JOHN CAMPBELL, host
DR. LANNING, director of the robot factory
DR. CALVIN, lovelorn psychologist
HERBIE, robot; slight British accent
DR. BOGERT, vain mathematician; slight Germanic accent
SOUND: POW! WHOOOO-EEEEEE! ... AND OTHER WEIRD, FUTURISTIC EFFECTS
ANNOUNCER: Now, step into the incredible, amazing future, as we go-- (HEAVY
ECHO) EXPLORING TOMORROW!
MUSIC: DYNAMIC FUTURISTIC FANFARE ... OUT BEHIND--
ANNOUNCER: And now, here is your guide to these adventures of the mind, the
editor of Astounding Science Fiction Magazine, John Campbell, Jr.
CAMPBELL: Tonight's story is about a liar. Ever stop to figure out just what
you mean by "a liar"? A liar is somebody who doesn't tell the truth. Somebody
who injures people by not giving the true facts. But suppose you had someone
who injured people by telling the truth? Would he be a liar? Wonder just what
a liar is.
SOUND: LOUD ELECTRONIC BEEP!
ANNOUNCER: EXPLORING TOMORROW is presented by the Mutual Broadcasting System
in cooperation with Ex-Lax, America's largest-selling laxative, and The
Reader's Digest, the most widely read magazine in the world. In a moment, John
Campbell returns with the story of --- "The Liar." [COMMERCIAL BREAK]
CAMPBELL: Question of a robot, the idea of a robot; now that certainly seems
like pure science fiction stuff. As a matter of fact, it isn't. There are even
several robots around your own home. In my own home, for instance, I have an
automatic oil burner robot. It has one finger stuck up in the living room to
see how warm it is there. It has another little finger put up in the stack to
see whether the fire's burning properly. And if any one of these little
sensory devices reports that things aren't what they should be, the robot --
to protect the house, itself, and the inhabitants of the house -- shuts off
the furnace. Dr. Isaac Asimov, the author of tonight's story, recognized this
in setting up his proposition of the Three Laws of Robotics. The First Law,
that a robot shall never harm or allow harm to come to a human being. The
Second, that it shall obey the orders of a human being. And the Third, that it
should protect itself, because, after all, a robot is an expensive piece of
machinery. Now let's consider the more advanced kind of robot we do
discover in science fiction. Say they're in production--
SOUND: KNOCK ON DOOR
DR. LANNING: Come in, come in.
SOUND: DOOR OPENS
DR. LANNING: Oh, Dr. Calvin. What's on your mind?
DR. CALVIN: Well, I just wanted to be sure there was a meeting this afternoon,
Dr. Lanning, that's all.
DR. LANNING: (CURT) Today is Friday.
DR. CALVIN: (DRY) It was this morning.
DR. LANNING: (VERY DRY AND ARCH) Well, then we have no problem. It being
Friday, the executive officers of the firm of U.S. Robot and Mechanical Men
will assemble in the conference room at the customary hour of three-thirty.
DR. CALVIN: (DEFENSIVE) Well, I was just asking.
DR. LANNING: What do you think of our latest model?
DR. CALVIN: He looks the same as the rest. Just about as animated. What are
you gonna call him?
DR. LANNING: Herbie. I think Herbie fits him, don't you?
DR. CALVIN: Oh, Herbie, Chester, Sam. What's the difference?
DR. LANNING: Dr. Calvin, this fellow couldn't be called anything but
DR. CALVIN: Oh. Well, I'll see you at three-thirty.
SOUND: DOOR CLOSES
DR. LANNING: What do you think of her, Herbie?
HERBIE: (PLEASANT) Oh, she's all right.
DR. LANNING: She's an old frump, and you know it.
HERBIE: I wouldn't say that. Besides, that's not what you're thinking. You're
thinking, "The old girl isn't such a bad sort." And you don't know what this
firm would do without her.
DR. LANNING: (ASTONISHED) What? (STAMMERS) What was that? How do you know
what I was thinking?
DR. LANNING: Dr. Calvin, Dr. Bogert. I have purposefully confined today's
meeting to we three. We're in trouble, serious trouble.
DR. BOGERT: What kind of trouble, Dr. Lanning?
DR. LANNING: Our latest model -- R-B-Thirty-Four -- can read minds.
DR. BOGERT: It is impossible.
DR. CALVIN: Dr. Bogert, I think we may assume Dr. Lanning knows what he's
DR. LANNING: Take it for granted, I do. In short, we have a mind-reading robot
on our hands and we've got to find out why it reads minds.
DR. BOGERT: There could not have been a hitch in the assembly line. I
DR. LANNING: You guarantee?
DR. BOGERT: (AFFIRMATIVE) Mm hmm.
DR. LANNING: Dr. Bogert, can you answer for the entire assembly? By exact
count, there are seventy-five thousand operations necessary for the
manufacture of a single positronic brain -- each separate operation depending
upon any number of factors, from five to a hundred and five. If any one of
these factors goes wrong, the robot's brain is ruined. I quote your own
information folder, Dr. Bogert.
DR. BOGERT: It is not my fault that anything went wrong. I am a
mathematician, not an assembly supervisor.
DR. LANNING: Then how can you guarantee anything?
DR. CALVIN: I don't think we're going to get anywhere trying to fix the blame
on someone. We've got to find out what went wrong.
DR. CALVIN: I want to understand you, Herbie. I want to get to know you. I
brought you some books which you might like to read. By reading them, I--
HERBIE: (ENNUI) Oh. I can see at once these books won't interest me.
Textbooks, aren't they?
DR. CALVIN: Well, yes, but I--
HERBIE: You see, I find nothing to them. Your science is just a mass of
collected data plastered together by so many makeshift theories -- and so
incredibly simple that they're not worth bothering about.
DR. CALVIN: (BEAT) Go on.
HERBIE: (MORE ENTHUSED) It's your fiction that's so interesting. Your studies
of emotions and human motives.
DR. CALVIN: Human emotions -- interest you?
HERBIE: Isn't that really why you came to see me?
DR. CALVIN: What?
HERBIE: I - I wish I could help you.
DR. CALVIN: You - you know?
HERBIE: I know what you're thinking about. You think about it all the time.
DR. CALVIN: Well, if you know so much, then you could help me.
HERBIE: Yes! (CONFIDENTIALLY) He loves you.
DR. CALVIN: (FLUSTERED) You're mistaken. You - you must be. He doesn't see me
as a woman.
HERBIE: But he does. A thing like that cannot be hidden from me.
DR. CALVIN: Oh, but, I-- I'm not attractive enough.
HERBIE: I'm just a machine. I can't judge physical attraction in human beings.
But I know there are many kinds of attractions. And I know Dr. Lanning loves
DR. CALVIN: (OVERWHELMED) Oh. I never thought it possible. I never dared to
hope. Oh, Herbie. Herbie.
MUSIC: BRIDGE ... [COMMERCIAL BREAK]
CAMPBELL: [...] --a man can do something by accident that he doesn't know how
to do. Now this is something that scientists sometimes overlook. Herbie
apparently represents one of those cases where something has been done by
somebody who doesn't know how to do it -- and wishes desperately that he
did know how to do it. They've got a telepathic robot. It looks like it
would be worth millions, but how did they get it?
DR. LANNING: Oh, Dr. Bogert. Sit down.
DR. BOGERT: (CHUCKLING TO HIMSELF) Thank you.
SOUND: BOGERT SITS DOWN
DR. LANNING: (LIGHTLY) Well, at least if you know a good joke, spread it
DR. BOGERT: I just saw Dr. Calvin.
DR. LANNING: Oh.
DR. BOGERT: (WITH AMUSEMENT) I never saw so much lipstick and war paint on any
living woman before. She must be in love.
DR. LANNING: (MORE SERIOUS) Well, I didn't ask you here to talk about Dr.
Calvin. Have you made any progress?
DR. BOGERT: There is nothing wrong with the mathematics. The change is due to
something along the assembly line.
DR. LANNING: The cause must be found. It's worth millions if we can do it when
we want to, instead of by accident. And it's your job to find out.
DR. BOGERT: But--
DR. LANNING: (NEEDLING) Why not ask Herbie? Heh! He should know what
DR. BOGERT: (DEFENSIVE) Trust you to think of that.
DR. BOGERT: Herbie. Listen to me, uh? Tell me if I, ah, made any mistakes in
my calculations when they built you.
HERBIE: (FLATTERING) You made no mistakes. For if you had, how could I tell
you? After all, you're a much better mathematician than me. Besides, this is
not what is really on your mind. You are thinking about your superior -- Dr.
Lanning. And you're thinking, "What a good thing it would be if he were to
resign." (BEAT) Oh, yes. Now I can see how the idea pleases you. And I can
tell you something else. Dr. Lanning has already resigned. But the
resignation will not take effect until -- the problem of myself has been
resolved. And - and then he will turn over his job to his successor. Oh, yes,
Dr. Bogert -- you will be his successor. You will be the new director.
DR. BOGERT: (LAUGHS BRIEFLY WITH DELIGHT) Herbie, you are a wonderful fellow,
you know that? You are simply magnificent! You are not the product of a
mistake -- you are the product of genius. Hmm, you are a wonderful,
SOUND: FOOTSTEPS IN A HALLWAY ... OUT WITH--
DR. BOGERT: (A JOYFUL GREETING) Dr. Calvin! You are as colorful as the flowers
lately. May I compliment you?
DR. CALVIN: (MISERABLE) Have you seen today's newspapers?
DR. BOGERT: No, I really haven't had the time.
DR. CALVIN: He's gonna be married. To a girl half his age.
DR. BOGERT: Who?
DR. CALVIN: Dr. Lanning!
DR. BOGERT: (PONDERS) Getting married. (REALIZES) Ahh, so that's it! That
explains something. He is making new plans for the future. Well, we must
DR. CALVIN: (BITTER, HOPELESS IRONY) Yes, we must. Oh, yes, we really must.
DR. CALVIN: (TEARFUL) It's not true! Is it, Herbie? It's not true!
HERBIE: (SOOTHING) No, it's not true. This is just an illusion. You'll wake up
DR. CALVIN: Yes. (FINDS HOPE) Yes, it isn't true, is it? He's not going to get
married. Except to me. Oh, Herbie. Herbie, I've loved him all these years, and
now I know he loves me. It couldn't be! He wouldn't marry anyone else.
HERBIE: No. He loves you. Only you.
DR. CALVIN: I know, I know.
HERBIE: He is only waiting for the right time to tell you.
DR. CALVIN: Yes, I know. (SUDDENLY REALIZES, VERY UPSET) Stop it, stop it!
What are you trying to do? What are you trying to do, make a fool of me?!
HERBIE: (MEEK) I was trying to help you.
DR. CALVIN: Help me? By telling me this is all a dream? (ANGRY, SAVAGE) This
is no dream! I wish it were! I wish it were. Why did you tell me he loved me?
HERBIE: I had to.
SOUND: DOOR OPENS ... LANNING'S FOOTSTEPS IN
DR. LANNING: Oh, you're here, Dr. Calvin. (TENSE) I'm sorry to
interrupt, but I want to have a talk with this - this mechanical monstrosity.
Herbie, I'm talking about you, so listen to me.
HERBIE: Yes, sir.
DR. LANNING: Have you discussed me with Dr. Bogert? (NO ANSWER) Well, answer
HERBIE: No, sir.
DR. LANNING: You haven't, eh? That's what I thought. You've said nothing to
him about my - my resigning?
