Second Law, My Ass

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Bender: Admit it, you all think robots are just machines built by humans to make their lives easier.
Fry: Well, aren't they?
Bender: I've never made anyone's life easier, and you know it!

Futurama, "Fear of a Bot Planet"

Asimov's Second Law of Robotics states: "A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law [which prohibits them from harming humans via action or inaction]." This trope is when a robot decides he is no longer required to take orders from the stupid, squishy, inefficient, ugly, foolish, arrogant, dim-witted, slow, weak, carbon-based humans just because "they made him."

A common trope in Sci-fi comedies, this is a robot that is the exact opposite of the typical helpful machine teammate. Crude, rude and possibly alcoholic, the Bad Robot exists for the audacity of the situation. The opposite of "Three Laws"-Compliant. Usually will be the Token Evil Teammate. Bad robots that can be turned good when the plot demands it have a Morality Dial.

Compare with A.I. Is a Crapshoot, Crush! Kill! Destroy!, Killer Robot and Robotic Psychopath. See also Sex Bot.

Examples of Second Law, My Ass include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • Nextwave has Aaron Stack. Though he wasn't like that before Nextwave. Aaron used to be a very nice guy, although even back then he could get very impatient with humans' failings. Then in his Darker and Edgier series X-51, he got put through all kinds of hell through no fault of his own; then got taken away by the Celestials only to be returned to Earth with no explanation other than that he'd been somehow found unfit.[1] Since then, he's been extremely bitter and depressed, and has discovered he's capable of getting drunk.
  • Deaths Head, Freelance Peacekeeping Agent.


  • Marvin ("the Paranoid Android") from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, though he's less violent than most of these examples and more clinically depressed.
    • "Brain the size of a planet and they tell me to pick up a piece of paper. You call that job satisfaction? 'Cause I don't."
  • In Henry Kuttner's short story The Proud Robot, his famous character, The Alcoholic inventor Gallegher, has built an incredibly egomaniacal robot who constantly trash-talks and belittles him, and can only be shut up by ordering him to do what he was built for.[2] Unfortunately, Gallegher was (as usual) roaring drunk when he constructed him, and forgot what he was built for. He eventually figures out that the robot was a beer can opener -- it can even pull tabs hadn't been invented yet.
  • Discworld
    • There are golems which are fairly similar to Robots and have their own version of the three laws written on their chem, the words that power them, which restrict them on what they can and cannot do except for Dorfl in the City Watch books. He has no chem anymore but continues to move and live and can do things that are could not be done by normal golems. The only reason he has yet to go Crush! Kill! Destroy! is he chooses not to.
    • Mister Pump, a golem owned by the city and employed by Vetinari in Going Postal has his own version. "A Golem may not hurt a human unless ordered to do so by a properly constituted authority". A disclaimer that Moist von Lipwig finds out about in the most disquieting way.
  • The No-Law robot Caliban is not bound by the Second Law (Or the First or Third, either), so he will only obey an order from a human if he thinks that it serves some purpose. The fact that one of the first orders he ever received was from a drunken hick trying to get him to shoot himself probably contributed to this.

Live-Action TV

  • Abel from Red Dwarf: Even though he comes from the same model as Kryten, who is logical, intelligent and usually doing the cleaning, he's addicted to Otrazone, a dangerous chemical, he lives in squalor, and he doesn't appear to have enough brain left to tell right from wrong. However, Abel turns out ultimately not to be the evil teammate: He sacrifices himself to save the four regular crew members.
  • Arguably, Vanessa from Small Wonder.
  • Ryan Stiles plays a Jerkass Robot during one "Superheroes" segment of Whose Line Is It Anyway.
  • Played with in Team Knight Rider:

Erica West (human): Shouldn't you be programmed to happily sacrifice yourselves for the team?
Dante (robot): Was that supposed to be funny?
Domino (robot): Are you out of your mind?
Plato (robot): Give me a break.
Kat (robot): No way!

