Coronavirus and the Three Laws of Robotics

Is inaction better than action if either outcome will cause harm?

A cute little robot figurine.
Photo by Everyday basics on Unsplash

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

The bit about inaction is relevant. Because of the First Law robots are compelled to prevent harm; they must take positive action, not stand idly by. A robot would (gently) smack that donut right out of your hands then delete your Facebook account.

The Trolley Problem

Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash
  1. People who were indecisive and unwilling to commit to a choice;
  2. People who refused to accept the scenario and sought to create a 3rd option with a different outcome (i.e. nobody dies).

Real-life Robot Laws coming soon…

A robot in front of a futuristic display.
Photo by Arseny Togulev on Unsplash

From Robots to COVID: runaway trains and infectious disease

The COVID-19 pandemic has often been politicised as follows: governors who impose restrictions in response to COVID are ruining the economy; or, governors who prioritise the economy are allowing people to die. It’s COVID or the Economy.

Post-it notes on a closed door that say “Sorry we are closed” and “COVID-19”
Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash
Clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. “Let me have just a little bit of peril?” “No. It’s unhealthy.”
Clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. “Let me have just a little bit of peril?” “No. It’s unhealthy.”
“Come on, it’s for your own good.”
  1. Leaders who were indecisive and unwilling to commit to a choice. We saw some leaders wait a long time before responding, or only partially responding.
  2. Leaders who refused to accept the scenario and sought to create a 3rd option with a different outcome. I guess a “suppression” strategy fits here. And the “it’ll be gone before you know it so open up” camp is a version of “I’ll shout really loudly so the workers get out of the way” solution to the Trolley Problem. “I refuse to accept that either bad outcome is inevitable. Let’s improvise!”
Photo by Pete Lead on Unsplash

I work with startups, teach entrepreneurship, and freelance in improv and leadership coaching.

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