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The Three Laws of Robotics; As Told by Asimov Himself

Many Sci-Fi fans and certainly most Isaac Asimov fans are familiar with the Three Laws of Robotics–but how many of us have heard the man himself explain them?

In this archival clip a young Isaac Asimov explains the Three Laws of Robotics–the organizing principle behind his robot-based short stories and novels.

[via Neatorama]

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/1/12

Comments (9)

  1. T$

    That’s how Zoidberg says it. “Robut.”

  2. gunner

    “zoidberg” had a fake “brooklyn jewish” accent, asimov had the real thing. i disagreed with his politics, but enjoyed his stories. he was friendly to his fans, unlike some other writers.

  3. T$

    I’ve actually just starting reading his stuff recently. I’ve read “The End of Eternity” and “The Last Question.” Any suggestions on what I should check out next?

  4. Paul

    “By qualified personnel” — Now that certainly changes the rules a lot.

  5. Dave

    @T$: I would say the Foundation series, if you’ve got a lot of time. I’d also recommend “The Gods Themselves” and “The Bicentennial Man”. But you’ve also got to read some more of the short stories, which were some of his best writing, IMO. Just pick up any of the numerous collections and start reading. If you wish to wander from SciFi a bit, read some of his mysteries, especially the Black Widowers ones.

  6. Nic In UK

    In South Africa the locals refer to Traffic lights as Robots, as in “Make a right turn at the next Robot. I don’t think they are porgammed with Asimov’s rules. Might help if they were.

  7. T$

    @Dave: Thanks for this tips. Much appreciated.

  8. Robert

    When I was 13 years old( 52 years ago) I wrote a letter to Dr Asimov and asked him if her would like to play a game of correspondence chess with me. He actually took the time to respond to me on a file card. He said he was too busy teaching to do that, but thanked me for asking and for being a big fan of his books. I wish I could say I still had that file card with his message and signature but sadly I don’t. I think his actions give you an insight into what kind of a man he was.

  9. Former Nameless King

    I know that many people feel he is a great philanthropist and humanitarian (tee hee, myself included), but I feel compelled to remind you that he was just a man. I mean no insult when I say this, but I did want to point out that fact. Also the three laws are easy-ish to corrupt. Remember V.I.C.K.I. from I, Robot? In the novels, Asimov also added the Zeroth law, you know. I also am including a full transcript of the laws, and a bit of future history, as I have come to see it (never read a single one of his works, but am a great fan anyways).

    Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. (Clarke)

    Sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from technology. (Niven)

    The First Law of Robotics
    A robot may not harm a human or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm.

    The Second Law of Robotics
    A robot must obey orders given it by humans, save where this conflicts with the first law.

    The Third Law of Robotics
    A robot must protect its own existence, save where this conflicts with the first two laws.

    Eventually robots gained the ability of “free” thinking and a group of them created what would come to be known as the Zeroth Law of Robotics. This law took precedence over the other three:

    The Zeroth Law of Robotics
    A robot may not harm humanity or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

    As the world changed the humans and robots spread to other planets, there were many social and political issues, and there were many great wars between man and machine. Machine viewed itself as equal or greater than its creator man, and had to protect both species at all costs. Man viewed robots as abominations that were to be properly lobotomized and sent back to work. Eventually mankind lost the war, and over many millennia, all knowledge of human origins were lost. Robots were now seen as the creator and protector. Humans were taught from the very first day the Three Laws of Humanics:

    The First Law of Humanics
    A human may not harm another human or, through inaction, allow another human being to come to harm.
    The Second Law of Humanics
    A human must obey orders given it by its moral conscience save where this conflicts with the first law.
    The Third Law of Humanics
    A human must protect its own existence save where this conflicts with the first two laws.

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