Literature / But Whether Men Do

"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do."
B.F. Skinner

But Whether Men Do is a science fiction novel set 20 Minutes into the Future by first-time author R. Anthony Mahan. The story focuses on the creation and integration of incredibly humanlike robots SHEMs, short for Synthetic Humanoid Emulation Machines into society and examines society's willingness (or unwillingness) to accept them. Created by the genius Dr. Danson, SHEMs are meant to improve the lives of humans and serve them; they are programmed to feel joy in performing their assigned task and to feel pain if they disobey. To prevent any sort of robotic uprising, Danson ingrained a code of ethics into every SHEM produced, so that they may never harm a human being, even if ordered to do so.

This novel provides examples of:

  • The Atoner: Danson's motivation for creating the SHEMs.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The SHEMs end up being the victim of too much mistreatment to count.
  • Jerk Ass: Danny's second baby sitter, who struck him and put him into a closet when he asked for food. Also, Danson and Mankins have bits of this.
  • Just a Machine: Invoked by many of the characters to justify their actions.
  • Zeerust: Using needles to etch the programming into the chips instead of, say, a focused ion beam or something equally capable of atomic-level etching.