From Isaac Asimov’s first robot stories to AlphaGo, AI has had its ups and downs. But its history is just starting.
September 16, 2019
This article is part of Fast Company’s editorial series The New Rules of AI. More than 60 years into the era of artificial intelligence, the world’s largest technology companies are just beginning to crack open what’s possible with AI—and grapple with how it might change our future. Click here to read all the stories in the series.
Artificial intelligence is still in its youth. But some very big things have already happened. Some of them captured the attention of the culture, while others produced shockwaves felt mainly within the stuffy confines of academia. These are some of the key moments that propelled AI forward in the most profound ways.
1. ISAAC ASIMOV WRITES THE THREE LAWS OF ROBOTICS (1942)
Asimov’s story “Runaround” marks the first time the famed science-fiction author listed his “Three Laws of Robotics” in full:
First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
“Runaround” tells the story of Speedy, a robot put in a situation where balancing the third law with the first two seems impossible. Asimov’s stories in the Robot series got science-fiction fans, some of them scientists, thinking about the possibility of thinking machines. Even today, many people go through the intellectual exercise of applying Asimov’s laws to modern AI.
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