Data has 100,000 terabytes of memory (equiv to
100,000,000 one-GB hard drives). When on
trial, he stated that he had a storage capacity of
800 quadrillion bits (100 quadrillion bytes).
Data processes 60 trillion computations per
second. If you'd like to compare Data's 100,000
terabytes of storage capacity to something
real-world, someone mentioned a chart that set
the maximum storage capacity of the human brain to
approximately 3 teraBITS, which would mean
that Data's brain could contain everything from
over 260,000 human brains.
Is Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation an
The television program Star Trek: The Next
Generation included an android character, Data,
whom we are specifically told (in the episode
"Datalore") was created in an attempt to
bring "Asimov's dream of a positronic robot" to
life. Unfortunately, the producers of the
show locked onto the "positronic" aspect as if
that were the key quality to Asimov's robots.
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
was 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
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
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").
Asimov stated that Roddenberry asked for his
permission to make Data a positronic robot
after the fact. Asimov himself had no input into
the character. There were plans to have
Asimov appear on the show as a holodeck simulation
and talk to Data (just as Stephen Hawking
did). A combination of Asimov's location and
ill-health made this impossible.
What are the Laws of Robotics, anyway?
The Three Laws of Robotics are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being, or,
through inaction, allow a human being to
come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human
beings except where such orders would
conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long
as such protection does not conflict
with the First or Second Law.
(From Handbook of Robotics, 56th Edition, 2058
A.D., as quoted in I, Robot.)
In Robots and Empire (ch. 63), the "Zeroth Law" is
extrapolated, and the other Three Laws
modified accordingly: 0. A robot may not injure
humanity or, through inaction, allow humanity
to come to harm. Unlike the Three Laws, however,
the Zeroth Law is not a fundamental part of
positronic robotic engineering, is not part of all
positronic robots, and, in fact, requires
a very sophisticated robot to even accept it.
Asimov claimed that the Three Laws were originated
by John W. Campbell in a conversation
they had on December 23, 1940. Campbell in turn
maintained that he picked them out of
Asimov's stories and discussions, and that his
role was merely to state them explicitly.
The Three Laws did not appear in Asimov's first
two robot stories, "Robbie" and "Reason",
but the First Law was stated in Asimov's third
robot story "Liar!", which also featured the
first appearance of robopsychologist Susan Calvin.
(When "Robbie" and "Reason" were included
in I, Robot, they were updated to mention the
existence of the first law and first two laws,
respectively). Yet there was a hint of the three
laws in "Robbie", in which Robbie's owner
states that "He can't help being faithful, loving,
and kind. He's a machine - made so." The first
story to explicitly state the Three Laws was
"Runaround", which appeared in the March 1942 is
sue of Astounding Science Fiction.
Tech.Ask Dr. Stupid