I, Enthralled

Posted on April 30, 2010


I’m been really hooked onto Isaac Asimov lately. I’ve never been into science fiction novels much more than the average person, but for some reason Asimov’s Robot short stories really do something to me.

Every time I finish a story, there’s one fact that keeps coming back to me. That with all of our advancements in science and technology, the zero gravity pen, the space telescope, the sybian and the fleshlight, human beings are trying to impress themselves, impress each other. We’re making these things not for the betterment of society as a whole, or for a sense of giving and sharing. We do it for the rise that we get out of telling other people that we were involved in its creation. It’s egotistical, it’s selfish and it’s a perfect example of humanity. It’s a ‘who’s got the bigger dick contest’ whether its politics, war, terrorism, scientific accomplishment, civil liberties, sports, and countless other human activities. With the exception of art, of course. It’s a debate whether art is created for society or for self, but not one that’s relevant at this point.

And I recently found another exception. Asimov’s robots.

This seems like an appropriate time to introduce to you the fundamental Laws of Robotics, according to this fictional world he’s created.

• The First Law of Robotics: A robot may never injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
• The Second Law of Robotics: A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such order would conflict with the First Law.
• The Third Law of Robotics: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

These laws as stated were so universally well accepted that they were entered into real computers thirty years ago at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
When you’ve read them a second or third time, you might realize that Asimov has created a situation where virtually nothing can go wrong with these robots. They exist to serve mankind, even though they are artificially intelligent beings. They’re not going to be like Descartes trying to understand their own existence and justifying it because of their thoughts. They’re built, therefore they are. This fact negates any possibility that they might turn on us like Frankenstein’s monster did. This also leads to my next assumption that they are probably happier than we (human beings) are, were they capable of feeling an emotion like happiness.

Every invention has a purpose, even human beings. Whether we were made by a God or by an evolutionary cycle of events, is irrelevant. As Agent Smith mentioned in the Matrix, a stellar example of my point, it is purpose that drives us, that binds us and defines who we are. Choice, of course exists within the boundaries of that purpose, but very often we’re never able to see choices in front of us. To identify ‘what we are meant to do’. Asimov’s robots are fortunate in that sense. They have a far nobler purpose that cannot be corrupted. To eternally serve mankind, through the fundamental programming of the Three Laws of Robotics. They would give up their own existence, in the event human beings would be in any danger. Their life, as it were is complete, filled with that purpose. I do believe they would be worthy successors to take over this planet once human beings die out. Not out of oppression of course, as much as evolution.

We on the other hand have barely scratched the surface of our own existence. We’re still constantly looking for answers, looking towards organized religion, politics, looking for a reason, a karmic logic about our actions. Maybe it’s time we stopped hunting for something better, and embraced who we are. Embrace our scientific accomplishments, not necessarily in a transhumanist manner, as much as by basic instinct. We’re limited creatures, unlike robots. Our bodies weaken and die out, before we can ever seek our purpose. But maybe that isn’t a problem.
After all, the purpose of all life is to end.

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