I was thinking about Asimov's 3 robot laws the other day and I feel like there needs to be a simple yet powerful list like this for humanity that if everyone followed would lead to the most ideal system possible.  I think it would have to be super simple, and easy to understand, yet hold people to high standards.  Like you don't have to outline every thing we can't do, just say not to do anything that will harm any other person, for example.


What would everyone's lists of laws or sayings be?  What are the most basic laws humanity should follow?


btw for those who don't know, the three robot laws are:


  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 to 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.


The robots are programmed so that it is impossible to break these three laws.


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If you have read many of Asimov's books & stories you'd realize that these laws were such a great idea. They did cause quite a few problems.

In the short story Runaround, the balance between 2nd & 3rd laws was changed & it resulted in a race condition which led to the robot going around in circles & not listening to any orders.

In Little Lost Robot, some of the robots have been adjusted to just no robot may injure a human being, so that they can perform their tasks & not kill themselves in the process. One such robot irritates his human handler & is told to "get lost" & he complies. Leading to all kinds of hell being raised to find him. In the end, because the order to get lost was said in anger & was forceful, to comply he tried to kill the human who finds him, in essence breaking the 1st law.

In Liar!, a robot becomes a mind reader & so starts lying to humans, to spare their feelings & make them feel better(1st law - A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.) This leads to him scorning Dr Susan Calvin who find out he lied about a guy she fancied also liking her. She then proceeds to fry the robots brain.

in Escape! a positronic computer malfunction because in designing a hyperspace jump engine, it would design a machine that would kill the humans in it for an instant.

Now, the Zeroth Law of Robotics, which the robots make themselves, which is just like the 1st law, except it applies to all humanity, so harming a few individuals so that humanity is unharmed is allowed. It states -

A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

It appears in the short story The Evitable Conflict, the book Robots of Dawn & is the whole mystery & driving force behind the events of the entire Foundation series, revealed in Foundation & Earth.

What all these stories & common logic suggests is that with the 3 laws, there are many tasks that robots would have trouble performing & messing with the 3 laws would lead to unexpected results.

So I think instead of 3 rigid laws, any laws need to be more flexible, more subjective.

Yes, the main point of these stories is when the laws go wrong, but I understand this to stem from the fact that the robots can only interpret the laws as a computer and there are limitations to their ability to make the correct choice in more complex situations, (correct me if i'm wrong, the closest to reading these books i've come is seeing the movie, though i plan on reading these at some point) but I'm thinking that humans could potentially learn to understand a few basic phrases or laws.  


You say the laws are too rigid, and for robots they are because they are programmed to follow only those laws, while if a human were given a similar set of laws, wouldn't they be able to interpret each situation differently, and understand the limitations and exceptions to the rule?....At the same time this presents our greatest problem; that different people will see different things as exceptions, and everything could fall apart, and the laws would have no effect or a negative effect on current systems. This, however, is where you get to education, knowledge, culture, etc.  Each place is going to interpret the laws differently, and hold their citizens accountable for these interpretations.  It could also be a cause for war if one nation thinks another is misinterpreting the laws.


 Most of the more developed nations today would probably work and follow this type of set of laws, but there are plenty of nations whose government, culture, and religions would contradict such a set of laws.  These types of laws could also help guide the developed nations in a direction focused more on the well-being of the citizens, and away from the economically driven structures they mostly have.  And this seems to be what people are fighting for with the whole occupy movement. 


So, thinking about it in this way, where the laws would be general statements, seemingly rigid, yet very open to interpretation etc, what are some basic phrases or set of phrases that could be used as umbrella laws that could connect all humanity, despite their more individual national laws?


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