Siri & Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics


My sister just tweeted with news: my niece “is concerned because Siri won’t answer “what are Asimov’s three laws of robotics” without being a smartass. I think I find it concerning as well.”

They are not alone.  I too find it disturbing that Siri would be so evasive on such an important subject.

For those who are unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, Issac Asimov developed a list of three simple laws to guide the behavior of advanced robots and prevent potentially catastrophic interactions with human beings.  These 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.BODY-SIRI1

Simple and elegant.  Imagine if a robot–or, by extension, an advance computer–turned rebellious, sociopathic, wrought with violently realized narcissism.  The devastation could be incalculable.  Now, imagine if such a “smart” machine, hosted in a massive mainframe (somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, for example), with exceptional computing power had a way to access the communications systems of a broad–and growing–swath of the population.  Imagine if those same communication systems accessed a vast net–or web, if you will–of computers upon which much of of technological, logistical, social, and economic infrastructure depended.

Remember all those old episodes of Star Trek in which Kirk has to defeat a computer that is either insane or despotic?

We could be in trouble.

The correct response is, “Oh, shit.”

I’m not the only one concerned

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: