Frankenstein complex

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In Isaac Asimov's robot novels, Frankenstein complex is a term that he coined for the fear of mechanical men.[1]


Some of Asimov's science fiction short stories and novels predict that this phobia will become strongest and most widespread when being directed against "mechanical men" that most-closely resemble human beings (see android), but it is also present on a lower level against robots that are plainly electromechanical automatons.[citation needed]

The "Frankenstein Complex" is similar in many respects to Masahiro Mori's uncanny valley hypothesis.[citation needed]

The name, "Frankenstein Complex", derives from the name of Victor Frankenstein in the novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley in about the year 1818. In Shelley's story, Frankenstein created an intelligent, somewhat superhuman being. He finds that his creation is horrifying to behold, and he abandons it. This ultimately leads to Victor's death at the conclusion of a vendetta between himself and his embittered creation.

The general attitude of the public towards robots in much of Dr. Asimov's fiction is fear and suspicion: ordinary people fear that robots will either replace them or dominate them, although dominance is impossible under the specifications of the Three Laws of Robotics, the first of which is:

"A robot may not harm a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm."

The fictitious earthly public does not generally listen to this logic, but rather they listen to their fears.[citation needed] I, Robot's short story "Little Lost Robot" is an example of the "fear of robots" that Asimov described.

In Asimov's robot novels, the Frankenstein Complex is a major problem for roboticists and robot manufacturers. They do all they can to calm the public and show that robots are harmless, sometimes even hiding the truth because they think that the public would misunderstand it and take it to the extreme. The fear by the public and the response of the manufacturers is an example of the theme of paternalism, the dread of paternalism, and the conflicts that arise from it in Asimov's fiction.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

  • Frankenstein argument – an argument against engineered intelligent beings (but not specifically robots)
  • Uncanny valley – a hypothesis that posits a gap in emotional response to things created to resemble humans that fall short of perfect mimicry.


  • Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Frankenstein: Mythe et Philosophie (Press Universitaires de France, 1997)
  • Shuntaro, Ono, Frankenstein Complex: what can change someone into a monster(Seisoushobou, 2009) 小野俊太郎『フランケンシュタイン・コンプレックス』(青草書房 2009年)


  1. ^ Olander, editors Patricia Warrick, Martin Harry Greenberg, Joseph (1978). Science fiction : contemporary mythology : the SFWA-SFRA (1st ed.). New York: Harper & Row. p. 252. ISBN 0-06-046943-9.