3.A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protec- tion does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
In his essay “Dream Replicants of the Cinema,” Georg Seeßlen calls these Three Laws of robotics “a guarantee for goodness in tech- nology.” In I, Robot, Susan Calvin points out that they also somewhat guarantee goodness in humanity, because self-preservation, deference to proper authority, and the sanctity of human life are cornerstones of many ethical systems.The morality of Asimov’s robots echoes that of its human creators, but with the difference that a robot must follow its moral code, whereas a human can choose to do so. Thus the Three Laws paradoxically force a rigid constraint on beings construed to be sufficiently self-determining to make significant decisions.As Seeßlen speculates,the tension of being simultaneously free and enslaved makes artificial beings “melodramatic” from the instant of creation, and is one reason that fictional artificial beings often self-destruct.
Even with the Three Laws in place, I, Robot notes the complexi- ties of interacting with robots.The opening story,“Robbie,” first pub- lished in 1940, presents robots in an appealing light. Robbie is little Gloria’s robot nanny and friend. She adores it, and it acts as if it adores her.Though metallically inhuman in appearance and unable to speak (Robbie is an early model, supposedly built in 1998), it’s the perfect companion: Robbie lets Gloria win a foot race, plays hide and seek with her, and uses sign language to beg her for the nth retelling of “Cinderella.”
Asimov seduces us into warm feelings toward Robbie by heavily anthropomorphizing it and its connection with the little girl. Gloria herself embraces the robot, though it looks inhuman, because it passes a kind of junior-grade emotional Turing test; it is enough for Gloria that Robbie acts loving, kind, and faithful. But then, it must because, as Gloria’s father explains, “He’s a machine . . . made so.That’s more than you can say for humans.”
Gloria’s mother is less accepting. She tells her husband “I won’t have my daughter entrusted to a machine. . . . It has no soul, and no one knows what it may be thinking.” Although the father explains