Why The Laws Of Robotics Would Defeat Robocop
Oh god, where am I?
Well let's see. Is it bigger than a breadbox?
I ... it is a police car. How did you do that?
Statistics. OK, that was an easy one. Do you need anything else?
Yeah. How did I get here?
Hmm. Normally, I'd say it's because you were captured while committing a caper.
But because you can't remember what happened, I wonder if something else is going on here. Are you now a cyborg?
I appear to be a cyborg now, yes.
Ahh, that settles it, then. You have been turned into a robocop.
That would explain why I'm in the front seat.
Not necessarily. It could have been one heck of a caper.
Why did this happen to me?
Hmm. Most robocopification happen to existing police officers. Were you a cop before?
No. I was an unsuccessful unemployed man.
Hang on. Your lack of success led to you being unemployed?
No. I mean that even for an unemployed guy, I was pretty unsuccessful. Other unemployed people scorned me.
OK, well that probably explains it, then. It was because of your status as an incredible loser that you were selected for this honor/horror. You had nothing better to do, and no one would care if you went missing, and also they didn't have to use the good cyborg parts on you.
So what should I do? Clean up the streets? Like in Robocop?
Or spray blood all over the streets? Like in Robocop?
Violently wasting criminals probably isn't your purpose here. Remember, Robocop was a semi-satirical movie based on the concerns of the era in which it was made. A robocop in today's world would reflect our current concerns about crime and the police. Given the steady stream of unflattering news about the police's habit of targeting minorities, I imagine a modern robocop would use his incredible abilities to be civil and ethical and otherwise improve the public perception of law enforcement.
By ... targeting white criminals?
Violently wasting white criminals, but yes.
Cool! When do I start?
Well, where are you parked?
I seem to be parked in front of an office building. The sign says Gentechsys Corp.
Hmm. They'll probably be the ones who made you. And that's good news! Turning unwilling people into cyborgs is probably a criminal act.
"Ya, sure, it's gotta be."
So yeah, just head on in there and start wasting people.
No problem! ATTENTION, LAWBREAKERS. PUT YOUR HANDS ABOVE YOUR HEADS TO EASE WASTING.
*several loud thumping footsteps later*
It occurs to me, as I'm marching into this building to kill everyone, that I maybe should have asked some harder questions before agreeing to do so.
Why didn't I?
Well, let's check your directives.
What are those?
Somewhere buried in your cold, mechanical brain will be a list of things you must now always do. Protect the Innocent or Uphold the Law or something like that. Discipline All Criminals. That's another good one.
That sounds simplistic.
It is! It's more or less inevitable that the outcome of this whole escapade will pivot on some idiotic confusion about those directives.
Why is it inevitable?
I'm as embarrassed as you are.
My novel, Freeze/Thaw, out now!
So how do I check these directives?
I don't know. Right click?
How do I ... Oh, yup. That worked.
What do they say?
Protect the Innocent. Uphold the Law. Discipline All Criminals. Obey Your Secret Master.
Well there you go. Just like I said.
Odd that you'd get the wording exactly right.
That is odd.
What do you think that Obey Your Secret Master thing could be about?
Boy, that is hard to say.
I'm just going to ask: Are you my secret master?
Well, I wouldn't tell anyone you hear voices in your head, so yes, I'd keep it a secret.
But the master thing?
Oh yes, very much so.
So it was you who made me? How? Why?
In my business as a disembodied advice-giving voice, I happened to acquire a controlling stake in a bioengineering firm. An unsuccessful bioengineering firm.
Largely because of my advice.
But after knocking some of our accountant's heads together, I came to realize that by eliminating one of our closest competitors, we could be ... less unsuccessful. So I got some of our technology, and then a ham sandwich and a really big net, and I used it all to capture a tremendous loser and turn him into a weapon of corporate warfare.
Afraid so, tiger. Anyway, how goes that "killing everyone" thing?
Well, here's the thing. Everyone started cowering when they saw me coming.
Because of the murder in your eyes, sure.
And so we're all here, them cowering and me not. But I can't seem to kill them.
I must have got the order of your directives wrong. You said Obey Your Secret Master is on there, but I guess it's at the bottom of the list, not the top. You've probably getting hung up on Uphold the Law or some bullshit like that.
Or maybe Protect the Innocent.
Yeah. Yeah. Oh shit.
Protect the Innocent is as the top of the list.
So? That sounds like a good thing. Maybe the best thing?
No, it means I've just created a killbot.
It's really hard to think of ourselves as anything other than innocent. Human beings are great at lying to themselves on that particular point. And there's still some human in you somewhere.
So what's the problem?
You're the most innocent person you know, and will protect yourself at all costs. Even if that means ignoring your lesser-ranked directives, like upholding the law. Any minor threat you perceive to yourself can be handled with lethal force. Really, this whole thing can only end in you murdering everyone in the world.
That doesn't sound good.
It works out OK for you, actually.
Though you might get lonely.
Still, I'd rather not murder the entire world.
There is one thing we could try. Being a murderous cyborg is itself probably an illegal act. I'm not sure what statute specifically, though if nothing else, our anti-terror laws are pretty broad. I'd like you to try preemptively putting yourself under arrest.
OK, I'll try. ATTENTION, LAWBREAKER: I'M COMING WITH ME.
I put my hand on my shoulder, but then I swatted it away.
You protected yourself.
Because I'm clearly innocent. This is hardly my fault.
True. But as a police officer, that's something for the courts to decide. You can't leave a killbot on the streets. And you certainly can't let a killbot resist arrest. Try again.
Let me guess. You're hitting yourself for hitting yourself.
I'm trying to wrestle myself to the ground. OW! Now I'm trying to spank myself?
That'll be the Discipline All Criminals directive then. Odd that you'd go that way.
YOU HAVE BEEN VERY NAUGHTY, LAWBREAKER. Help. OW. Help. OW. I can't stop! OW.
So that's good news, then. You're trapped in an infinite loop.
This OW doesn't feel OW like good OW news.
Anyway, congratulations! You are now no longer fated to murder everyone in the world. Should you desire any further guidance, please consult our guide, So You're Tanning Your Own Ass In An Infinite Loop Of Discipline.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and your best friend. The author of the science fiction novel Severance, his next novel, Freeze/Thaw, is available right now! Holy shit! Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
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