The Fourth Law of Robotics - Part I

Written by Sam Vaknin

Continued from page 1

Let us assume that by some miraculous wayrepparttar problem is overcome and robots unfailingly identify humans. The next question pertains torepparttar 133584 notion of "injury" (still inrepparttar 133585 First Law). Is it limited only to physical injury (the elimination ofrepparttar 133586 physical continuity of human tissues or ofrepparttar 133587 normal functioning ofrepparttar 133588 human body)?

Should "injury" inrepparttar 133589 First Law encompassrepparttar 133590 no less serious mental, verbal and social injuries (after all, they are all known to have physical side effects which are, at times, no less severe than direct physical "injuries")? Is an insult an "injury"? What about being grossly impolite, or psychologically abusive? Or offending religious sensitivities, being politically incorrect - are these injuries? The bulk of human (and, therefore, inhuman) actions actually offend one human being or another, haverepparttar 133591 potential to do so, or seem to be doing so.

Consider surgery, driving a car, or investing money inrepparttar 133592 stock exchange. These "innocuous" acts may end in a coma, an accident, or ruinous financial losses, respectively. Should a robot refuse to obey human instructions which may result in injury torepparttar 133593 instruction-givers?

Consider a mountain climber – should a robot refuse to hand him his equipment lest he falls off a cliff in an unsuccessful bid to reachrepparttar 133594 peak? Should a robot refuse to obey human commands pertaining torepparttar 133595 crossing of busy roads or to driving (dangerous) sports cars?

Which level of risk should trigger robotic refusal and even prophylactic intervention? At which stage ofrepparttar 133596 interactive man-machine collaboration should it be activated? Should a robot refuse to fetch a ladder or a rope to someone who intends to commit suicide by hanging himself (that's an easy one)?

Should he ignore an instruction to push his master off a cliff (definitely), help him climbrepparttar 133597 cliff (less assuredly so), drive him torepparttar 133598 cliff (maybe so), help him get into his car in order to drive him torepparttar 133599 cliff... Where dorepparttar 133600 responsibility and obeisance bucks stop?

Whateverrepparttar 133601 answer, one thing is clear: such a robot must be equipped with more than a rudimentary sense of judgment, withrepparttar 133602 ability to appraise and analyse complex situations, to predictrepparttar 133603 future and to base his decisions on very fuzzy algorithms (no programmer can foresee all possible circumstances). To me, such a "robot" sounds much more dangerous (and humanoid) than any recursive automaton which does NOT includerepparttar 133604 famous Three Laws.

Moreover, what, exactly, constitutes "inaction"? How can we set apart inaction from failed action or, worse, from an action which failed by design, intentionally? If a human is in danger andrepparttar 133605 robot tries to save him and fails – how could we determine to what extent it exerted itself and did everything it could?

How much ofrepparttar 133606 responsibility for a robot's inaction or partial action or failed action should be imputed torepparttar 133607 manufacturer – and how much torepparttar 133608 robot itself? When a robot decides finally to ignore its own programming – how are we to gain information regarding this momentous event? Outside appearances can hardly be expected to help us distinguish a rebellious robot from a lackadaisical one.

The situation gets much more complicated when we consider states of conflict.

Imagine that a robot is obliged to harm one human in order to prevent him from hurting another. The Laws are absolutely inadequate in this case. The robot should either establish an empirical hierarchy of injuries – or an empirical hierarchy of humans. Should we, as humans, rely on robots or on their manufacturers (however wise, moral and compassionate) to make this selection for us? Should we abide by their judgment which injury isrepparttar 133609 more serious and warrants an intervention?

A summary ofrepparttar 133610 Asimov Laws would give usrepparttar 133611 following "truth table":

A robot must obey human commands except if:

Obeying them is likely to cause injury to a human, or Obeying them will let a human be injured. A robot must protect its own existence with three exceptions:

That such self-protection is injurious to a human; That such self-protection entails inaction inrepparttar 133612 face of potential injury to a human; That such self-protection results in robot insubordination (failing to obey human instructions). Trying to create a truth table based on these conditions isrepparttar 133613 best way to demonstraterepparttar 133614 problematic nature of Asimov's idealized yet highly impractical world.

