The main plot of The Fifth Law revolves around a retirement habitat on an idyllic tropical island where the inhabitants have an average age of 110 years. Global warming and other environmental factors are building to a crisis-level situation at the habitat.
The story explores human versus robot, robot versus robot, as well as human versus human encounters in various engaging scenarios. For robots to be effective in executing their tasks without harming their human owners, the decades-old Asimov Laws are stringently enforced by the International Agency for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (IARAI). Safeguards against intrusion by rogue robots are also required by IARAI. To augment these laws as well as a more recent Fourth Law, a robot researcher proposes a fifth law that champions 'the spirit of brotherhood' amongst robots for ratification by IARAI. Inadvertently, the application of the Fifth Law results in an emergent consciousness in the robots.
A business tycoon (Jeremy), who has ambitions to develop island resorts, enlists the help of a renowned climate advocate to acquire the retirement habitat. On the side, he also plans to salvage some sunken treasures in the surrounding waters. A voting procedure is set up for approval of sale by the owners. However, the outsiders run into opposition from the habitat's manager (Timorine), who assembles a ragbag team comprising inhabitants, robots and robot experts. The rivalries between the two groups are closely fought and further complicated by political brinkmanship in the South China Sea. The home team tactically applies experimental robotic technology based on the Fifth Law to overcome challenges in salvaging the sunken cargo. In addition, the centenarians contribute their skills and knowledge to tackle problems as they arise. A fierce underwater battle is fought between the two groups of robots, and Jeremy's team is forced to retreat. Armed with cash from auctioning the partially recovered cargo, the home team now challenges the tycoon's proposal. In the vote for ownership of the island, Jeremy is narrowly defeated. Applying power negotiation tactics, the tycoon's team grabs a 51% stake in the island at a relatively low price. However, it is a pyrrhic victory for the island is soon devastated by a tsunami. The two groups then agreed to re-develop the island together.
The story presents a panoply of quirky, delightful human and non-human characters over a one-week period in the year 2040. A robotic dog also provides some heart-warming takes on human-robot interactions. The robotic laws, including the proposed Fifth Law, are tested to the brink whilst human ethics slither into shades of grey. The story ends with a discussion on robotic consciousness enabled by the Fifth Law.
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|Size: ||471 KB|
|Date published: || 2016|
|ISBN: ||9781456626044 (DRM-EPUB)|
|Read Aloud: ||not allowed|