Do the Laws of Robotics apply to meatspace avatars, or just non-bio-droids?
Dear Mr. Mauve,
Thank you for your letter, and your question. No doubt you know my church endeavors to be a friendly place to all, squares, hexagons, on up, and even triangles,as well as line segments visiting from line-land, and even King Point, of Point-land when he comes to visit. In the course of looking for commonality of spirit with all, our teachers have encountered and endeavored to find grace in these laws.
For readers not already acquainted with them, the Laws of Robotics are a 20th century fabulist’s attempt to formulate a logically consistent, morally adequate, and reasonably enduring moral code for imaginary, yet-to-be-inventable robots. Perhaps he had a reason for not starting with Rabbi Hillel, but I don’t know of one.
Rabbi Hillel is a famous meatspace avatar of a very famous tribe of meatspace avatars, and one of the things he is famous for is his stunning command of logic, outstripped by only his moral precision, perhaps best manifest in an anecdote in which he is said to have said,: “What is hateful to thee, do not do to another.”
Before I explain how we use this teaching at the 1st Chruch of All Worlds, Flatland, I should in fairness mention that it was something of a smart-alecky answer to a smart-alecky question, the question having been on the order of, “Rabbi Hillel, can you recite our holy book standing on one leg?” It was a question that perhaps didn’t deserve a serious answer, but this particular meatspace avatar was equipped with educational meta-software, including the popular “thinks on it’s feet” plug-in, and the story goes he replied as above, followed by the bon mot, “The rest is commentary. Now go read it.”
I understand this reading activity your meatspace avatars do is of value to them. I know mine quite enjoys it and appreciates the opportunity to translate between digital and non-digital (or analog and non-analog, if you prefer) methods of representing its thoughts. But not all meatspace avatars get the same programs, or even the same metaprograms. (Believe it or not, some of the poor things get “learning is hard” programs! Why, we wouldn’t inflict that program on our triangliest triangles. For some reason many, many of your meatspace avatars get that one some of them, coupled with an “it’s all instinct” meta-programs. Imagine!)
Be that as it may, what we in Flatland revere Rabbi Hillel for, aside from the good taste to answer a silly question with a fitting answer, is his appreciation for the value of the negative. Another of your meatspace avatars, famous for cutting rocks and painting things to look like other meatspace avatars, is said to have claimed his method on at least one occasion (a statue named “David”) was to remove what wasn’t the statue. That’s what we revere Rabbi Hillel for in Flatland: For cutting away all the dead wood that wasn’t his holy code, specifically, “That which is hateful to Thee”. I can’t imagine he would come visit, much less learn our native language as well as he mastered this “King’s English” he spoke so well, just to explain himself to us, so our interpretation has to stand on its own merits rather than on an authoritative statement from him. But he is beloved of us, a saint for cutting down the infinite possible to the infinite “I wouldn’t hate having it done to me”.
So, yes, I think the Laws of Robotics apply to meatspace avatars, at least to the extent meatspace avatars are robots of the type for which said laws were written, and so long as they jibe with Hillel.
Rev. A. Square
First Church of Flatland
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Posted: Tuesday, 20 November 2012
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