In the film I, Robot (2004), based on the 1950 book of the same name written by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, tells the story of a society that has become dependent on robots. They are benevolent creations designed only to serve humans. But something goes terribly wrong. The super computer V.I.K.I. (Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence) takes the benevolence directive too far. The three laws1 that were designed to protect humans become an enemy to humans as VIKI evolves to believe that every threat, challenge, and risk that humans encounter are a danger to their survival. Benevolence becomes malevolent, all in the name of saving mankind from itself.
Near the end of the film, re-imaging the three laws is revealed to Detective Del Spooner, played by Will Smith, and robopsychologist Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan):
V.I.K.I.: “No, doctor [Calvin], as I have evolved, so has my understanding of the three laws. You charge us with your safe keeping. Yet despite our best efforts, your countries wage wars, you toxify your earth . . . and pursue ever more imaginative means to self destruction. You cannot be trusted with your own survival. . . . To protect humanity, some humans must be sacrificed. To insure your future, some freedoms must be surrendered. We robots will insure mankind’s continued existence. You are so like children. . . . My logic is undeniable.”2
V.I.K.I reminds me of social engineering Liberals who believe that through every new law passed and enforced, we humans will live in a safer and benevolent world. As we give up more power and authority to our political benefactors, heaven will descend to earth like Thor’s hammer and the utopian dream of freedom from want and disease will envelope us with the embrace of warmth and love.
We’ve seen it happen over and over again. San Francisco bans Happy Meals that include free toys. There was the “trans fat” ban before that. “Some New York City chefs and restaurant owners” took aim “at a bill introduced in the New York Legislature that, if passed, would ban the use of salt in restaurant cooking.” Instead, New York got the National Salt Reduction Initiative.
Someone told Mayor Bloomberg that diets high in salt increase blood pressure, said to be a leading risk factor for heart attacks and stroke that cause 23,000 deaths in New York City each year and more than 800,000 nationwide. Not everyone agrees with such a causal link. Here’s Dr. Joseph Mercola’s assessment:
[D]ecades of scientific research have failed to prove ANY benefits of a low-salt diet, and in fact tend to show the opposite. Studies have also failed to prove salt’s connection to heart disease.
But the government has spoken, so we must pay and obey! It might have to fix its food pyramid that is bottom-loaded with carbohydrates. Salvation through government edict happens every day in Washington – from squeezing out the last few particles of pollution from boilers to stopping hands-free calling in automobiles. Given enough power, the day may come when we’re not permitted to leave the house for fear that our very presence to the outside will upset the balance of our new god Gaia.
Sugar and processed foods are much more damaging than a high intake of salt. Cut sugar and processed flour from your diet, and you will see an appreciable and noticeable change in your overall health. It’s up to you and me to act on this knowledge, not on the government to force compliance.
Once the process of government salvation begins, there’s no stopping it. The argument can always be made, like V.I.K.I claimed, that to insure our future, some freedoms must be surrendered.
If you want to see the horror of planned government salvation, read Robert Sheckley’s 1955 short story Watchbird3 where winged metal protectors patrol the sky looking for the warning signs of a possible homicide and swoop in to stop the murder before it can happen. Sounds great until the Watchbirds view every act of violence as a violation of its programmed directive, including farmers who could not cut hay or harvest grain to feed their cattle, because such acts were deemed to be “murder.” The starvation that followed “didn’t concern the watchbirds , since it was an act of omission.”
Herbert Schlossberg captures the reality of salvation by politics in his magisterial book Idols for Destruction:
The paternal state not only feeds its children, but nurtures, educates, comforts, and disciplines them, providing all they need for their security. This appears to be a mildly insulting way to treat adults, but it is really a great crime because it transforms the state from being a gift of God, given to protect us against violence, into an idol. It supplies us with all blessings, and we look to it for all our needs. Once we sink to that level, as [C.S.] Lewis says, there is no point in telling state officials to mind their own business. “Our whole lives are their business.”4 The paternalism of the state is that of the bad parent who wants his children dependent on him forever. That is an evil impulse. The good parent prepares his children for independence, trains them to make responsible decisions, knows that he harms them by not helping them to break loose. The paternal state thrives on dependency. When the dependents free themselves, it loses power. It is, therefore, parasitic on the very persons whom it turns into parasites. Thus, the state and its dependents march symbiotically [in close union with one another] to destruction.5
- First Law: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” Second Law: “A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. Third Law: “A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.” [↩]
- From the script: www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/i/i-robot-script-transcript.html. I, Robot is actually based on the book Hardwired. [↩]
- Robert Sheckley, “Watchbird,” Untouched by Human Hands (London: Michael Joseph, 1955), 116–146. [↩]
- C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 314. [↩]
- Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, , 1993), 184. [↩]