Google’s Selfish Ledger, R. Daneel Olivaw and Asimov's Robot and Foundation series

Google’s Selfish Ledger is an unsettling vision of Silicon Valley social engineering by Vlad Savov

Foster’s vision of the ledger goes beyond a tool for self-improvement. The system would be able to “plug gaps in its knowledge and refine its model of human behavior” — not just your particular behavior or mine, but that of the entire human species. “By thinking of user data as multigenerational,” explains Foster, “it becomes possible for emerging users to benefit from the preceding generation’s behaviors and decisions.” Foster imagines mining the database of human behavior for patterns, “sequencing” it like the human genome, and making “increasingly accurate predictions about decisions and future behaviours.”

I read that block of text and I immediately was reminded of the main protagonist, R. Daneel Olivaw, in Asimov’s Robot and Foundation series.

In Robots and Empire, where Asimov finally links the Robot series with the Empire series, [R. Giskard Reventlov] and Daneel often discuss the limitations of the Laws of Robotics, a process lengthened by the fact that their positronic pathways prevent thought along these lines, thus often leading to a temporary loss in the ability to talk or move. By the end of the book, when Daneel has formulated the Zeroth Law of Robotics (“A robot may not harm humanity, or through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm"), Giskard is the first robot to act according to this new law.

Together Daneel and Giskard imagine the science of “psychohistory" or laws of humanics, that would enable them to execute the "Zeroth Law" in a quantitative sense. Thousands of years later this would be developed into practical application by Hari Seldon.