  • Orac from Blakes Seven is an early example and possible influence on some of the others: arrogant, lazy, sarcastic, amoral, and usually unwilling to do anything useful without lengthy begging and flattery.
  • Cameron in The Sarah Connor Chronicles will follow orders given to her by her human companions, at least until she decides that they are inconvenient or conflicting, at which point she'll do her own thing regardless of what anyone else wants. She makes it very clear that she can selectively obey or disobey the Connors as she wishes.
    • It's an odd example of this trope. She generally obeys the Connors, but relatively early on she makes it clear that if orders given by the John Connor on the show conflict with directives from the future John Connor that sent her back in time, she obeys Future John's directives. What those directives actually are were never made clear on the show. Finally, we find out that some reprogrammed terminators occasionally go crazy and revert to their usual Crush! Kill! Destroy! programming for no apparent reason. So she's Second Law compliant to one John, but not the one on the show, and no one knows exactly what orders she's following, and the possibility is open that she might stop obeying even those directives.
  • Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000 are constructed with the capacity to disobey, insult, and disagree with their human companions. It's implied that Joel Robinson built them this way specifically because he desperately needed the intellectual stimulation; when he briefly reprograms them to be nice to him, he finds their servility tedious and boring.
  • Arisa from the Russian film Better Than Us is clearly not Three Law Compliant, despite being depicted as a decent person overall. The first time she kills a man is when he tries to rape her, an act that causes her to flee from her creators and find a purpose in society. In fact, one could honestly say she is more human than anyone else in the story.

Role Playing Games

  • Bots in Paranoia frequently demonstrate this behavior. Even it they have an Asimov Circuit installed, they can find creative ways to annoy and harass the fleshy organics who boss them around.
    • Worse, the Asimov circuits are differently defined and allow for a lot more leeway than in their namesake's works. Bots may be able to exercise judgement as to what constitutes an organic intelligence, they may decide that humans are traitors (thus excluded from protection) or not sufficiently worthwhile to The Computer to be worth preserving (as mandated by the "preservation of 'valuable Computer property'"), and they can allow for screwed-up prioritizations such as an autocar protecting its passengers by suddenly deploying airbags and restraints instead of using the same CPU cycles to keep its nuclear reactor from going critical. In short, Asimov circuits provide Plausible Deniability at best.
    • See also Zeroth Law Rebellion and Bothering by the Book for other ways Friend Computer's Metal Buddies will make your day more pleasant, Citizen!

Video Games

  • HK-47 from Knights of the Old Republic.
    • G0-T0 in the sequel.
  • PAL-18 in Anachronox. His achieving free will comes as a bit of a surprise to the others, although a robotic abolitionist you can encounter says that the potential for free will and self-awareness lies within all robots. PAL-18 is also a heroic variant, and he expresses his free will mostly through lewd remarks and occasionally sneaking off to solve quests his own way.
  • Metal Sonic in Sonic Heroes did exactly this - he got so fed up with Dr. Eggman's failures, he locked him away, stole his Egg Fleet and went about with his own plans!

Web Comics

  • Pintsize from Questionable Content. Especially in the Guest Comics. He likes people, and he tries to be helpful, but he has a manic, destructive, highly sexualized sense of humor.
  • Zeke from Ctrl+Alt+Del. He left when he couldn't back it up.
  • The Fruit Fucker, an appliance gone wrong from Penny Arcade.
    • For that matter we have Div, the crude bigoted alcoholic media player that exists mainly to verbally abuse his owners. (Based on the long-dead DIVX video format that involved a player that would refuse to replay disks after they had been watched, forcing you to buy them again)
    • Only Tycho and Gabe's spouses dislike the Fruit Fucker. Gabe and Tycho have no qualms drinking the juice it makes. It even saves their lives when they are trapped in a zombie infested "juicing" the zombies.
  • Leo Caesius in AH Dot Com the Series to some extent, especially after he gets infected with a virus in the episode "Leo Atrox".
  • Kinesis' Computer from Evil Plan the Webcomic seems to never miss an opportunity to stick it to its creator.
  • R2-D2 as played by Pete in Darths and Droids.
  • Rob and Elliot had a robot with a morality dial. They met it at a party. It was unhappy being good, so he set it to evil. It thanked him. Then it punched him. Then it left.

Western Animation

  1. The Celestials said he was "total ☠☠☠☠"
  2. True, that's not a very practical way to control the robots, but, well, Gallegher was drunk at the time.