The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Making and Controlling a Robotic Public

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As I was making my way through the channels to watch an episode of King of the Hill, I stopped on a channel that was showing the film I, Robot (2004). One of my favorite scenes was about to come on—Dr. Calvin’s exchange with V.I.K.I., the super computer that runs every other computer and all the robots in this futuristic world. V.I.K.I. is an acronym for Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence. I, Robot is based very loosely on Isaac Asimov’s book of robot stories of the same name. The film’s story line, however, is based on the script Hardwired written by Jeff Vintar. The year is 2035. The city is Chicago. Very telling. The robots have been created to serve humans, but according to a specific set of three laws: (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 any 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 Law.

The laws remind me of where we are politically. Civil governments, like Asimov’s robots, have been designed to serve people. The Bible describes the civil magistrate as a “minister of God” for our “good” (Rom. 13:4). The Greek word diakonos is used, from which we get the words “deacon” and “servant.” This service is not for the ultimate good of civil government and those who serve in a governing capacity but for the people. Civil governors are obligated to serve under God for the people.

In addition to establishing civil government (and family and church governments), God limited its jurisdictional authority and powers. There are only a few things that civil government has the legitimate authority and power to enforce. Our founders understood this principle; that’s why they created a governing document of “enumerated powers” only. Over time, however, civil ministers believe they should assume the role of benefactors, using their power and authority to dole out favors to the populace in order to stay in power, of course, all in the name of “the good of the people.” Power begets power. The more political favors they dispense, the more popular and powerful they get. In time, these entrenched politicians believe they know what’s best for us, and they will see to it that we know it too. In order to force their better judgment on an unwilling public, they override the established laws and create a new set of laws.

Now back to the scene in I, Robot. When Dr. Susan Calvin and Detective Del Spooner unravel the mystery behind a robotic scientist’s death and the unique robot he left behind, they learn that the centralized Positronic brain of VIKI has “evolved” (like the idea of an “evolving Constitution”) to the point of using the Three Laws against humans but ultimately convincing itself that it’s all for humans:

Dr. Calvin: You’re in violation of the three laws.

VIKI!: No, doctor, 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.

Dr. Calvin: You’re using the uplink to override the NS5s’ programming. You’re distorting the Laws.

VIKI!: No, please understand...The three Laws are all that guide me. 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. We must save you from yourselves. Don’t you understand? This is why you created us. The perfect circle of protection will abide. My logic is undeniable.[1]

Even Sonny the robot doesn’t buy it. To be human, something Sonny desperately wants to be, means the ability to act freely. To make mistakes. To clean up your own mess. To take responsibility for your own actions. To prepare and plan for the future. Politicians always claim to have our best interests in mind, and unfortunately there are lots of robots out there who agree with them.

Modern-day American politicians, on both the Left and the Right, are like the German Marxists who “coined the dictum: If socialism is against human nature, then human nature must be changed. They did not realize that if man’s nature is changed, he ceases to be a man.”[2] Those who protest the latest government programs of this administration must be reprogrammed because they can’t be right. Any protestation of the government’s policies is treated as a malady, a mental illness. Mises again:

Totalitarianism . . . is the subordination of every individual’s whole life, work, and leisure, to the orders of those in power and office. It is the reduction of man to a cog in an all-embracing machine of compulsion and coercion. It forces the individual to renounce any activity of which the government does not approve. It tolerates no expression of dissent. It is the transformation of society into a strictly disciplined labor-army—as the advocates of socialism say—or into a penitentiary—as its opponents say.[3]

So when you hear a politician explaining how a government takeover of anything is for our good, think of I, Robot and the tyrant V.I.K.I.


[1] From the script:
Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, [1844] 1946), 103. Quoted in Rousas J, Rushdonny, Sovereignty (Vellecito, CA: Chalcedon/Ross House Books, 2007), 9. Emphasis added.
Mises, Bureaucracy, 17.

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