Three Kinds of Robot in the World
I was introduced to science fiction early in life. Early enough that it’s possible I thought the first moon shot was just another TV show when first I saw it. Amusing as that may be, it meant that my first exposure to robots/cyborgs was as bad guys. During that era, robots embodied humanity’s fears of burgeoning technology and change. Atom bombs weren’t new anymore. They were still terrifying – maybe more so – because twenty + years after watching them in action, the species was still counting the ongoing cost of having unleashed them. Couple that with the fears inspired by a seemingly unending Cold War and the late 60s/early 70s were a nearly psychotic blend of unbridled optimism and puckered up fear.
Leave it to someone as bright as Isaac Asimov to come up with the Three Laws of Robotics:
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Great laws, right? They ended up becoming part of the scifi canon – referenced and acknowledged by other scifi writers all over the place (including tongue in cheek cracks made by one of my least favorite robots in TV: Tweeky from Buck Rogers.) You know why he created these rules, yes? So he could break every single one of them in his stories about robots and then spend his literary time working out the mystery about how and why the Laws were broken or bypassed in any given story. My father suggested that along with Asimov’s Three Laws, there were three kinds of robot story.
- A man, a woman and the robot – pseudo-romance wherein the robot believes it loves (and of course ends up having to be destroyed)
- The robot that’s going to destroy the world
- The robot that’s going to save the world
I have favorites in each category. Among those who intend to save the world, C3P0 is my favorite. This isn’t about sexy. It’s just about fun. C3P0 would play a mean game of Scrabble, I’m sure.
Among the robots/cyborgs going to destroy the world, I’m torn. The robots of Westworld or the Borg. Both deliciously bad. One without meaning to be (this is another story where Asimov’s Three Laws were assumed and one of them broken), and the other unrepentantly out to consume us all.
I left the ‘man, woman, and a robot’ trope to last because there are two ways (more actually, but we’ll get to that) for that storyline to go. Guy falls for girl. Robot falls for girl. Guy and robot battle one another for girl. In the first of the ways for that to end, the girl is horrified by the attentions of the inhuman ‘monster’. The guy conquers the robot, guy gets girl, everyone but the robot lives happily ever after. My favorite: Edgar the computer from the 1984 movie, Electric Dreams. I’m sorry, the hero of the movie is yummy and all, but Edgar had a sterling sense of humor and of the absurd. He was way more fun.
The other ending for this comes from modern romance novels. The robots/cyborgs ARE the heroes of the romance story. And my all time favorite is Linnea Sinclair’s cyborg hero Kel-Paten from her novel Games of Command. Smexy and yummy. The story is also a super fun read. This is my favorite of her books. And the hero of this story is easily my fav cyborg. Anywhere. He could come knocking on my door just about any day.
As for the other possible story permutations I mentioned – has anyone done a story where the robot falls for the guy and not the girl? Do robots *have* gender? What about a robot that falls for BOTH? So many possibilities out there on the edges of questioning what makes us unique and human.
Posted on September 5, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged Borg, C3P0, cyborgs, Games of Command, Isaac Asimov, Linnea Sinclair, Marcella Burnard, Robots, Three Laws, Westworld. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.