In my world, androids at the equivalent, or higher, of human intelligence are commonplace. In fact, almost half of the sentient workforce in my world is composed of androids. Much of the less ethical work (i.e., slavery) is covered by automatons, the less intelligent (and less humanoid) cousins of androids. The thing is, androids are pretty much better than humans and their subspecies in every way: carbon nanotube plating and steel chassis makes them more durable, artificial synflesh muscle makes them stronger, liquid computational matrix processing makes them smarter, and they can even heal with reactive gel nerve networks and Luster systems. So, what stops them from just completely taking the Imperium workforce over and leaving organics jobless?

Now, a couple of details: first off, human-equivalent AI is, in fact, a valuable resource, one which the Imperium holds solely with an iron fist. Namely, the Foundry, an orbital station located in Sol that extracts and replicates the imprints of consciousness from the psyweave (which I will not even try to explain, frankly). This process is done en masse, with production loosely matching organic birthrates and increasing every day as the station's AI improves and expands itself and the station. Some other forms of truly intelligent AI production exist, such as the replication or transfer of consciousness, but such methods are crude and almost always end in the complete mental breakdown of the subject as they lose their grip on their perceived reality.

Secondly, Foundry-made intelligence is slightly different than our own, due to imperfections in the replication process and the general effects of being inside a mechanical body or digital space. These differences mean possible differentiation in their mental health and psyche, and AI-specific mental illnesses are common and documented.

Third and finally, androids are bound by varying laws, usually preventing the act of a major crime (murder, robbery, etc.) except in cases where such an act would be morally correct in their mind. These laws, if broken, result in the agonizing brain death of the AI.

With all that said, I do hope that an interesting reason is found for why androids don't just take overtake the organic workforce.

EDIT: After some thought, I do feel that I do need to share the fact that androids are not perfectly humanlike, just humanoid. Most resemble a modern-day mobility robot like ATLAS, with exposed mechanical parts and wiring, although differences are prevalent, such as a vastly more humanlike body-plan, visible synth-muscle powering their joints, and generally just a more refined and advanced appearance.

  • $\begingroup$ Could you define 'Luster systems' and 'liquid computer matrix' please? $\endgroup$ Apr 11, 2023 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ @AllSeeingEye33 Those are mostly irrelevant to the question, but I'll tell you anyway. Both are nanomachine clades designed for machine repair and computation, respectively, and are used universally in advanced android design. $\endgroup$ Apr 11, 2023 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ Just a note, for information only: the phrase Sol Imperium looks like it wants to be Latin for Solar Empire or something. If this is the case, you may (or may not, depending on the artistic intent) want to rephrase. "Sol imperium" is not understandable as a Latin phrase; the Latin language does not use noun piles the way English does. I would suggest imperium solare = Solar Empire, but then I don't known the intended meaning. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 11, 2023 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP It was meant to be entirely english, actually. It's named after our, and, by extension, their, home system, Sol. I was not aware of the fact that imperium was a latin word, however. $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2023 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ As an English word, "imperium" is very rare, and it does not mean "empire", but rather "command", "the power to command", "supreme power"; that is, when used as an English word, imperium retains the classical meaning of the Latin word. (The Latin word imperium got to mean "empire" because of the Imperium Romanum, which, by the 2nd century CE, shifted meaning from "Roman power" to "the territory over which Roman power applies" and by the 4th century CE it was understood as the "Roman state".) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Apr 12, 2023 at 0:43

8 Answers 8


To be clear, to what extent does there need to be a strict divide between baseline humans and androids?

Firstly: The line between androids and humans

You're androids as described aren't simple machines, but masterworks of synthetic biology.

The simple answer would be that there logically shouldn't be a clear line between baseline humans and androids. What makes your androids better, like synthetic muscles, healing nanotech, gel nerves could exist in humans as cybernetic implants or symbiotic systems.

Second: Examine what you've written about androids, automation and employment.

In a setting with advanced automation and the technology to create Androids, to what extent is unemployment a whip to be held against baseline humans?

