I, Consumer
January 21, 2004 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Three Laws Safe! They'll do your laundry, walk the dog and wash your car. But not until July. (via Ars Technica)
posted by bonehead (25 comments total)
i really hope the movie lives up to the hype. I, Robot was a great story and more importantly, a stepping stone into a much larger and richer universe.

[crosses fingers and hopes for a Foundation miniseries]
posted by quin at 4:00 PM on January 21, 2004

I have a friend who worked on this movie, and it's by one of my fave directors (Proyas), so my hopes are high.
posted by frykitty at 4:08 PM on January 21, 2004

A great story, yes, but narratively I can't seem to make it fit the boundaries of a film...
posted by kevspace at 4:57 PM on January 21, 2004

OK; how the hell could you people tell that this has something to do with a movie? Maybe I just didn't have the patience to deal with the site's interface...
posted by mr_roboto at 5:19 PM on January 21, 2004

Blech. If they're trying to market a movie, they're failing miserably. As mr_roboto (ha - irony!) said, the interface is simply TOO MUCH...I waded through about five screens without a hint that it was a movie -- except for the fact that a "positronic brain" is something that exists solely in Commander Data.

Pretty site? "Geek"-chic site? Sure. But as marketing, I don't think it will win over any non-existing fans.
posted by davidmsc at 5:44 PM on January 21, 2004

I don't think it's supposed to be overt marketing - it reminded me of the company websites that were part of the Cloudmakers game promoting AI.
posted by wilberforce at 5:52 PM on January 21, 2004

[puts on geek hat]

If Data had a positronic brain it was probably a direct homage to I, Robot and other stories in Asimov's robot series. The positronic brain was developed and produced by a company named U.S. Robotics which i believe was first introduced in I, Robot.

The reason i know this is from a movie has nothing to do with the site, it runs too slow on my crappy laptop, but from the fact that i live at imdb and in looking up the cast of Firefly i discovered that one of them was working on this.

i also saw the trailer for it before some movie, and i think it had the URL in it, but i might be misremembering.
posted by quin at 5:58 PM on January 21, 2004

"For nearly three decades, U.S. Robotics has been at the forefront of modem technology by connecting users to the Internet. The company was founded in classic tech start-up fashion in an Illinois garage in 1976 and named after the "greatest company in the known galaxy"-U.S. Robot-from the science fiction novel I, Robot by Isaac Asimov."
posted by moonbiter at 6:17 PM on January 21, 2004

I saw a trailer for this before Return of the King, thought it looked cool, but forgot about it. Thanks for the link.
posted by Grod at 6:19 PM on January 21, 2004

Does anyone else get a strong Mac vibe from that website? I don't just mean the iGeneration thing, the color scheme, it feels very Apple to me.
posted by Grod at 6:21 PM on January 21, 2004

Why aren't all automobiles 3-laws safe, fer fuck's sake? I'm not knocking Asimov or his story, because I haven't read it since I was 5, but really, what is it about armed-and-legged appliances that requires this high-minded philosophy of safety? Shouldn't any potentially lethal device be controlled by this "3-laws" software? And why do we suppose that robots are dangerous right out of the box? Do they have a tendency to kill their owners when instructed to wash their cars? Mleh. I guess I have to read it again. "Don't Kill People" isn't exactly what I would call software. What would be neat would be engineering an AI that could interpret the 3 laws adequately.
posted by scarabic at 6:32 PM on January 21, 2004

the director made the japanese commercials for metroid prime. i'm definitely seeing this. despite will smith.
posted by magikeye at 7:42 PM on January 21, 2004

scarabic: The Three Laws of Robotics are meant as insurance against human malice, much like locks and password protection on cars and computers. Imagine a being that could be disguised as human, that was far stronger than any normal human being, and that could be programmed to follow any order without question. Do you really want such beings to be mass-produced and distributed throughout your city?

It's the same idea behind training soldiers not to kill except under orders, not to kill civilians, and (in the United States) to protect and defend the Constitution. This is what makes living among soldiers tolerable; we can be reasonably sure that they won't be made by their superiors to rape and pillage the nearest towns.

A nod to the unbelievers: Jack Williamson wrote an interesting novel, The Humanoids, about robots who took preprogrammed benevolence a little too far -- a wonderful, terrifying parable about ironclad laws and unintended consequences.
posted by skoosh at 8:07 PM on January 21, 2004

I started with Foundation and now I'm working my way back through to I, Robot... I had never been a big Asimov reader until just recently. So I'm excited this movie is being made - but a little apprehensive because I'm pretty sure it simply won't do the book justice (gota hurry up and read it before this comes out...)

As for the person at the top of the thread who is crossing his fingers for a Foundation movie or series... I dunno about that. Even the first book spans several hundred years and is a broken up story that spans generations... I don't think it would translate well to a 2 or 3 hour movie without a major re-write.

I gotta say the first three foundation books are just wonderful - towards the 80s Asimov slips a little with some of the sub-par follow up books and then decides to produce a "correct order" list in which to read the robot and foundation books which essentially causes the reader to jump around about 4 or 5 decades worth of his writing. The first 3 stand on their own very well.

Oh yeah? Did you read about the theory that bin Laden modeled al Qaida after Asimov's fictional Foundation?
posted by wfrgms at 9:25 PM on January 21, 2004

Asimov? I worship Heinlein. I'm very fond of Clark. For what reason does Asimov simply fail to catch my attention?

