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Pet Peeves

My personal robot-story pet peeves:

  • The robot malfunctions while doing it was something it was theoretically designed to do (most often, have sex), with no explanation
    • A robot or android is a machine. People designed it and built it with a purpose in mind, and (assuming those people were generally competent), it should be able to accomplish that purpose without malfunctioning.
  • The robot is pretty much a normal person - doesn't have to obey, has feelings that matter, is or should be "free", has ordinary emotions and desires of its own that it acts on freely
    • Even if you assume such an android is possible, why would anybody build one? (See "Toolbots and Personbots" for more on this idea.)
  • The robot's owner lets it do whatever it wants, regardless of its effect on him or her
    • If you spend a lot of money making or buying a robot, why would you let it do that? I don't let Quicken spend my money; I don't let my TV tell me what to watch; I don't let my car tell me where to go...
  • The robot has no off switch or command override
    • Anyone who's ever watched Star Trek should understand the problem here!
  • The robot "ignores its programming"
    • This just makes no sense to me. Computers do what they're programmed to do. That's what it means to be programmed. I can imagine it perhaps being able to modify its programming (though I wouldn't want it to!), but for a computer to ignore its programming is like a person not thinking his thoughts - not just impossible, but meaningless.
  • The robot "goes rogue" and rebels, especially if it's violent
    • Why would anybody build an android capable of this? "It malfunctions," I hear you say... to which I say, "Poppycock!" Malfunctions cause broken behavior, not deliberate behavior. My computer might malfunction so as to be unable to send email for me, or to cause my email to show up as random gibberish... but it will never malfunction in such a way as to spontaneously carry on a meaningful email conversation with my mother!

The Plausibility Justification

Some people might want to design an android that was purely robotic, had no appearance of having feelings or desires and simply did what it was told.

Other people would prefer an android that behaved more like a real person - seeming to have feelings and desires like a human being. (I'm going to ignore for now the question of whether a robot could "really have" feelings and desires; I'm just talking about what it *seems* to have.) Maybe it's even human-like enough to not necessarily instantly obey every order I give it (because it has been programmed with a certain priority system, and following just-any-old-order isn't necessarily its top priority).

But even if I've built or bought an android that seems very human-like, it would still belong to me. I would be responsible for it, and I would have invested a lot of money in it, and I would want to know that I could, when push came to shove, control it. I'd definitely want to know that it's not going to run away, or hurt someone. And I'd also want to know that it will always be available for what I want. There must be an override - maybe a command button, or a codeword, or even just stating the order in a firm, definitetone - that makes my command the android's top priority such that she can no longer disobey.

The Fantasy Justification

The mere fact of a plastic (or whatever) body as opposed to a flesh one doesn't do much for me. But the knowledge that this beautiful female is mine, in a way that no living woman ever can or should be, and that she will do whatever I want her to, that my will is always superior to hers... that's something I find a very sexy fantasy. It doesn't have to be that she's completely obedient - in fact, there's a special fascination for me to the android who does have a will of her own and who doesn't necessarily want to obey me, but in the end is required to because, well, she's mine and she does what I want her to.

Sure, there's much to be said for free will and souls and genuine human qualities - but to me, that's not a robot fantasy anymore. That's a real-person fantasy. That's not a bad thing, necessarily - but if I'm starting a story that says the character is a robot, and then she behaves like a real person... well, I find it a let-down.

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