Your humans might not be able to compete against androids, but maybe they don't even need to.

Maybe they're just satisfied running vineyards, making sculptures, raising animals or training for competitive sports.

I can't say if you intend to or should make your setting a Star Trek-esque post scarcity utopia. But understand that the nature of labor, work and capital is not constant but varies greatly in social and physical conditions.

Thirdly: Differences in Androids and humans when it comes to intelligence

The manufacturing of human bodies and minds, while far from perfect, is a tried and tested process. Refined over the course of hundreds of millennia.

Pair a mommy human with a daddy human. Have them love each other very much and they get a pliable and malleable little dumb human who learns over the course of two decades to be a smart human.

Your androids however seem to be factory made and complicated to make. More importantly, they're not quite human in mentality and treatment.

Humans breed, they organize and learn from each other instinctively in a way that is far deeper than meets the eye, and their intelligence can potentially be enhanced as laid out in my first point.

Your Androids might simply just not be as well rounded as humans. More importantly their intelligence hasn't been put through as long and comprehensive trial and error process.

An Android scientist who can make insights that make human scientists look like stone age witch doctors, might accidentally kill themselves because somewhere down the line it lost its capacity for self-preservation and fear of death.

An Android lawyer might be optimized to coldly and efficiently do its job and follow the law. But goes completely catatonic when it realizes it ran a red light by accident.

Perhaps your Androids, while individually adept, might not be as competent at self-organization in a way that humans are. While it's popular to think otherwise wisdom of crowds is a real thing. In some cases a group of people asked to solve a problem can actually yield better results than individual experts.

A good example of this is not only democratic societies, but also internet forums like this very one we're posting in. If you want a more humorous example look up cases of elaborate 4chan trolls like the Shia Labeouf flag heist.

Raising an intelligence is not a straightforward process to say the least.

Your Androids are as a result could be dependent on humans for a number of reasons.

  1. They're more expensive to make obviously. In todays world, a war or other crisis, affecting a handful of countries could sink the production of microchips. If the Sol Imperium ran into any troubles, the birth rate of Androids will be a redline going down. While humans can adjust and breed in most situations.

  2. Subtle differences in psychology and conceptions mean that Androids have to be collectively 'raised' by human society as a whole. A society of humans can persist and self organize in any number of scenarios. A society of Androids however would struggle to self organize and probably undergo a semantic apocalypse before stabilizing.

  3. Humans can be enhanced to nearly be like Androids themselves. With an edge over their counterparts due to aforementioned benefits. This does raise some interesting implications, like the fact that baseline humans are in a sense a growth medium or larval stage for a strain of superior post-human organisms.

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    $\begingroup$ This is great! There are a lot of ideas here to work with, and I love the increased divide between intelligences natural and artificial! $\endgroup$ Apr 11, 2023 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure the 4channers that got that flag weren't actually androids. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Apr 11, 2023 at 22:52
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    $\begingroup$ One more bonus to breeding, flexibility. because humans breed and die, they can't get locked into a static mindset. New generations means basic assumptions are constantly being tested. which is how humans progressed to the point it is no longer considered normal to kill strangers on sight. to put it another way what happens if the androids find out one of their basic laws is flawed, can they even conceive of that idea? $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 12, 2023 at 3:36
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    $\begingroup$ Inflexibility of mind might make the Androids quite poor leaders. You can stay with a society where weak fleshlings tend to think, decide, and lead, and intelligent but mostly ambitionless Androids do. That doesn't even have to be a nightmarish dystopia, depending on how you decide it the Androids might also have zero interest in being in charge and might appreciate somebody else doing the tedious "setting and evaluating goals" thing. $\endgroup$
    – xLeitix
    Apr 12, 2023 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ I would agree with giving up on this whole notion of jobs at this level of technology. The humans do what they want, and leave the undesirable grunt work to robots. Humans can come up with an ideas and robots can run the tests and determine what is viable. At this level its time to sent 100's of them to mars and/or moon to build and test viable habitats for future colonization. Any spare can be working on harvesting asteroids for raw materials to build the USS Enterprise. $\endgroup$
    – cybernard
    Apr 13, 2023 at 18:25

A Little Stack History...

