More Robot Abuse

Coming hard on the chromium heels of Hitchbot’s murder in The City of Brotherly Love, and news that factory workers have long sabotaged robots, is this quaint, Animal Farm-esq tale of children ganging up on robots…

Ah, The Future!

According to the study, “Escaping from Children’s Abuse of Social Robots,” obstruction like this wasn’t nearly the worst of it. The tots’ behavior often escalated, and sometimes they’d get violent, hitting and kicking Robovie. They also engaged in verbal abuse, calling the robot “bad words.” […]

Next, they designed an abuse-evading algorithm to help the robot avoid situations where tiny humans might gang up on it. Literally tiny humans: the robot is programmed to run away from people who are below a certain height and escape in the direction of taller people. When it encounters a human, the system calculates the probability of abuse based on interaction time, pedestrian density, and the presence of people above or below 4 feet 6 inches in height. If the robot is statistically in danger, it changes its course towards a more crowded area or a taller person. This ensures that an adult is there to intervene when one of the little brats decides to pound the robot’s head with a bottle (which only happened a couple times)…

When questioned, 74 percent of the kids described the robot as “human-like” and only 13 percent as “machine-like.” Half of them said that they believed that their behavior was “stressful or painful” for the robot. So basically, most of these kids perceive the robot they’re abusing as lifelike, and then just go ahead and abuse it anyway. While that’s a little disturbing, it appears to be in line with some child psychology research on animal abuse.

Let’s face it, denial by H. monastic aside, humans are primates. And primates are nasty and brutish, which is of course why it takes so long to socialize us. Moreover, kids will be kids. However, assuming AI advances enough that heuristic programming/learning becomes the norm for the devices, constant exposure to this type of behavior is the single likeliest way of bringing about the Rise of the Machines.

Maybe we shouldn’t do that?

More Robot Abuse

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