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"We're about 20 minutes away from the point where Clarke's law kicks in and technology becomes indistinguishable from magic."
- Peter Watts

Compassion Circuit  
  A special robotic component that allows the robot to weigh harm and benefit in carrying out commands.  

The events of this short story are placed not too far ahead in our own future, where domestic robots are the norm; practically everyone has a household robot.

Janet, though, didn't like them; however, an illness forced her to accept the idea of a robot in the house, one with a new feature.

Doctor-recommended, of course.

"...what I'd really recommend for her is the type they have here. It's something pretty new, this Nurse James model. A specially developed high sensibility job with a quite novel contra-balanced compassion-protection circuit. A very tricky bit of work, that.

Any direct order which a normal robot would obey at once is evaluated by the circuit, weighed against the benefit or harm to the patient, and unless it is beneficial, or at least harmless, it is not obeyed..."

From Compassion Circuit, by John Wyndham.
Published by Fantastic Universe in 1954
Additional resources -

SF readers will recognize in the compassion-circuit some measure of the Three Laws of Robotics introduced by writer Isaac Asimov in his 1942 story Runaround.

See also the robot emotions from Lester del Rey's 1938 story Helen O'Loy.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Compassion Circuit
  More Ideas and Technology by John Wyndham
  Tech news articles related to Compassion Circuit
  Tech news articles related to works by John Wyndham

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