Here is an exercise:

Imagine a situation (considerrepparttar 133615 example below or one you make up) and then create a truth table based onrepparttar 133616 above five conditions. In such a truth table, "T" would stand for "compliance" and "F" for non-compliance.


A radioactivity monitoring robot malfunctions. If it self-destructs, its human operator might be injured. If it does not, its malfunction will equally seriously injure a patient dependent on his performance.

One ofrepparttar 133617 possible solutions is, of course, to introduce gradations, a probability calculus, or a utility calculus. As they are phrased by Asimov,repparttar 133618 rules and conditions are of a threshold, yes or no, take it or leave it nature. But if robots were to be instructed to maximize overall utility, many borderline cases would be resolved.

Still, evenrepparttar 133619 introduction of heuristics, probability, and utility does not help us resolverepparttar 133620 dilemma inrepparttar 133621 example above. Life is about inventing new rules onrepparttar 133622 fly, as we go, and as we encounter new challenges in a kaleidoscopically metamorphosing world. Robots with rigid instruction sets are ill suited to cope with that.

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, United Press International (UPI) and eBookWeb and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory, Suite101 and

Visit Sam's Web site at

The Solow Paradox

Written by Sam Vaknin

Continued from page 1

The Internet (with a different name) became public property - with access granted torepparttar chosen few.

Radio took precisely this course. Radio transmissions started inrepparttar 133583 USA in 1920. Those were anarchic broadcasts with no discernible regularity. Non commercial organizations and not for profit organizations began their own broadcasts and even created radio broadcasting infrastructure (albeit ofrepparttar 133584 cheap and local kind) dedicated to their audiences. Trade unions, certain educational institutions and religious groups commenced "public radio" broadcasts.

This is followed byrepparttar 133585 Commercial Phase.

Whenrepparttar 133586 users (e.g., listeners inrepparttar 133587 case ofrepparttar 133588 radio, or owners of PCs and modems inrepparttar 133589 example ofrepparttar 133590 Internet) reach a critical mass -repparttar 133591 business sector is alerted. Inrepparttar 133592 name of capitalist ideology (another religion, really) it demands "privatization" ofrepparttar 133593 medium. This harps on very sensitive strings in every Western soul :repparttar 133594 efficient allocation of resources which isrepparttar 133595 result of competition; corruption and inefficiency which are naturally associated withrepparttar 133596 public sector ("Other People’s Money" - OPM);repparttar 133597 ulterior motives of members ofrepparttar 133598 ruling political echelons (the infamous American Paranoia); a lack of variety and of catering torepparttar 133599 tastes and interests of certain audiences;repparttar 133600 equation private enterprise = democracy and more.

The end result isrepparttar 133601 same :repparttar 133602 private sector takes overrepparttar 133603 medium from "below" (makes offers torepparttar 133604 owners or operators ofrepparttar 133605 medium - that they cannot possibly refuse) - or from "above" (successful lobbying inrepparttar 133606 corridors of power leads torepparttar 133607 appropriate legislation andrepparttar 133608 medium is "privatized").

Every privatization - especially that of a medium - provokes public opposition. There are (usually founded) suspicions thatrepparttar 133609 interests ofrepparttar 133610 public were compromised and sacrificed onrepparttar 133611 altar of commercialization and rating. Fears of monopolization and cartelization ofrepparttar 133612 medium are evoked - and justified, in due time. Otherwise, there is fear ofrepparttar 133613 concentration of control ofrepparttar 133614 medium in a few hands. All these things do happen - butrepparttar 133615 pace is so slow thatrepparttar 133616 initial fears are forgotten and public attention reverts to fresher issues.