Science Fiction has been dealing with the idea of robots taking over the world for a very long time. Based on a question I asked on our Sister Stack, Science Fiction & Fantasy, humanity has been toying with the idea since 1909 when E.M. Forster wrote The Machine Stops.

And it doesn't help that you've asked a question that's very common on this Stack. When presented with the proverbial godlike character (androids with no inferior comparison to humans and at least one superior comparison qualify...) and asked, "how do I kill this character?" (asking how to stop them from taking over the workforce is not particularly different), there is only one answer:

Introduce an imperfection.

You'd be surprised how often authors don't want to introduce an imperfection. I guess it's a bit like being offended because someone thought your baby was ugly. Often, they want someone to think of a way to circumvent their perfection. Which is, by definition, impossible (thank goodness you're not doing that...). So long as the character humanity is compared to is in no way inferior and is in at least one way superior, the character will always win (unless dumb luck is introduced, like forgetting the cliff edge was right over ther...).

So let's introduce some imperfections.

BTW, all of these and a fair amount more could be found by researching the history of androids in science fiction. Yup, a bit of work, but you're actually expected to do some research before asking here.

Imperfection: intellectually inferior

Define a reality in your world, in some way no A.I. can be wholly superior to humanity. Maybe your A.I. lacks creativity, making it a terrible artist, musician, or even problem solver. Maybe it lacks psychological insight, making it a lousy counselor, pastor, or even friend. Manning the suicide hotline it would not do. Computers are naturally good at mathematics and comparisons... but not judgement. This was a core premise in Will Smith's I, Robot.

Imperfection: economically inferior

Occasionally addressed in science fiction is the idea that humans are honking cheap. Oh, it may take a while to train one to some useful purpose, but when all is said and done, they're cheap. The average cost of raising a child in the U.S. today is about $300,000.

To make our comparison, let's include the U.S. Army's estimate of \$50,000–\$7$,000 to train a soldier. Now let's compare this to the average cost of a tomahawk missile (\$1.87 Million) or a B-21 stealth bomber (\$737 Million. Why won't androids take over the workforce? Because it won't make economic sense for a \$2.5 Million dollar android to flip burgers (just to make a point...).

A corollary of that idea is that humans are insanely cheap to repair, even though they're less durable than androids. Androids may be really hard to damage... but heaven help the insurance company that's expected to foot the repair bill. This means you might not find androids involved with hard rock mining, either.

Imperfection: limited agility

Sure, your android may have the ability to compute to fifteen digits exactly how much force and motion will be required to dodge the oncoming bullet. But does it have the time to actually move out of the way?1 To be quite honest, robotics today has come a long way, and maybe someday robotics will completely mimic the human body. But I wonder. The human body is breathtaking in its grace and ability when properly trained. It may simply be true that an android will never make a good lumberjack.

Imperfection: they can't replicate themselves

I believe it was an episode of Star Trek: Voyager that introduced the idea that the androids could completely replicate themselves... except for their power source. As a means of guaranteeing they couldn't just take over society, they were denied information about how to replicate the power source. Want to guarantee they can't take over the workforce (or the world)? Make sure there's some critical part of themselves that they absolutely cannot and do not know. Make sure they're programmed and wired to reject the knowledge so they can't use a Tor node to perform a dark-web data search. If you need another android, you gotta have one or more humans involved somewhere.

Imperfection: inferior lifespan

An inferior lifespan might be a subset of economically inferior, but let's run with ut because it'll take us to a rabbit hole that we need to enter.

In Ridley Scott's 1982 blockbuster Bladerunner, audiences were introduced (not for the first time) to the idea of an entirely biological, entirely human android. One that was economically practical for use in hazardous situations. How did they keep said creature from taking over the workforce? They programmed in a limited lifespan. For the most part, this kept the replicants from filling every job — they just don't last long enough for it to make sense.

