We can’t resist an aside with regard to machines and god: this discussion reminded us of the shortest sci fi story AB.net’s editor ever read, less than one page in some long-gone pulp pocket-size magazine, its source uncertain but it was probably “Galaxy,” or “Astounding,” about how people seeking to resolve The One Unanswered Question finally connect all the most powerful computers all over the settled universe to make one all-super–super-duper all-powerful machine, so they can put THE Question to it: Does God exist? And the super (etc) computer (predictably) declares: “HE DOES NOW!” (And promptly destroys all the people trying to pull the plug on their infernal creation.) Well, you knew that was coming! We are all so blase regarding sci fi and fantasy plot lines now. It’s just another (but one of the earliest) sci-fi cautionary tale which reflects the need, epitomized by sci-fi writer and scientist Isaac Asimov, to include rules for (conscious) robots, as set out in his “Foundation” series long before California’s “Gubernator Ah-nold” ever became filmdom’s cyborg “Terminator.” Asimov’s three “Laws” for robots :

  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 orders given 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 Law.

Asimov had the foresight to figure that any machine that is conscious and aware and interacting with humans must have some kind of controls on it, particularly since it would presumably come into being “ready made” and mentally complete, possibly with extra-human strength or other extra-human abilities, and without the innate and learned self controls and feelings which humans gained through centuries of civilization and years of social interactions as they grow.

The theme was played out in several different ways in the original Star Trek tv series too, but then many of the original Star Trek episodes drew upon earlier tales by miscellaneous first class sci-fi writers of the day and often had what were at the time not just fresh and imaginative ideas, but also important messages at their heart. Perhaps this is what gave them such long-lived traction in the public mind despite the bizarre wigs and hokey costumes! Of course the beautiful and deliciously handsome young crew and Spock’s pointy (and apparently to some, rather erotic) ears had nothing to do with it!

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