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The Three Laws of Robotics

The Three Laws of Robotics

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Isaac Asimov is best known for his science-fiction and his books on popular science. His most famous work is the Foundation series, with which he later combined his robot stories.

In his robot stories, Asimov created worlds where robots and human co-exist - sometimes peacefully and gainfully, sometimes in conflict. In the course of writing these stories Asimov gave much thought to the possible behaviour of robots and their interaction with and impact on humans, and formulated his famous Three Laws of Robotics, which first appeared all together in his 1941 story, Runaround.

The Three Laws of Robotics state:

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 orders given 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 Law.

Later Asimov added a Zeroth Law of Robotics to the three:

0. A robot may not injure humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

Asimov's Laws of Robotics have led to much debate and conjecture on their applicability to the actual development of artificial intelligence. While the Laws have greatly influenced science fiction writers and film makers, it remains unlikely that they will be applied to real life robotics any time soon.

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Last updated: April 2010. Copyright © Rohini Chowdhury 2002. All rights reserved.

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