“There is Not Really Much Use in Cross-Examining a Podcast”
Cross-examinations are a staple of teevee. On Law and Order, there is a plethora of great scenes where Jack McCoy presses the defendant until they break and inadvertently provide irrefutable evidence against themselves.
Lije Baley wants us to believe there is no benefit to cross-examining a robot, but teevee and Captain James T. Kirk argue against this. Consider this scene from “The Ultimate Computer,” restored to the intended version that was prevented by copyright issues. Ironic because Star Trek walks right up to the border of the ground Asimov covered in The Naked Sun in this one.
M5: This unit is the ultimate achievement in computer evolution. It will replace man so that man may achieve. Man must not risk death in space or other dangerous occupations. This unit must survive so man may be protected.The Ultimate Computer, Star Trek S2E24
SPOCK: Captain, attack force almost within phaser range.
KIRK: There were many men aboard those ships. They were murdered. Must you survive by murder?
M5: This unit cannot murder.
M5: Murder is contrary to the First Law of Robotics.
KIRK: But you have murdered. Scan the starship Excalibur, which you destroyed. Is there life aboard?
M5: No life.
KIRK: Because you murdered it. What is the penalty for murder?
KIRK: And how will you pay for your acts of murder?
M5: This unit must die. (It disconnects itself from the power feed in Engineering and goes dark.)
CHEKOV: Sir, deflector shields have dropped.
SULU: All phaser power is gone, sir.
SPOCK: M-5 is leaving itself open to attack. The machine is ignoring the Third Law to atone for its violation of the First Law.
So, despite Baley’s repeated assertions to the contrary, Kirk shows us it can be productive to cross-examine a robot, perhaps even forcing a mental freeze-out.
“Mental freeze-out!” you might exclaim! “Dr. Han Fastolfe says that’s practically impossible!” I suggest we ask Captain Kirk about that too.
But let’s think about this together as we discuss chapters 7, 8, and 9 of The Robots of Dawn. It’s a monument to cross-examination and interrogation. And not just of robots. We talk about it, you can join us! Let’s go!
The scene from “The Ultimate Computer” was taken from Chrissie’s Transcripts Site. (and then shamelessly edited).