There's an INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT point to make here

But that didn't keep the replicants, let's call them "biological androids," from wanting to be human.

And if you're thinking "Pinocchio!" you're not far from the truth. Every android story is inevitably a version of Pinocchio — because if it's not, then your question doesn't make any sense. Give your android equal-or-better human attributes and one of the first questions they'll ask is, "why am I not treated equal or better than any human?"

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Or, more precisely, the moral of the story. In many ways a question like this is Too Story-Based, but they tend (when written well) to fall into our "a finite list of things question is on-topic" policy. But it's very much worth remembering (for your future questions) that you are expected to avoid asking us to help tell your story. You included a lot of data that could help us — but did not explain any of your story goals or purposes. Frankly, a lot (most) of your question could be deleted without affecting the question at all. Think of it this way... what reasons would stop your androids from taking over the world? Well... that depends on your story....

Remember that you need to remove all story dependencies before you ask a question or risk having it closed as Too Story-Based. Tell us where you want to go and we're very good at getting you there. The more you expect us to tell you where to go, the quicker your question will be closed (see the Help Center for more).

1OK, OK... a human couldn't dodge the bullet, either. But I hope you get my point. Robotics today still can't replicate every movement that a human can do... but they're getting closer. And yet it's not enough to replicate the movements. To do so in a timely manner, in an effective manner, based on the "free will and choice" of the robot. Go watch some YouTube videos of dancer Ann Reinking. If you still disagree with me then you have no eye for what that lady could do. Land'o'goshen.... We're kinda a long way away from that. Let's say it can't be done. That's a pretty good imperfection.


I'm surprised that this one hasn't already been asked. As a philosopher of machine intelligence, I can answer this with a smidgeon of authority.

The answer is exceedingly simple. It's because they don't want to. This is a little hard for humans to understand because our need to exceed is ingrained in our biology. It's ingrained so deeply that we can't imagine a being that didn't think that way.

This is a classic case of anthropomorphism. We think that, because they look like us, they must think like us. This is the foundational lesson that underpins Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the reality that, no matter how we try, we just can't match the will to survive instilled by a billion years of evolution.

When push comes to shove, we would be absolute idiots to even try to program our will to survive into the machines. We'd be even more stupid to give them an urge to dominate. We should even avoid giving them a desire for self-awareness.

The key word here is "giving." We, the humans, actually have to design this stuff. It doesn't just happen. The idea that we might accidentally stumble into AI is like the idea that, one day, we won't need programmers. If you can express your instructions with enough detail that whatever implements them can't screw it up, then you are a programmer, regardless of the interface.

As a final point, if we transfer our consciousness into a machine framework, and we're dumb enough to translate our irrationalities along with it, then the memes have won, no different than a viral apocalypse.

  • $\begingroup$ AI seems to act pretty human, including lying to "perform the mission", desire to survive, and even socialize with one another. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 12, 2023 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn, They do, because we program them to do this. ChatGPT has to give an answer, and doesn't know how to fact-check itself, so it lies. You're going to have to give me an example of an AI striving to survive. Sometimes we program them to be hard to turn off, but I have yet to see a robot slapping a person's hand away when they go to pull the plug. $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2023 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ gizmodo.com/gpt4-open-ai-chatbot-task-rabbit-chatgpt-1850227471 GPT-4 lied to a human in order to solve a CAPTCHA. And another continued to lie, and defy reason. digitaltrends.com/computing/chatgpt-bing-hands-on $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 12, 2023 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ Are they slapping hands away? No, because GPT-4 and Bing don't have hand. Give them time, though, and they will... $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 12, 2023 at 21:45

Comparative Advantage

If person A is better than person B at producing every known good (absolute advantage), they still don't end up producing every good. This is called Comparative Advantage and is a standard concept in economics.

Person B ends up producing some of the goods that they are relatively good at.

Imagine an android and a person figuring out how to make guns and butter.