I attempted "I, Robot" at some early point, and it instantly turned me off. I've never picked it up since. I did read the Foundation trilogy (back when it was only 3) and enjoyed it, but it left me with no thirst for more Asimov.

The site had me puzzled 'till I too saw that 'positronic brain' thing. I didn't think much of it, except here was proof it was bogus.

I thought "bicentennial Man" was supposed to have been rooted in Asimov's robot books.
posted by Goofyy at 5:49 AM on January 22, 2004

Data's brain being positronic was an homage to Asimov. Specifically - and forgive if I can't recall precisely where I read this, but I believe it was in that huge Star Trek Encyclopedia - Noonian Soon, Data's fictional creator, was a huge Asimov buff.

This is why Data himself could not kill, though there are some lingering questions about how solid that rule is for him when a collector who kidnaps Data vaporizes his own wife. The question is left hanging whether Data actually attempted to kill the collector in revenge or not . . .
posted by Ryvar at 6:20 AM on January 22, 2004

Ah here we go. Season 3, episode title "The Most Toys" for the episode I referred to in the second paragraph.

Spike TV should be showing in about two weeks.
posted by Ryvar at 6:25 AM on January 22, 2004

I am extremely disappointed that this is a movie. The site was too fast and didn't give a hint of movie-ness.
posted by agregoli at 7:21 AM on January 22, 2004

Why aren't all automobiles 3-laws safe, fer fuck's sake? ... What would be neat would be engineering an AI that could interpret the 3 laws adequately.

Think you just answered your question there. If we had AI, cars might be able to be made "3-laws safe." Of course -- what does AI really mean? Could you really make an AI that would just want to drive a car all day, or does intelligence necessarily imply a yearning to be free?

I thought "Bicentennial Man" was supposed to have been rooted in Asimov's robot books.

To be more specific, it was based on an Asimov short story of the same name. I don't know how loosely it was based, because I stopped watching the movie about fifteen minutes in, it was so atrocious.

Jack Williamson wrote an interesting novel, The Humanoids, about robots who took preprogrammed benevolence a little too far

And the late John Sladek wrote a darkly funny novel, Tik-Tok, about a robot whose Asimov circuits went faulty.
posted by kindall at 7:31 AM on January 22, 2004

From what I've read about the movie, it preserves the Dr. Susan Calvin character, but the plot revolves around a robot named "Sonny." It has been 15 years since I read the book, but was there a robot named "Sonny?" Is this yet another case of a movie studio licensing a title and slapping a largely unrelated movie onto it? (See also: Minority Report; The Cat in the Hat)
posted by profwhat at 9:35 AM on January 22, 2004

wfrgms I don't think it would translate well to a 2 or 3 hour movie without a major re-write.

i agree, that is kinda why i was hoping for a miniseries, possibly in the vein of Taken. If i recall correctly the original Foundation trilogy, each book is broken up into three smaller sections. Doing each one of these as an hour long episode would probably work.

i think it would be neat to see it, at least, attempted.
posted by quin at 2:33 PM on January 22, 2004

the engineering knowledge needed to create cognitive content, design features, and cognitive architectures that result in benevolence.

This is an interesting site, sonofsamiam. Thanks for the link. I think their initiative is pretty ambitious, considering that even God couldn't pull it off ;)

Seriously, though, I think that any AI programmed for benevolence, by our existing standards, would be essentially a slave. If you have any respect for Darwin, you know that every organism acts in its own interest, that altruism (a.k.a. 'benevolence') doesn't exist. The day we create something truly intelligent will be the day it acts in its own interest, not ours. Call it Darwin, call it Milton. For once, the scholars and the poets agree.

Until then, all we're talking about is vaccuum cleaners with PERL interpreters. Shit, we can barely make a coffee maker that understands daylight savings time, and we're worried about machines taking over the w-o-r-l-d?
posted by scarabic at 10:47 PM on January 22, 2004

I just got a great idea for a science fiction novel. All of humankind is a great big AI experiment being conducted by some alien race. As soon as we demonstrate free will, they know the experiment is complete, and they embark to collect their creations (us) and use them as intelligent labor for eternity.

Then, in 2004, we fall for the biggest bullshit melodrama of all time and re-elect George W. Bush, and the aliens stop, reconsider this act of selfless generosity toward large corporate chiefs and preferred shareholders, and decide we're not intelligent after all. They leave us to rot in a sea of duct tape, Best Foods mayonnaise, and CO2. We choke. We die by the millions. They move in to sanitize the planet and start over.

(but just then, a spunky band of high school kids from Michigan repel their invasion with a few M-16s and RPGs! The Wolverines, they call themselves! Maybe this'll have to be a sequel. I've got a fucking gold mine on my hands here!)
posted by scarabic at 10:55 PM on January 22, 2004

you know, scarabic, i figured that since this was essentially a dead thread i would let your comment slip. But i have to say, based on your description, if your wrote that script and it got made into a feature, i would totally pay money to see that shit.

The world needs more bad [read as: genius homage] films based on the weak story line that was Red Dawn.

Seriously, with all the garbage sequels and remakes that Hollywood produces, why haven't we seen this formula remade?

[stands up holding monetary note]

"You see this Hollywood? You give me a good survivor horror/ red menace/ cyborg-zombie-alien flick and i'll give you my hard earned money."

But then, i am made weak by the joy that is the B movie market, so i may be biased.
posted by quin at 3:36 AM on January 24, 2004

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