Daneel Olivaw’s Guide to Decision-Making

Bones and Rocket

Why Starting Well is the Best Option

In a previous post, I introduced the difficulty some people face when making decisions such as whether or not to attend college after high school graduation or go into business. I presented as a guide some of Salvor Hardin’s epigrams. In this post, I would like to offer another set of recommendations, this time from another Isaac Asimov character, R. Daneel Olivaw.

Daneel Olivaw is introduced in Asimov’s novel Caves of Steel. He is one of my favorite literary characters. He is a robot. Because he is a robot, the Three Laws of Robotics are programmed into his brain. To disobey one of the laws would disable him. In my opinion, the Three Laws of Robotics make very good laws for humans as well. I think we humans would do well to let them inform and influence our decisions.

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

This law alone would save humanity a world of grief. Can you imagine what it would be like if every choice was filtered through that litmus test? Will the result of my choice injure another human being?

The Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

Well, that puts an end to the rich and powerful ordering or hiring other people to their dirty work for them. You want me to go to war for you and kill other people? No thanks.

The Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

This law would allow humans to find their No and give them the right to use it. I am not subject to anyone’s agenda.

Starting Well
Daneel Olivaw had the three laws hard-wired into his system. He had no choice but obey. All of his decisions started from a good place. However, we humans have choices. Why is that? Why is such terrible power placed in our hands? As history shows, humans have injured other humans most dreadfully. The astounding thing is that humans keep inflicting harm, even though it has never, ever turned out well. On the other hand, humans’ capacity for good can exceed expectations. When it comes to benefitting their fellows, some human beings perform spectacularly. By some wondrous arrangement of chromosomes, the Three Laws of Robotics are hard-wired into their systems. They start well. Can everyone start well? Is that a choice people can make? I think it is.

I think that anyone can obey the laws of robotics–call them the Laws of Humanities. I think that anyone can start well. It doesn’t matter if you enter the race after it has begun. A start in the right direction is an excellent start, even if you sneak in and hide in the crowd. Well done, runner, well done. Look around and see all of us who are running alongside you. We shout. We cheer. We have started well.

To very great minds the things on which men agree are so immeasurably more important than the things on which they differ, that the latter, for all practical purposes, disappears.
G. K. Chesterton ~ Heretics

(Next Post: Who is John Gestalt?)



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