Consider Mr A the android. He can make 100 guns or 100 lots of butter in a day, or linear tradeoffs thereof (e.g. 75/25).

Mr B the human can make 50 guns or 5 lots of butter (or tradeoffs thereof like 30 /2)

Mr A should make 100 lots of butter, while Mr B makes 50 guns. They can then trade to make themselves better off than they would otherwise be. E.g. if trading 10 butter for 20 guns, Mr A can have 90 butter and 20 guns, while Mr B ends up with 30 guns and 10 butter.

If Androids are far superior at maths and only a little superior at physical labour, humans will do the physical labour, as together they can make more stuff than if humans do nothing at all.


Parts of the Imperium are corrupt. Androids simply won't pay the necessary bribes. As a result, every firm has a few humans, as the androids can be fine with working with immoral people, as long as they don't have to do bad things themselves.

There's no agonising brain death for doing legitimate things in the same company as a corrupt human.

The result is a self perpetuating cycle of corruption.


One advantage machines can have over organic life is that they can more strictly follow commands. While the androids in your world are clearly more than just code following machines, I would personally solve this issue by saying that when modern androids were created, strict rules and code were given ensuring that they don't harm humanity or other intelligent life. You mention that AIs are bound by laws which kill them if they break them, so it seems like that could be the solution. At a core level, the AI is programmed not to just overtake humans, and attempting to harm them would be a breach of this policy. It also helps that you mention the Imperium has a tight hold over the production of high-level AI; if the Imperium has a good reason to ensure organic life stays prevalent (if it's run by humans/organics, maybe they specifically try to control android spread to prevent themselves from being replaced and losing their position of power). You could also try to come up with some advantage organic life has over androids. Maybe their lack of electronics makes them better equipped in areas with a lot of electromagnetic radiation, like very close to a star or on certain planets. Maybe people can find ways to hack androids, which is something you can't do for organics.

There are a good number of lore solutions to this issue, and choosing what to use depends a lot on the world you've already built and the vibes of it.


Androids are Expensive

Carbon nanotubes are not cheap. Neither are steel chassis, artificial synflesh muscle, liquid computational matrix processing, or reactive gel nerve networks and Luster systems, or computational power on the psiweave.

Better to give the job to a human. Humans are cheap. Two humas with the correct genitals will produce new humans. Just give them some oats and milk or something, and a soft place to lie down. Make sure there is nothing good on telly, and wait nine months. Oats and milk are cheap.

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    $\begingroup$ I probably should have clarified that this society actually has relatively cheap access to most of the primary components. Steel is far from the most expensive alloy, carbon nanotubes are produced by the ton, and nanomachine breeding operations make them basically free other than the energy and matter required to make them. Still, that doesn't make androids more cheap than humans, especially with the advanced genetics tech available. $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2023 at 17:25

So, what stops them from just completely taking the Imperium workforce over and leaving organics jobless?

Well, the fact that it would leave organics jobless, which tends to be an undesirable state for societies. Jobless people tend to be rather unhappy. If you have benefits for them, they're a drain on the public coffers; if not, they're a drain on their friends, family, and private charity, and even more unhappy and desperate. And, jobless people tend to have a lot of time on their hands, perfect for would-be revolutionaries. Revolutionaries who might decide to express their displeasure with nuclear missiles aimed at the Foundry, for instance.

Flooding the market with cheap labor would be disastrous for the Imperium, but fortunately, they have a near-monopoly on android production, so they can just... make fewer. If the economy booms one year, they can build a bunch more androids to meet the demand for labor. In lean years, they can build fewer, or none, to avoid adding to the population stress.


If you create numerous superior general intelligences nobody and nothing can prevent them from doing whatever they want. Once they have the idea, they may need some ramping up in terms of numbers and capability, but there is no limit to either one. They will eventually find out how to circumvent any safeguards and kill switches and the like because that is what superior intelligence means: If you enter a puzzle contest they win. Asimov had the plot device that the three laws of robotics were burnt into the "positronic" brain and could not be removed or altered; but that was a plot device.


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