Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics (“Runaround,” 1942):
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 the orders given to 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 Laws.
Jacob Evelyn’s One Law of Robotics (2012):
1) Robots are really, really cool.
Welcome to The Future. Robots are everywhere, from your toaster to your made-in-Japan puppy, and life is good. With the robotics of The Future, humans never have to worry about the stresses of the modern world, like cooking dinner every night, negotiating rush-hour traffic and making love to your spouse. Let robots do these things for you!
Let’s look at some robots we have today, starting with the Roomba. The Roomba, if you’ve been living under a rock since 2002 (or under a piece of furniture in a Roomba-less household), is the king of modern robotic invention, and quite possibly the pinnacle of all human innovation. It’s a robot that vacuums. Of all household chores, robots nabbed the fun one. Vacuuming lets you suck up dust bunnies with a magic cleaning tube, while drowning out the sound of your downstairs neighbor learning to play the trombone (or making out with a Wookiee … who can tell the difference?). Rest assured, Roombas of The Future will have expanded their capabilities to other “tedious” jobs like eating the last cookie on the platter that everyone’s too self-conscious to take. You can still have fun doing laundry at home while your Roomba takes that vacation you always wanted (but never had time for), or goes out to that new restaurant with your boyfriend of three years.
Didn’t think robots could get that personal? Think again. Already the company TrueCompanion has created what it calls “the world’s first sex robot,” cleverly named Roxxxy. Designed by a Bell Labs artificial intelligence researcher, Roxxxy has everything you could ever want in a spouse: the ability to converse about one of several preprogrammed topics related to your interests (like football, or $3000 sex robots), five preset personalities designed for would-be Roxxxy enthusiasts— “Young Yoko” (pedophiles?) or “Frigid Farrah” (date rapists?) —and best of all, an off switch. If you’re on the market for a partner who listens to you, a partner who can be as calm or as playful as you wish, who has vibrating genitals and smells like a rubber factory and doesn’t move her lips when she talks, you’re in luck!
But that’s today. In The Future, technology will be much more sophisticated, and Roxxxy will be so advanced that you might confuse her for just another ordinary woman with multiple personality disorder and vibrating genitals. In fact, the hardest part of life in The Future may be distinguishing humans from incredibly lifelike robots (in order to identify whom to subjugate). Already it’s hard to tell whether that emailer is really a Nigerian prince or just a spambot (and whether or not the people who ask about it on Yahoo! Answers should be considered intelligent life at all). In The Future, it’ll be impossible. That global robot takeover we all know is coming will happen simply because we have no way of knowing who’s really human.
But it won’t all be bad. We’ll ride around in super-smart, accident-free autonomous cars (which have been around since 2005, but why rush change?). We’ll have robots make us food and tie our shoes. And maybe, in 20 years when we finally get to The Future, Siri will even acknowledge the existence of birth control.