Asimov's First Law scales by Alice Wang


Designer Alice Wang has created a range of weighing scales that allow you to deceive yourself about your weight.

Called Asimov's First Law, the collection explores whether we are being psychologically harmed by the simple gadgets that surround us. Above: Half Truth scales make another person decide whether to lie or tell the user the truth about their weight.

The collection is named after the first of the Laws of Robotics set out by writer Isaac Asimov in his 1942 short story, Runaround, which states that a robot may not harm a human. Above: Open Secrets scales, in which the user's weight is transmitted to another person's mobile phone. They can then choose how and when to break the news.

Above: the White Lies scales show the user to be lighter and lighter as they edge further and further backwards.

Here's an explanation of the concept from Alice Wang:


Asimov’s First Law

“A robot may not harm a human being.”
The first law of robotics by Isaac Asimov.

Artificial intelligence is a topic widely used in the media, however, exactly how far are we from such technology? Are these fears towards robotic developments necessary or purely irrational? What is it about these currently fictional characters that scare us? Are there existing domestic objects that already break this law?

Scales, although they don’t perform physical harm, have been subtly damaging us psychologically. Should objects like these exist in a complex society like ours where people are more emotionally fragile?

This scale allows one to lie to him/herself. The further back you stand, the lighter you become. The user can gradually move closer and closer to reality.

This scale puts your partner responsible for deciding whether to lie or hit you with the truth.

This scale reveals your weight every time you weigh yourself by sending a text message to the desired mobile phone. The receiver is then responsible to reveal the answer immediately or the next time you two meet.

Posted on Sunday March 2nd 2008 at 11:42 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • KD

    Funny Tech & brilliant ideas!

  • Great idea and application. Smart art.

  • LBE

    Great idea. I weighed myself two days ago and it hurt so badly that I haven’t eated since.

  • Wow. That’s a hell of a social commentary in one product line right there.

  • FatAndProud

    But regular scales already work in that way¡¡. This guy invented nothing¡¡.

  • ‘Scales, although they don’t perform physical harm, have been subtly damaging us psychologically. Should objects like these exist in a complex society like ours where people are more emotionally fragile?’

    WHAT??? is it just me or is this nonsense? The scales don’t do any damage – that object/tool is the last place that I would look to explain the subtle and not so subtle psychological scars we bare relating to neurosis with weight and food in the West.

    WHITE LIES – or ‘THE SLOW AND PAINFUL WAY TO CONFRONT THE TRUTH’…. i don’t get it, this is a waste of time… get on a bike instead and go for a cycle…

    So the nominated person decides whether to allow you to be paranoid or not about your weight – what??…if you were that concerned about your weight would you want to share this information? And would anyone ever really bother with this? ‘Hi Jodi, yeah you weigh 8 stone 2’, ‘really? that’s so weird, my size 18 hot pants feel really tight’

    Please…. stop it! this is too much for me….. So you use an SMS (revolutionary) and spend money (even more stoopid than weighing yourself all the time) to send a text to your mate (no mate of mine would get me to do this for them and i suspect none of them would ever ask!) or if you are to embarrassed, to yourself, and then they are obliged to tell you the weight the next time they see you….snore…

    I realise that in the West we have a lot of neurosis relating to food, how we eat and weight/self image and that we need to change for various reasons but these do nothing to take the issues to an interesting place.. the issues are serious that have wider implications that go way beyond whether we feel like weighing ourselves too much or leaving that last cookie after reading nonsense like Look, Closer, Grazia and similar ilk…

    sorry, not impressed (rant over).

  • jed

    what’s the point!? this is totally a waste of time and resources.

  • jo white

    hi jodi,

    shame on you for choosing such a soft target. why do you give this designer such a hard time for daring to think differently when there are so many outrageous crimes against design and intelligence elsewhere on this blog?

    why does she have to get it 100% right at the beginning of her career, yet newson gets away with getting it 100% wrong at this late stage of his?

    he should know better and she couldn’t know better. chill.

    i’d choose the conceptual imperfection of these scales over the bankruptcy of intellect and imagination represented by marble shelves and tables any day!


  • Chris

    I never get products like these. The wierd blurring of the already misty line between art and design. Products that don’t really work but make statements – not my thing, but fair play to someone that gets paid for stuff like this. At least it makes you think a bit.

    I love Asimovs books and find him to be an inspiration to me through his forward thinking – but these products are not worthy of the association with the man. It is a tenuous link to the First Law at best.

    But what do I know – art is totally subjective.

  • Hi Jo,

    It was a bit of a rant, wasn’t it?! But I still stand by what I wrote. I do think it is a waste of time and I do not find the work interesting. But having said that, I am not saying she will do anything great in the future! And I certainly would not want to compare her work to that of Marc Newson, or his latter career moves – and for the record I agree with you about him. And I am with you, I would choose most things over the bankruptcy of intellect and imagination represented by marble shelves and tables and wooden crates and I could go on…. I am a real lover of concepts, sometimes they are more impressive than the final results… Perhaps I was a bit hard on Alice, for that I am sorry – but don’t you think criticism should be applauded? .. there is not enough of it, to my mind in this industry… Perhaps that is why some of these bigger named designers get away with turning out poor examples of work…

  • mike

    I think Jodi’s being a bit harsh. Objects like these are meant to provoke new thinking, new perspective. You dont have to agree with what Alice has presented, but no need for harsh critisms like such. harsh critisms just shows your narrow-mindedness.

  • Will

    Well the design has served its purpose you all wrote and vented your opinions. Regardless of its worthiness in relation to the real problems that face the design industry and the eternal deluge of crap that is being made. I think this may have connected with you in more ways than most products today do.