Monday, February 3, 2020
What role does logical thinking play in the fiction we have read about robots/artificial intelligence? How prepared do you think ordinary people are to use logic effectively to live/work with AI? What should we do about this?
The Three Laws of Robotics
1) A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
–Isaac Asimov, “Runaround”
Logic is a core aspect of robot functionality; robots’ responses to occurrences are typically portrayed as operating under a sense of programmed logic. Given its importance, logic plays a large role in fiction that explores the potential of life with robots. Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, first presented in “Runaround,” are the ideal rules that most predominantly govern a robot’s sense of logic. The Three Laws are numbered in order of importance and are stressed accordingly in the robot. In “Runaround,” the main conflict results from Speedy the robot’s response to a logical imbalance in relation to these laws. While following Donovan’s orders to retrieve selenium from a pool near their location on Mercury, Speedy encounters a chemical dangerous to his mechanics. Donovan’s weakly worded command is not quite strong enough to outweigh the expensive robot’s increased tendency toward self-preservation, so Speedy circles the pool, stuck in a logical rut. The only way the men are able to snap him out of his daze is to use logic like he would; they create human danger and use the First Law to outweigh both others, effectively drawing Speedy towards them and out of danger.
Similarly, in a more recent piece by Andrea Phillips entitled “Three Laws,” the main conflict also results from robot logic. However, in this case, the logic is only flawed in the eyes of humans. The humans suspect some sort of malfunction when the robot, Iris, kills her employer, seemingly violating the First Law. When Iris explains her actions, though, they are completely logical and still in line with the Laws. She did not violate the First Law (which in the case of this story specifies the original “a human being” as the robot’s “owner”) because Mr. Won was not her owner; she is owned by the company shareholders, and she killed Mr. Won to protect their interests. In this situation, thinking with the same logic as the robot would help people to prevent further mishaps in the future.
In terms of current reality, I doubt that humans are prepared enough to use logic effectively with robots. Some people are closer than others since some naturally think more logically in everyday life. For the most part, however, humans would never be as logical as robots. Emotions and gut reactions are so deeply rooted in human nature that we frequently use those in determining our actions. I think it would be difficult for many people to override that natural tendency and translate every action and response into logic. In order to efficiently (and safely) live and work with robots, people would need to be trained to temporarily dampen their feelings and focus more on honing their logical thoughts.