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In Isaac Asminov's "Evidence," a chapter from I-Robot, a mayoral candidate may actually being a robot—in a society...
...with strict rules against the use of robots on inhabited world.
In this futuristic novel, robots have been invented, but laws prohibit that they be used anywhere where humans exists, generally delegating them to work in outer-space.
The core point of the story is whether or not Stephen Byerley is a robot—a very sophisticated prototype. An opponent wants to expose Byerley as a robot to discredit him. In Quinn's (the opponent's) pursuit of the truth, the reader is exposed to prejudices against robots. Quinn notes:
The Corporation would be only too glad to have the various Regions permit the use of humanoid positronic robots on inhabited worlds. The profits would be enormous. But the prejudice of the public against such a practice is too great.
It is ironic to note that the three Rules of Robotics demand that robots act more ethically than human beings. Humans may work to attain a level of ethical behavior, but a robot can not exist if he doesn't follows the rules—act out of a need for self-preservation; defer to authority (not harm humans) and follow the rules "even when they interfere with his comfort or his safety;" and, "love others as himself." There is nothing to guarantee that humans can do so; still robots are not allowed to live around humans.
The Fundamentalists (purists) do not agree with the manufacture of robots. At Byerley's speech, one member confronts Byerley:
You can't hit a human, you monster...You can't hit me. You're not human. You're a monster, a make-believe man.
There are, of course, those who admire robots, not just for the service they provide. Dr. Susan Calvin is one. Calvin tells Byerley:
I like robots. I like them considerably better than I do human beings. If a robot can be created capable of being a civil executive, I think he'd make the best one possible. By the Laws of Robotics, he'd be incapable of harming humans, incapable of tyranny, of corruption, of stupidity, of prejudice.
Dr. Calvin points out that while a robot running for office would be in opposition to many people who hate robots, it is quite possible he would do an excellent job.
Quinn does not seem to argue with any political stance that Byerley is representing in his campaign. He seems simply to want Byerley controlled—no more than a district attorney, he says. He and Byerley are not friends. However, to sabotage Byerley's campaign, Quinn is trying to prove that he is a robot.
In a modern context, this reminds me of the election of Barack Obama. While many people had no problem with his political standing on the "issues," one thing that many people could not get past was that he is a man of color. Too many people could not get beyond this detail to judge the man within. To echo a sentiment by Martin Luther King, Jr.:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
This was what President Obama wanted: a chance to be judged on his merits, not on his race—not his skin color. Like the robots in Asminov's story that have much to offer, they are discredited because they are different and socially unaccepted, though perfect to hold jobs they could carry out so much better than human beings.
This is the major thread I see running through this story and our modern-day world.
In Asminov's story, I-Robot, it would seem that the prejudices present with regard to robots are somewhat similar as some prejudices we see in modern-day society.
The robots are feared because they are different. The robot in "Robbie," for instance, does not speak. This lack of communication could be seen as similar to the fear of foreigners people in the U.S. have, with individuals coming to this country that are "different," and who do not speak our language.
There is unrest with many people that jobs in the U.S. are being lost to immigrants who are willing to work for less money. This is similar to the union workers' concern in the story that machines will take their jobs and they will be out of work. Struthers, at the robot factory in "Robbie," explains:
A vicious circle in a way, robots creating more robots. Of course, we are not making a general practice out of it. For one thing, the unions would never let us.
Because the robots are an unknown—they don't speak and people don't really understand how they work—a fear develops, just as some people in the states are fearful of immigrants because they are an unknown. Often no communication takes place, and citizens consider immigrants a threat.
At the same time, however, there are those in the story that support the use of robots. They are seen as helpful, reliable and safe. They work hard and are often more dependable than many humans. George Weston is a great supporter of robots in "Robbie:"
...I'm sure he set me back half a year's income. He's worth it, though—darn sight cleverer than half of my office staff.
In the U.S., this sometimes seems to be the case with "migrant" and "immigrant" workers, who will work for a lower wage and often work harder than citizens who are not as motivated or do not want the jobs in the first place.
Gloria loves Robbie. He is her friend. She does not like the talking robot they see on display because it does not have a face. She cannot connect with a voice. Gloria does not see a robot—there is no threat or danger. She sees someone who she enjoys being with, despite how he looks or how others feel about him.
"He was not no machine!" screamed Gloria, fiercely and ungrammatically. "He was a person just like you and me and he was my friend. I want him back. Oh, Mamma, I want him back."
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