SINGAPORE - As Singapore progresses in its march towards becoming a Smart Nation, it was perhaps only a matter of time before science fiction writer Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics came up in Parliament.
The question, raised by Jurong GRC MP Tan Wu Meng, was whether the Government was studying "aspirational principles" such as Asimov's Laws as it sought to regulate new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).
The Three Laws are:
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 orders given 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.
Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, replied that Singapore is a long way away from the world depicted in Asimov's universe.
"So today, as far as Asimov's Laws are concerned, we have no need because we don't have sentient, strong AI," he said.
Instead, Dr Janil added, the real lesson to be found in Asimov's works is that there's a need for more women in science.
After all, he said, the American author often used the Three Laws as a literary device to portray the consequences of poorly regulated robotics or AI.
"And so, in much of the literature, the day was rescued by Dr Susan Calvin, who was a brilliant engineer and I think the salient lesson is that if we can recruit more females, more young women into engineering it would serve our Smart Nation and AI vision far more than perhaps the use of his Three Laws today," he said to laughter from the House.