The ethics of torturing robots is not a new question, but it's becoming more important as robots and AI becomes more lifelike. Author Ted Chiang explored it in his 2010 novella, The Lifecycle of Software Objects. In 1998 I wrote an article for Wired Online called "Virtual Sadism" about people who liked to torture artificial life forms called "norns" (and a movement of norn lovers who tried to stop them). In 1977 Terrel Miedaner wrote a philosophical science fiction novel called The Soul of Anna Klan, which featured a little Roomba like creature that seems to be afraid to "die" when someone tries to crush it with a hammer. (An excerpt from the novel appears in the excellent book, The Mind's I: Fantasies And Reflections On Self & Soul, edited by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett.)
Dylan Love of Inverse revisits the idea of robot abuse in his article for Inverse, "Is it OK to torture a robot?"
Consider the latest robot to be unveiled by Google’s Boston Dynamics. When the collective internet saw a bearded scientist abuse the robot with a hockey stick, weird pangs of empathy went out everywhere. Why do we feel so bad when we watch the robot fall down, we wonder? There’s no soul or force of life to empathize with, and yet: This robot is just trying to lift a box, why does that guy have to bully it?
The Boston Dynamics video reminded me of the inflatable Bozo men, meant to be abused:
The Snowbot — a $14,000 Beampro telepresence robot that Edward Snowden pilots from Moscow — is becoming a fixture at conferences, meetings, and in the halls of power in the USA, where Snowden is a frequent invited guest.
It’s described as “nightmare fuel” by Digital Trends but I think it’s adorable.
Here’s something to fear about self-driving cars! Once they’re up and running and insurance companies and legislators realize they’re much better at it than humans, you won’t even be allowed to drive. Also, the infrastructure is decaying badly and there’s no political will to face up to the costs of fixing it, so the roads […]
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