Robotics and Automation

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Isaac Asimov

The wide array of applications for autonomous machinery and robotics kept the industry and related technical sciences afloat during the major cutback in mass-produced electronics during World War III. Much of the funding was directed towards military applications - often building upon ideas, schematics or prototypes constructed earlier in the 21st century. However, the side effects of highly-miniaturised high-performance computing, the development of artificial intelligence and military-specification electronic durability (either against impact damage or electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM)) served the industry well going forwards. Whilst the encroaching shortages of copper and other key circuitry component materials led to very expensive consumer electronics and computers, robotics stayed within more private circles and suffered little.

Interest in robotics was seen as a necessary part of space engineering, as much of the zero-g constructor technology had to be durable machinery capable of acting with little to no human input (due to the delay in communications over large distances). Robots were an expensive but widespread household luxury by the mid-2060s as mass fabrication and more sophisticated engineering and extraction processes eased resource shortages, though the robot butler often seen in science fiction saw less interest than projected and was only present in the richest households. This however led to a concomitant interest in cybernetic enhancement.

As autonomy could only be achieved with a measure of artificial critical evaluation, work into artificial intelligences - at least, ones capable of rational yet dynamic reasoning to achieve some end goal without a precisely-defined series of commands in the interim - was undertaken. 2080s automation technology allows for remote nexuses of inter-dependent robots to complete extended and complicated tasks without any input from a human observer at all, managing to respond intelligently to problems as they arise. Such intelligences cannot interface with any machine of excessive complexity, if only to pander to human paranoia about a self-replication apocalypse or robot "uprising", or concerning the often-demonised classes of AIs capable of either malfunction or acquisition of a hatred for humanity that overwrites or supersedes the Three Laws.