Asimov Trivia.

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R. K. Rose

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Jul 19, 1994, 2:06:39 AM7/19/94
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Soh Kam Yung (sau...@eeserver.ee.nus.sg) wrote:
: I was wondering whether anybody may have heard or seen trivia related
: to Isaac Asimov or to his books.

One of my favorite sidewise Asimov references comes in Fred
Pohl's marverlous novel "Gateway." The main character refers to a series
of astronomy lectures by a "Dr. Asenion" whom he refers to as a "fat old
girl-grabber from some jerkwater college near Smolensk." The name
"Asenion" was a misprint of Asimov's name from a fan letter he wrote to
an SF magazine back in the thirties.

Asimov himself makes a reference to this misprint in "The Caves
of Steel" when Dr. Gerrigel, Earth's robotics expert, refers to a
theoretical robot built without the Three Laws as "non-Asenion" in nature.

--Rob Rose
pinn...@netcom.com


Yasin Poptani

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Jul 20, 1994, 8:31:00 AM7/20/94
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Greetings All!

In article <1994Jul19...@csc.canterbury.ac.nz>, mis...@csc.canterb wrote:
> > In _Star Trek: the Next Generation_, Data mentions that robots
> > (including himself?) may have been manufactured with 'positronic
> > brains'.
>
> I'm not a trekker (or trekkie, I can never remember which one it is they

I think trekkie! (why I don't know)

> like!) but I do remember that the story behind Data is quite
> interesting.. I gather (as the story goes) that the person who designed
> Data was fasinated by Asimov's writings of Robots, and beleived that it
> *was* possible to design such a brain..
>
> I also understand that Gene asked Asimov about positronic robots when he
> was working on TNG, and Asimov had quite a hand in Data's character..
>
I'm not sure that this direction of argument has been brought up as I'm
a newbie to the group. but here is my 0.02c worth.

I think data did say that his make made him under Asimov idea of a
positronic brain. Yet, if Data is a model of Asimovs positronic brian
then why doesn't he not follow the three laws of robotics. I thought
that the three laws is such an integral part of positronic design. Does
data follow the three laws of robotics, I think from the various series
that he has been more humanified(if there is such a word), but remember
Bicentanial Man(I think that's the title), where this robot started out
to be a robot but ended up being more and more human.

Yas.
---

Yasin Poptani - u2...@potter.cc.keele.ac.uk.earth.thirdplanetaroundsun

It's only a hobby .... only a hobby... only a........
____
/ Communications.......
~ Internet : u2...@cc.keele.ac.uk
/___ u2...@teach.cs.keele.ac.uk

John H. Jenkins

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Jul 20, 1994, 1:04:07 PM7/20/94
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In article <llDBkOlO...@teach.cs.keele.ac.uk>,

u2...@teach.cs.keele.ac.uk (Yasin Poptani) wrote:
>
> Greetings All!
>
> In article <1994Jul19...@csc.canterbury.ac.nz>, mis...@csc.canterb wrote:
> > > In _Star Trek: the Next Generation_, Data mentions that robots
> > > (including himself?) may have been manufactured with 'positronic
> > > brains'.
> >
> > I'm not a trekker (or trekkie, I can never remember which one it is they
>
> I think trekkie! (why I don't know)
>

Trekker. "Trekkie" tends to be reserved for the *really* rabid fans, the
ones who know how many hairs are left on Picard's head, Riker's exact
weight in every episode, how many times McCoy said, "He's dead, Jim," and
so on. :-)

> > like!) but I do remember that the story behind Data is quite
> > interesting.. I gather (as the story goes) that the person who designed
> > Data was fasinated by Asimov's writings of Robots, and beleived that it
> > *was* possible to design such a brain..
> >
> > I also understand that Gene asked Asimov about positronic robots when he
> > was working on TNG, and Asimov had quite a hand in Data's character..
> >

I asked Asimov about this. He said that Roddenberry asked for his
permission to make Data a positronic robot after the fact. Asimov himself
had no input into the character.

> I'm not sure that this direction of argument has been brought up as I'm
> a newbie to the group. but here is my 0.02c worth.
>
> I think data did say that his make made him under Asimov idea of a
> positronic brain. Yet, if Data is a model of Asimovs positronic brian
> then why doesn't he not follow the three laws of robotics. I thought
> that the three laws is such an integral part of positronic design. Does
> data follow the three laws of robotics, I think from the various series
> that he has been more humanified(if there is such a word), but remember
> Bicentanial Man(I think that's the title), where this robot started out
> to be a robot but ended up being more and more human.
>

Unfortunately, the producers of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" locked
onto the "positronic" end of Asimov's robots as if that were their key
quality. (In the episode "Datalore" we are specifically told that Data was
created in an attempt to bring "Asimov's dream of a positronic robot" to
life.) Asimov's view was exactly the opposite -- his robots are
"positronic" because positrons had just been discovered when he started
writing robot stories and the word had a nice science-fictiony ring to it.
The use of positrons is just an engineering detail and relatively
unimportant to him.