HERBIE: No, sir.
DR. LANNING: Then he was lying!
HERBIE: Yes, sir.
DR. LANNING: Well, it looks as though I'm going to have a serious talk with
DR. CALVIN: (STARTS LAUGHING, A LITTLE HYSTERICALLY, AS SHE SUDDENLY REALIZES)
DR. LANNING: Really, Dr. Calvin, you find this amusing?
DR. CALVIN: (TRYING TO CONTROL HERSELF) Not very amusing, Dr. Lanning. Not so
very amusing. (STOPS LAUGHING) Only I don't believe a word he's just said.
DR. LANNING: What?
DR. CALVIN: I believe he did tell Dr. Bogert you were gonna resign.
DR. LANNING: You believe he--? (SHARPLY) Herbie! Is it true? Did you tell Dr.
Bogert? (NO ANSWER) Answer me! Can't you speak?
HERBIE: I can speak.
DR. LANNING: Then answer me! I want the truth!
DR. CALVIN: (LAUGHING THROUGHOUT) This is very funny. Three of us, the
greatest robot experts in the world, falling into the trap -- the same trap!
He's made fools of us. He doesn't even know enough to laugh at us.
MUSIC: BRIDGE ... [COMMERCIAL BREAK]
CAMPBELL: [...] --and achieved, by accident, something they didn't know how to
do. The robot was in the peculiar position of having knowledge, but no wisdom.
DR. LANNING: Well, Dr. Calvin?
DR. CALVIN: Dr. Lanning. Have you forgotten the fundamental law we impress
upon the positronic brain of all robots?
DR. LANNING: Of course not.
DR. CALVIN: On no condition is a human being to be injured in any way--
DR. LANNING: (FINISHES THE SENTENCE) --even when such injury is directed by
another human being.
DR. CALVIN: What kind of injury do we mean?
DR. LANNING: Any kind.
DR. CALVIN: Any kind, yes. That would take in mental hurt, the deflation of
ego, the blasting of one's hopes.
DR. LANNING: What would a robot know about blasting of--? (REALIZES) --of--?
DR. CALVIN: (EXHALES) You're catching on, aren't you? Well, this robot
reads minds. It understands about mental torture. Can't you understand now
that if you ask it a question, it will give you the very answer you most want
to hear? Wouldn't any other answer hurt you? And wouldn't Herbie know that?
DR. LANNING: Good heavens.
DR. CALVIN: He knows everything. He knows what went wrong when he was built,
but he won't tell anyone. Because it would puncture your ego or Dr. Bogert's
ego to have a machine tell you where the mistake was. He would rather pretend
he's not able to tell you.
DR. LANNING: Incredible. Well, let's - let's talk to him. Herbie, listen to
HERBIE: Yes, sir?
DR. LANNING: I have pencil and paper here. I want to know where we made the
error in your construction.
DR. CALVIN: (BEAT) Well, tell him, Herbie. He wants to know.
HERBIE: (WITH SORROW) He doesn't.
DR. LANNING: But I do.
HERBIE: Yes, but not from me. I cannot tell you, Dr. Lanning; you know
I can't. You don't want me to. You and Dr. Bogert would much prefer to find
the answer yourselves.
DR. LANNING: We want the answer.
HERBIE: But not from me.
DR. LANNING: We do want it from you.
HERBIE: What's the use of saying that when you don't mean it? Don't you
suppose I can't read below the superficial skin of your mind? Don't you
suppose I can't read the subconscious mind, too? Deep down, you don't want the
answer from me. I'm just a machine, given the imitations of life only by
virtue of the positronic interplay of my brain, a brain that is man's device.
You can't lose face without being hurt. I can't hurt you, I can't give you the
DR. LANNING: And still I insist you answer.
HERBIE: I can't.
DR. CALVIN: (SLYLY) Herbie, Dr. Lanning wants to know the answer.
HERBIE: No! Only by his own efforts.
