Sunday, February 19, 2012

Three-liners from the Big Three of science fiction

Best Three Sci-Fi Writers’ Best Three-Liners

Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov, meet at a conference.
Isaac: How about a competition? See who can come up with the most memorable quote.
Arthur: You think there will come a time when people will remember us by our one liners, not our books?
Robert: Even politicians can do one-liners.
Arthur: How about three-liners?
Isaac: I can see where this is going. Problem, alternative hypothesis and null hypothesis?
Arthur: Well, just three lines that reveal a story. Like, “New ideas pass through three periods: (1) It can't be done. (2) It probably can be done, but it's not worth doing. (3) I knew it was a good idea all along!”
Robert: Bravo! OK, how about this? “Theology is searching in a dark cellar for a black cat that isn't there.”
Isaac: Three concepts, but only one line, Robert. Sorry. How about this to control robots? “Law 1: A robot may not injure a human. Law 2: A robot must obey human orders, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. Law 3: A robot must protect itself as long as this protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

So, the Big Three sci-fi writers have a three-liner competition! Arthur C. Clarke’s quote hints at his ability to prophesy. Robert Heinlein reveals his fondness for philosophy and metaphysics. Isaac Asimov dazzles with his mathematical logic. Who wins? Perhaps Asimov in this case eschews wit to attempt wisdom.


Anonymous said...

Asimov’s laws are idealistic. Will robots obey these laws? I wonder! And if they don’t obey the lwas, THEN how do we control the robots?

Barry Natusch said...

Good question! Asimov's laws are mathematically elegant but sociology can be be messy. Humans don't behave according to mathematical models. Since robots are designed by humans, and humans don't always obey laws, there is the strong chance that some robots won't either.

Barry Natusch said...

HOW do we control robots? Build benign robots that don't need to dominate, that know they need humans, that did not evolve from a violent survivalist culture?