Infobox Short story
name = Liar!
language = English
series = Robot Series
Science fiction short story
published_in = "
Astounding Science Fiction"
Street & Smith
media_type = Print (
magazine, hardback and paperback)
pub_date = May 1941
Catch that Rabbit
followed_by = Satisfaction Guaranteed
"Liar!" is a
science fiction short storyby Isaac Asimovthat first appeared in the May 1941 issue of " Astounding Science Fiction" and was reprinted in the collections " I, Robot" (1950) and " The Complete Robot" (1982). It was Asimov's third published positronic robotstory.
According to the "
Oxford English Dictionary", this story was the origin of the word " robotics".
In 1969 this short story was adapted into an episode of the British television series "
Out of the Unknown", although only a few short clips of this episode are known to exist.
Through a fault in manufacturing, a
robot, HRB-34 (Herbie) is created that has the ability to read minds. While the roboticists at U.S. Robots and Mechanical Menare trying to analyze what happened and why, the robot tells them what other people are thinking. But the First Law still applies to this robot, and so it deliberately lies when necessary to avoid hurting their feelings, especially in terms of the problem it was initially designed to solve. However, by lying, it is hurting them anyway. When it is confronted with this fact by Susan Calvin(to whom it told a lie that was particularly painful to her when it was shown to be false), the robot experiences an irresolvable logical conflict, which results in a total mental breakdown.
The application of the
Three Laws of Roboticsis again the subject here, like in many others of Asimov's stories, but in terms of telepathy. The lexical ambiguity that is explored here is the definition of injury, the robot having to take into account psychological injury as well as physical.
The story is also a striking early example of the "
Does not compute" theme: an artificial intelligencebeing unable to resolve cognitive dissonanceand hence self-destructing.
Another telepathic robot called
R. Giskard Reventlovwas later introduced by Asimov in the novel " The Robots of Dawn," which takes place so long after "Liar!" that the events of "Liar!" are considered mythical.
"Liar!" also shows one of the first computers in science fiction not to always tell the truth, a paradigm kept by other writers for quite a while.
Does not compute
HAL 9000, who confronted a similar paradox when told to keep a secret, while being "hardwired" to return information truthfully and without concealment.
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