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Literature / But Whether Men Do

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"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.
  • Jerkass: 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.


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