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Positronic Robots

Entry updated 3 April 2015. Tagged: Theme.

Because Isaac Asimov's Robot stories are so celebrated, this term is one of the best known in the genre; it is not, however, a generally used item of sf Terminology, few writers having had the cheek to borrow the idea from its inventor – although H Beam Piper went one better in "Graveyard of Dreams" (February 1958 Galaxy) with a "positron-neutrino-photon" Computer, and Data, the Android in Star Trek: The Next Generation, is described as having a positronic brain. The positron is the antiparticle of the electron (see Antimatter; Physics); the idea of positrons (catastrophically reactive with normal electron-based matter) being suitable material for the construction of an artificial brain with "enforced calculated neuronic paths" was sheer double-talk, as Asimov was the first to admit. (It is these "enforced", hard-wired modes of thought imposed upon Asimovian robots which make them subject to the Laws of Robotics.) David Langford points out in "Dangerous Thoughts" (Summer 1990 Foundation) that the creation and annihilation of positrons which is supposedly central to positronic brain operation would continually generate hard radiation, making robots distinctly unhealthy companions. [PN/DRL]

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