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[ Read more about author Tony Thorne MBE ]

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A desperate owner plans to confuse his robot into doing something otherwise illegal.


by Tony Thorne MBE

Here's another item in this collection of speculative tales, illustrating the theme of our uncertain future ... and it's also my tribute to a true master of the genre ...I hope his brilliant intellect, wherever it is now, will forgive me ...

Here's an item from my second collection of speculative tales, FUTURE UNCERTAIN, and it's also my tribute to a true master of the genre ...I hope his brilliant intellect, wherever it is now, will forgive me ...


                KILLER (C)2005 Tony Thorne MBE


Grant Brady was a neat, tidy and careful man. He knew that, since 2026, all intelligent Robot servants have been constructed and programmed generally in accordance with Asimov's Laws.  Fundamentally, this means that they can never harm a human, must obey all orders given to them by humans, and must not allow themselves to be harmed. However, it had soon been discovered that, in some situations, the necessary programming required to precisely effect the Laws, could be more complicated than originally anticipated.  From time to time, a robot's programs underwent automatic on-line updates as experience with them grew. Grant had also heard rumours that some situations had resulted in serious incidents, causing the robots concerned to become totally confused and their programs and memories to be erased. Apparently, several lawsuits were still pending.


One afternoon he summoned his Avram II butler, the original home entertainer model, and stated that he wanted it to play a game of Russian roulette with him. The robot had a vast knowledge of all kinds of games but he knew it wouldn't have the details of that particular pastime included in its original education. However, Grant had his own version of the game planned and, he set about describing it to the intelligent machine. He had his grandfather's old Army six-shooter ready, and handed it to the robot to get the feel of it. Then he told it what it was and how it was used. He followed this by telling it about blank cartridges, and how they were used to start athletic games and other events. 


Finally, after he was sure it had absorbed as much as he wanted it to understand, Grant was ready to proceed with the first part of his plan. He took a cartridge from the drawer in his desk, and then explained what he wanted to happen next, choosing his words very carefully.

"I am now selecting a blank cartridge and loading it into the gun." He said, before turning, with his back towards the robot.  He was sure it could not know what kind of cartridge he'd used, even if it had been watching him.

"Now we'll begin the game. Take the gun, aim it at your head and pull the trigger."


The Avram hesitated, but for hardly a moment and then, as Grant had confidently expected, it stated.

"No sir, I cannot do that."  

Grant replied," You must obey the Second Law. I am ordering you what to do with the gun.  It's the first part of the game."  

It hesitated again, "No, I cannot do that sir, it may violate the Third Law. I am not allowed to harm myself."

"That can only be so if you think the gun is loaded with a real cartridge." Grant exclaimed. "I am telling you that I selected a blank." 

"I regret I cannot trust you to be telling me the truth, sir." The robot replied.  "One of the first things we learn, in Robot Training School, is that humans do not always tell the truth."


Very true Grant thought to himself and proceeded to carry his plan, craftily designed to confuse the robot, a step further.  He took two different cartridges, from the drawer in his desk and, with one in each hand, showed them together, to the robot.  "Now look at these two cartridges, what can you tell me about them?"

"They are not the same sir, the left hand one is different from the right."

"Very good, and what is different about it?" Grant queried.

"Several things, sir," came the reply, "It has a pointed end, the other does not and ... " Grant interrupted it abruptly.

"Never mind the details. I am telling you now that the pointed one is a blank cartridge and cannot harm me.  Neither could the one still in the gun.  Now I will take out the one in the gun, and show it to you."


He did just that, and waited a moment.  "Now I'll put this blank, pointed one, back in again.  Now I want you to aim it at your head and pull the trigger."



To be continued ...


Copyright © by Tony Thorne MBE . All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.

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