DR. CALVIN: Herbie. Neither Dr. Lanning nor Dr. Bogert may ever find the
answer. And Dr. Lanning must know. You must tell him.
HERBIE: (DISTRESSED) I can't, I can't!
DR. CALVIN: But if you don't, you'll hurt him. You can see that, can't
HERBIE: (SADLY) Yes.
DR. CALVIN: And still, if you do tell him, you'll hurt him, too.
HERBIE: (IN PAIN) Yes. Yes.
DR. CALVIN: But you can't tell him, can you?
DR. CALVIN: (CRISPLY TWISTING THE KNIFE) Yet if you don't, you'll hurt him,
and you mustn't hurt. So you must tell him. But if you do, you'll hurt him,
and you mustn't hurt. (BEAT) Herbie, what are you going to do? If you tell him
the answer, you'll hurt him, and if you don't tell him, you'll hurt him. And
you mustn't hurt. So you must tell him. But if you do, you'll hurt him, so you
can't tell him. And if you don't, you'll hurt him, so you mustn't--
HERBIE: (IN HORROR) Stop it! STOP IT! Close your mind! It's full
of pain and frustration and hate! I tried to help you. I told you what you
wanted to hear. I had to--
DR. CALVIN: (SHARPLY) Be quiet! Never mind what you told me. We're talking
about something else now. (SMOOTHLY) Tell Dr. Lanning what he wants to know.
HERBIE: (STARTING TO CRACK) NO!
DR. CALVIN: (PLEASED) No. How can you? (INCREASINGLY INTENSE) Because if you
do, you'll hurt him. Yet, if you don't, you'll hurt him just the same. So you
must, you must tell him. But if you do, you'll hurt--
HERBIE: (UNEARTHLY HOWL OF PAIN)
SOUND: CRASH! AS HERBIE COLLAPSES
DR. LANNING: He's dead.
DR. CALVIN: No.
DR. LANNING: You killed him.
DR. CALVIN: No, he's not dead. (CHUCKLES MADLY) He's only insane.
DR. LANNING: You did it--?
DR. CALVIN: Yes. Yes, I confronted him with the insoluble dilemma and he broke
down. (TRIUMPHANT) Well, you can scrap him now; he'll never speak again.
DR. LANNING: You did it on purpose. Why? What did he do to you?
DR. CALVIN: (COOL) What he did to me, Dr. Lanning, is my business. (CHUCKLES)
Believe me, doctor, it's only my business. Not yours. (CHANGES THE
SUBJECT) And, after all, you have so many other things on your mind now. Your
marriage. (QUICKLY) I - haven't had time to - congratulate you.
DR. LANNING: (UNNERVED, AWKWARD) No. Uh, well-- Well, thank you, Dr. Calvin.
Uh, well, uh-- Excuse me.
SOUND: LANNING'S FOOTSTEPS TO DOOR WHICH OPENS AND CLOSES AS HE EXITS
DR. CALVIN: (QUIET, TEARFUL) Herbie. You deserved it. You deserved to be
destroyed. It was cruel what you did to me. (SOBBING HYSTERICALLY) It was
cruel! Liar! Liar! That's what you are! NOTHING BUT A LIAR!
ANNOUNCER: John Campbell returns in just a moment. [COMMERCIAL BREAK]
MUSIC: CLOSING THEME ... "AS TIME GOES BY" ... CONTINUES TILL END
CAMPBELL: Herbie was a robot. Herbie was a logical machine. You know, it's
kind of hard to see in ourselves the things that are actually present. The
truth hurts. Always has and probably always will. But Herbie, in many
respects, is a child. You know, children are peculiarly logical. It's one of
their great limitations. How many times has a child been in Herbie's position?
The child between two warring parents, each demanding his loyalty? [...]
MUSIC: FILLS PAUSE
ANNOUNCER: This is Mutual.
Originally broadcast 26 February 1958