USS Triumphant wrote:
Especially the assumption in such stories that all robots are automatically programmed that way.
The explanation given, if I recall correctly, was that the original R&D that resulted in positronic brain technology was so extensive and expensive that, once it had been completed with the Three Laws hardwired
(not programmed in the sense I think you are thinking of) in a fully integrated way into the design, it would have been too expensive to do it all over again just to remove the Laws. And some roboethicists "lost" some of the original development notes that might have provided a shortcut to such a re-do. Minor tinkering and obvious upgrades to individual components could still be made, but the overall design was written in stone, more or less - Three Laws included.
Oops, Aspergian Jake once again ill-defined his concept when expressing it to others. I meant that I dislike when non-Asimov stories by other authors and totally unrelated to his work act as if the Three Laws are some universal constant.
For instance, in any of the myriad SF media that I've seen this issue (so many that I've really forgotten the specific examples), a robot is obviously on the rampage. One character exclaims that this is impossible, as it violates the Three Laws. Unless your robot's name is Norby, don't be surprised when it kills you.
Same principle holds up for whenever people quote Arthur C. Clarke, but only ever mention that "Science, sufficiently advanced..." you get the picture.