Tag Archives: Three Laws

The first “I, Robot”

ComicBook“It certainly caught my attention. Two months after I read it, I began ‘Robbie’, about a sympathetic robot, and that was the start of my positronic robot series. Eleven years later, when nine of my robot stories were collected into a book, the publisher named the collection I, Robot over my objections. My book is now the more famous, but Otto’s story was there first.”
Isaac Asimov

I must confess that I had never heard of Eando Binder before. When I heard the phrase “I, Robot”, my first thought was of the famous story by Isaac Asimov and his three laws of robotics. One person I asked thought that perhaps I was talking about a new robot to be made by Apple following on from iMac, iPod, iPad and so on. Another mentioned the film starring Will Smith which was based on Asimov’s robot detective stories.

AudioBookIt was not until I noticed a short audio book, available from Audible, entitled I, Robot, that I realised there was a story with that title published much earlier than Asimov’s.

Amazing_Stories_January_1939Eando Binder was not one person, but two brothers by the names of Earl and Otto, “E and O” Binder, who initially wrote science fiction stories together. Their first story about the robot Adam Link, was published in the January 1939 edition of Amazing Stories.

Extract from I, Robot by Otto Binder (1939):
I will begin at the beginning. I was born, or created, five years ago. I am a true robot. Some of you humans still have doubts, it seems. I am made of wires and wheels, not flesh and blood. I am run by electrical power. My brain is made of iridium-sponge.

My first recollection of consciousness was a feeling of being chained. And I was. For three days, I had been seeing and hearing but all in a jumble. Now, I had the urge to rise and peer more closely at the strange moving form that I had seen so many times before me, making sounds.

The moving form was Dr. Charles Link, my creator. Of all the objects within my sight he was the only thing that moved. He and one other object, his dog, Terry. Even though I had not yet learned to associate movement with life, my attention was pinpointed on these two.

AdamLink-bookIt is a very good story, and, unusually for the time, the robot is sympathetically treated and not regarded as some kind of monster. However, Adam, the robot, is wrongly accused of murdering his creator. The collected Adam Link short stories are available from Amazon as a Kindle book.

OuterLimitsOtto Binder’s story was used as the basis for two episodes of The Outer Limits, both titled “I, Robot”. The first from 1964 and the second from 1995. Leonard Nimoy appeared in both versions, but as two different characters.

“To anyone fond of the robot story in science fiction, Adam Link is of extraordinary interest. The robot-with-emotion has rarely been handled so well.”
Isaac Asimov

I, Robot – free audio book

Have you ever read Isaac Asimov’s famous collection of robot stories, cleverly linked together into one book? The stories which eventually made up I, Robot were written between 1940 and 1950, but they are just as fascinating and thought provoking today.

Audible 30-Day Free Trial

At the time of writing this short Blog entry, there is an advert for Audible on the right hand side of this page. If you sign up for a free 30-day trial of the Audible service, you can listen to I, Robot completely free – all eight hours and 25 minutes of it.

One audio book reviewer wrote:

Listening to this audiobook was a true pleasure. The classic sci fi tale of robots and the future of humanity has aged very well and many of the issues it rasies still feel contemporary. The book’s structure is pure genius, taking several previously published short stories (some which feature on going characters and some which don’t) and stiching them together with original work by means of a journalist conducting reseach. The stories are increasingly epic and complex, each one drawing the listener further into the world of the robots. This is also fascinating for any sci fan as it effectively documents the developement of the genre in the last century, from the simplistic and haunting stories of the pulp fiction anthologies (which make up most of the first half of the book) to the politically complex novels that writers like Clark, Dick and of course Asimov went on to write.  On the production side the reader does an excellent job representing the different charatcers, both human and robotic! 

Some thoughts on the future of AI

Artificial Intelligence is coming, no matter what dire warnings Stephen Hawking may give us. He told the BBC, in a recent interview: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

I would not argue with Professor Hawking, he is rather intelligent after all, but he has been known to change his mind. In 2004, Nature, the international weekly journal of science wrote:
Hawking has always stuck resolutely to the idea that once information goes into a black hole, there is no way out. Until now. When news@nature.com asked about his change of heart, Hawking smiled and wrote: “My views have evolved.”

There are so many countries working in the field of Robotics and computing that one day, even accidentally, computing will overtake the human mind. How long will it be before a computer can be programmed to improve its own software? When robots take over the full design, production and assembly of computers, how long will it be before they are able to improve things. Advances in technology will then accelerate at rates far beyond our imagining. Today, a three year old computer seems slow and out of date. In three years time, perhaps it will be a three month old computer that feels old.

In business, there is always the thought that “if we don’t do it first, one of our competitors will, and we will be left behind in the race for sales”. It is this thought that will drive AI until it is the robots who are suggesting the improvements they need . . . and actioning those improvements themselves.

Boy do we need Asimov’s three laws to be working by then!

Stephen Hawking is not alone. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has also expressed his concerns about AI. CNET wrote about Musk on a recent web page headed ‘Elon Musk: “We are summoning the demon” with artificial intelligence’:
In June, Musk raised the specter of the “Terminator” franchise, saying that he invests in companies working on artificial intelligence just to be able to keep an eye on the technology. In August, he reiterated his concerns in a tweet, writing that AI is “potentially more dangerous than nukes.” Just a few weeks ago, Musk half-joked on a different stage that a future AI system tasked with eliminating spam might decide that the best way to accomplish this task is to eliminate humans.

On the opposing side, we have Eric Schmidt of Google (who of course are pouring money into the field of robotics development). According to a report by Wired Business, Eric is telling us not to fear the artificially intelligent future.

Newsweek Tech & Science wrote that…
Google chief executive Eric Schmidt says fears over artificial intelligence and robots replacing humans in jobs are “misguided”. In fact the CEO of one of the world’s most powerful tech companies says AI is likely going to make humanity better.

Nick Bostrom, Professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University, is the author of Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (published July 2014, ISBN 978-0199678112). Jason Dorrier, writing on SingularityHUB under the heading “Can AI save us from AI?”, says that the book might just be “the most debated technology book of the year. Since its release, big names in tech and science, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, have warned of the dangers of artificial intelligence.”

Here are a few of the reviews published on Amazon under their product description for Superintelligence:

Nick Bostrom makes a persuasive case that the future impact of AI is perhaps the most important issue the human race has ever faced. Instead of passively drifting, we need to steer a course. Superintelligence charts the submerged rocks of the future with unprecedented detail. It marks the beginning of a new era (Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science, University of California, Berkley)

Valuable. The implications of introducing a second intelligent species onto Earth are far-reaching enough to deserve hard thinking (The Economist)

There is no doubting the force of [Bostroms] arguments the problem is a research challenge worthy of the next generations best mathematical talent. Human civilisation is at stake (Financial Times)

Worth reading…. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes (Elon Musk, Founder of SpaceX and Tesla)

To finish on a lighter note, this extract from the film Bicentennial Man demonstrates perfectly my own view of how Artificial Intelligence should be . . . I just hope it turns out like this.