonian, Aug. 11, 1983, p. A18. Reprinted without permission.
ROBOT FIRM LIABLE IN DEATH
By Tim Kiska, Knight-Ridder News Service
DETROIT -- The manufacturer of a one-ton robot that killed a worker at Ford Motor Co.'s Flat Rock casting plant must pay the man's family $10 million, a Wayne County Circuit jury ruled Tuesday. The jury of three men and three women deliberated for 2 1/2 hours before announcing the decision against Unit Handling Systems in a suit by the family of Robert Williams, who was killed Jan. 25, 1979. Unit Handling is a division of Litton Industries. It is believed to be the largest personal injury award in state history. The case was tried before Judge Charles Kaufman. At the time of his death, Williams, 25, of Dearborn Heights, Mich., was one of three men who operated an electronic parts-retrieval system at Ford's Flat Rock plant. The plant has since been closed. The system, made by Unit Handling, was designed to have a robot autoamatically recover parts from a storage area at the plant. On the day of his death, Williams was asked to climb into a storage rack to retreive parts because the robot was malfunctioning at the time and not operating fast enough, according to the Williams family's attorneys.
The robot, meanwhile,
continued to work silently, and a protruding segment of its arm smashed
into Williams' head, killing him instantly. The robot kept operating
while Williams lay dead for about 30 minutes. His body was discovered
by workers who became concerned because he was missing. Attorneys
for the family said the robot should have been equipped with
devices to warn workers that it was operating. "If they didn't
want people up there when the robot was
moving around, they should have installed safety devices," said Joan Lovell, one of the two attorneys representing the family. "Human beings are more important than production." The jury's award went to Williams' widow, Sandra, their three children, ages 8, 6, and 5, his mother, and five sisters. The 6-year-old was celebrating his second birthday on the day of his father's death. "They were an extremely close family," said Lovell. "I've seen a lot of people who have been injured, but this family was particularly devastated by this loss."
-- end of article --
-- David D. Levine