Asimov's key insight was that, inasmuch as we engineer our tools to be safe
to use, we would do the same with robots once we start making them -- and
that the main safeguards for an intelligent being are its ethics. We
would, therefore, build ethics into our robots to keep them going off on
uncontrollable killing sprees.

In some sense, the specific Three (Four) Laws are themselves an engineering
detail, the robotic equivalent of the Ten Commandments -- it is a specific
ethical system but not the only one possible. In Asimov's universe, they
are the basis for robotic ethics and so absolutely fundamental to robotic
design that it is virtually impossible to build a robot without them.

Asimov tended not to let other people use his specific Laws of Robotics,
but his essential insight -- that robots will have in-built ethical systems
-- is freely used.

In particular, Data *is* an "Asimovian" robot because he *does* have an
in-built ethical system. He does *not* have the Three Laws, however
(witness the episode "Measure of Man" in which he refuses to follow a
direct order from a superior officer [Second Law] without invoking either
danger to a specific human [First Law] or the higher needs of all of
humanity [Zeroth Law]). Moreover, his ethical programming is *not*
fundamental to his design (his prototype, Lore, lacks it altogether, and
Data's ethical program is turned off for much of "Descent, part II").

John H. Jenkins
John_J...@taligent.com

Soh Kam Yung

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Jul 20, 1994, 8:59:50 PM7/20/94
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Okay, time to get this thread 'back on the tracks'...};-)

I just found out another bit of trivia which I wish wasn't true, but
apparently is.

I was reading the book _Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism_
by Philip Kitcher which, as the title says, is a rebuttal (sort of) of
various creationist objections against Darwinian evolution.

One argument usually used by creationist against evolution is the one
about the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

According to Kitcher's book, a creationist, H.M. Morris, used in his
book, _Scientific Creationism_, a quotation by Asimov to support his
view that the Second Law does not allow for evolution. The Asimov
quote he used was published in the _Journal of the Smithsonian
Institution_ in the article, "In the Game of energy and thermodynamics,
You Can't Even Break Even." The quote, given on pg 38-39 of Morris'
book, is as follows:

'In any physical change that takes place by itself the entropy always
increases.'

Apparently, in using the quote, Morris 'fudged' over the issue of a
closed system in themodynamics (given by the phrase 'takes place by
itself') and used the quote as an argument against evolution.

Could somebody please confirm the quote?

--
Soh Kam Yung | "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."
sau...@ee.nus.sg | Mayor Salvor Hardin, _Foundation_ by Isaac Asimov
-----------------+----------------------------------------------------
You can find an FAQ on Isaac Asimov at
http://www.lightside.com/SpecialInterest/asimov/asimov-faq.html

Herbert Wills IV

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Jul 20, 1994, 9:16:00 PM7/20/94
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sau...@eeserver.ee.nus.sg (Soh Kam Yung) writes:
> I was wondering whether anybody may have heard or seen trivia related
> to Isaac Asimov or to his books.

The space explorer in Larry Niven and David Gerrold's
delightful book, THE FLYING SORCERERS, turns out to be named
'Asimov'. You don't find this out until nearly the very end
because of a malfunctioning (or punning) translation device.
There are other Asimov sightings, but my very favorite was a
story in SUPERMAN no. 355 (Jan 1981), "Momentus, Master of the Moon!"
A featured character is Jimmy Olsen's favorite author, Dr. Asa Ezaak,
modelled closely after the Good Doctor. Not only is Ezaak the
physical double of Asimov, but there are other parallels:

JIMMY: Dr. Ezaak, my name is James Olsen, reporter for the DAILY
PLANET! And I'm proud to say I have every book you've ever
written!
EZAAK: All two hundred, Mr. Olsen --? I'm flattered!

Keep in mind this ran in 1981; Asimov's total was not quite as
high back then.
After several pages of seeing this unnerving Asimov
doppelganger, we find out that Ezaak has discovered how to turn
himself into Momentus, a super-villain with the power to control
gravity. He blows up on page sixteen from exposure to Superman's
"super dense atoms." Uh huh.
It's an awfully silly story, but good fun, and Curt Swan drew
a fine likeness of Asimov. I often dreamed of getting Asimov to sign
a copy, but the chance never presented itself.