A new Communications Act was legislated inrepparttar 133617 USA in 1934. It was meant to transform radio frequencies into a national resource to be sold torepparttar 133618 private sector which will use it to transmit radio signals to receivers. In other words :repparttar 133619 radio was passed on to private and commercial hands. Public radio was doomed to be marginalized.

The American administration withdrew from its last major involvement inrepparttar 133620 Internet in April 1995, whenrepparttar 133621 NSF ceased to finance some ofrepparttar 133622 networks and, thus, privatized its hitherto heavy involvement inrepparttar 133623 net.

A new Communications Act was legislated in 1996. It permitted "organized anarchy". It allowed media operators to invade each other’s territories.

Phone companies will be allowed to transmit video and cable companies will be allowed to transmit telephony, for instance. This is all phased over a long period of time - still, it is a revolution whose magnitude is difficult to gauge and whose consequences defy imagination. It carries an equally momentous price tag - official censorship. "Voluntary censorship", to be sure, somewhat toothless standardization and enforcement authorities, to be sure - still, a censorship with its own institutions to boot. The private sector reacted by threatening litigation - but, beneathrepparttar 133624 surface it is caving in to pressure and temptation, constructing its own censorship codes both inrepparttar 133625 cable and inrepparttar 133626 internet media.

The third phase is Institutionalization.

It is characterized by enhanced activities of legislation. Legislators, on all levels, discoverrepparttar 133627 medium and lurch at it passionately. Resources which were considered "free", suddenly are transformed to "national treasures not to be dispensed with cheaply, casually and with frivolity".

It is conceivable that certain parts ofrepparttar 133628 Internet will be "nationalized" (for instance, inrepparttar 133629 form of a licensing requirement) and tendered torepparttar 133630 private sector. Legislation will be enacted which will deal with permitted and disallowed content (obscenity ? incitement ? racial or gender bias ?)

No medium inrepparttar 133631 USA (not to mentionrepparttar 133632 wide world) has eschewed such legislation. There are sure to be demands to allocate time (or space, or software, or content, or hardware, or bandwidth) to "minorities", to "public affairs", to "community business". This is a tax thatrepparttar 133633 business sector will have to pay to fend offrepparttar 133634 eager legislator and his nuisance value.

All this is bound to lead to a monopolization of hosts and servers. The important broadcast channels will diminish in number and be subjected to severe content restrictions. Sites which will not succumb to these requirements - will be deleted or neutralized. Content guidelines (euphemism for censorship) exist, even as we write, in all major content providers (CompuServe, AOL, Prodigy).

The last, determining, phase is The Bloodbath.

This isrepparttar 133635 phase of consolidation. The number of players is severely reduced. The number of browser types will be limited to 2-3 (Netscape, Microsoft and which else ?). Networks will merge to form privately owned mega-networks. Servers will merge to form hyper-servers run on supercomputers. The number of ISPs will be considerably diminished.

50 companies ruledrepparttar 133636 greater part ofrepparttar 133637 media markets inrepparttar 133638 USA in 1983. The number in 1995 was 18. Atrepparttar 133639 end ofrepparttar 133640 century they will number 6.

This isrepparttar 133641 stage when companies - fighting for financial survival - strive to acquire as many users/listeners/viewers as possible. The programming is shallowed torepparttar 133642 lowest (and widest) common denominator. Shallow programming dominates as long asrepparttar 133643 bloodbath proceeds.

In hindsight, 20 years hence, we might come to understand that computers improved our capacity to do things differently and more productively. But one thing is fast becoming clear. The added benefits of IT are highly sensitive to and dependent upon historical, psychosocial and economic parameters outsiderepparttar 133644 perimeter ofrepparttar 133645 technology itself. When it is introduced, how it is introduced, for which purposes is it put to use and even by who it was introduced - largely determinerepparttar 133646 costs of its introduction and, therefore, its feasibility and contribution torepparttar 133647 enhancement of productivity. The CEE countries better take note.

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, United Press International (UPI) and eBookWeb and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory, Suite101 and

Visit Sam's Web site at

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