--
herb. (hwi...@freenet.tlh.fl.us)

richard w hatcher

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Jul 21, 1994, 7:52:32 AM7/21/94
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In article <30kha6$m...@nuscc.nus.sg> sau...@ee.nus.sg writes:
>Okay, time to get this thread 'back on the tracks'...};-)
>
>I just found out another bit of trivia which I wish wasn't true, but
>apparently is.
>
>I was reading the book _Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism_
>by Philip Kitcher which, as the title says, is a rebuttal (sort of) of
>various creationist objections against Darwinian evolution.
>
>One argument usually used by creationist against evolution is the one
>about the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
>
>According to Kitcher's book, a creationist, H.M. Morris, used in his
>book, _Scientific Creationism_, a quotation by Asimov to support his
>view that the Second Law does not allow for evolution. The Asimov
>quote he used was published in the _Journal of the Smithsonian
>Institution_ in the article, "In the Game of energy and thermodynamics,
>You Can't Even Break Even." The quote, given on pg 38-39 of Morris'
>book, is as follows:
>
>'In any physical change that takes place by itself the entropy always
>increases.'
>
>Apparently, in using the quote, Morris 'fudged' over the issue of a
>closed system in themodynamics (given by the phrase 'takes place by
>itself') and used the quote as an argument against evolution.
>
>Could somebody please confirm the quote?
>
The essay appears in the collection: _Today and Tomorrow and . . ._
Title: "You CAn't Even Break Even"

On page 140 (in my paperback version) the quote appears in a paragraph
by itself, word for word as above.

IMHO there is no way to assume that this means Asimov supports
Creationism or that this statement supports Creationism.

Ed Seiler

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Jul 21, 1994, 1:05:31 PM7/21/94
to
In article <30kha6$m...@nuscc.nus.sg>, sau...@ee.nus.sg wrote:

> According to Kitcher's book, a creationist, H.M. Morris, used in his
> book, _Scientific Creationism_, a quotation by Asimov to support his
> view that the Second Law does not allow for evolution. The Asimov
> quote he used was published in the _Journal of the Smithsonian
> Institution_ in the article, "In the Game of energy and thermodynamics,
> You Can't Even Break Even." The quote, given on pg 38-39 of Morris'
> book, is as follows:
>
> 'In any physical change that takes place by itself the entropy always
> increases.'
>
> Apparently, in using the quote, Morris 'fudged' over the issue of a
> closed system in themodynamics (given by the phrase 'takes place by
> itself') and used the quote as an argument against evolution.
>
> Could somebody please confirm the quote?

I believe that the _Journal of the Smithsonian Institution_ referred to is
in fact _Smithsonian_ magazine. This article, or an essay based on it,
appears in one of Asimov's collections.

I think it is pretty clear that the phrase "takes place by itself" is
indeed intended to represent "takes placed in a closed system", which of
course is the key point. That this quote was used as an argument against
evolution is not surprising, since a common tactic of the oxymoronic
"scientific creationists" is to use bits and pieces of valid science in an
invalid manner.

Perhaps a more valid argument against evolution is the very existence of
scientific creationists themselves. Clearly they represent a step
backwards in the advancement of the species.

--
Ed Seiler
sei...@nibbles.gsfc.nasa.gov
"All knowledge is of itself of some value. There is nothing so minute or inconsiderable, that I would not rather know it than not." -- Samuel Johnson

Soh Kam Yung

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Jul 22, 1994, 6:29:38 AM7/22/94
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Ed Seiler (sei...@nibbles.gsfc.nasa.gov) wrote:
[stuff about an Asimov quote used the book, _Scientific Creationism_, by
H.M. Morris, deleted]
: I believe that the _Journal of the Smithsonian Institution_ referred to is

: in fact _Smithsonian_ magazine. This article, or an essay based on it,
: appears in one of Asimov's collections.

At least I know the quote exist in the magazine/journal. Can anybody
verify whether the quote also exists in the book, _Scientific
Creationism_?

Matt Lih

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Jul 22, 1994, 6:20:20 PM7/22/94
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William McBrine

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Jul 23, 1994, 9:12:02 AM7/23/94
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Ed Seiler (sei...@nibbles.gsfc.nasa.gov) wrote:

: Perhaps a more valid argument against evolution is the very existence of


: scientific creationists themselves. Clearly they represent a step
: backwards in the advancement of the species.

:-) However, this presupposes that evolution means continual "improvement"
and "progress". Of course it means nothing of the sort, and that kind of
distortion is typical of creationists - set up such a straw man, then
proceed to knock it down, which is easily done.

Evolution doesn't know what's "better", only what fits into what niche.
As Asimov wrote, the corrupt philosophy of Social Darwinism, based on the
simplistic idea "survival of the fittest", has no scientific underpinning;
all "fittest" means is most likely to survive and reproduce in a given
niche - it's a tautology.

--
William McBrine
wmcb...@clark.net
wmcb...@cap.gwu.edu

William McBrine

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Jul 23, 1994, 9:14:02 AM7/23/94
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richard w hatcher (hat...@mksol.dseg.ti.com) wrote:

: IMHO there is no way to assume that this means Asimov supports


: Creationism or that this statement supports Creationism.

He has forcefully opposed it on many occassions.

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