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:
Earlier this year, Gundam Factory Yokohama announced plans to debut a 60-foot-tall Gundam robot on October 1, 2020. While construction on this epic mech was initially delayed by COVID-19, it seems that things are back on schedule — so much so, that they let the Gundam out for a test walk. Popular Mechanics has some […]
Remember engineer Shane Wighton of Stuff Made Here who impressed the Internet with his robotic basketball backboard that helps the ball into the hoop? Now he’s built a robot that cuts his hair. Using a combination of physical sensors and computer vision, it gave him a pretty great looking mullet! I also appreciate its Flowbee-like […]
University of Washington engineers developed a tiny, wireless, and steerable videocamera that can be worn by insects or minuscule micro-robots to stream live video. The device weighs just 248 milligrams. Evan Ackerman writes in IEEE Spectrum: The system was successfully tested on a pair of darkling beetles that were allowed to roam freely outdoors, and […]
For those who want a career in video games, there’s no reason to sit around and wait. EA and Rockstar Games probably aren’t going to seek you out and knock on your door with a job opportunity. But if you’re an indie developer with a good idea and some passion, you can create a really […]
Nobody is happy about the current state of our COVID-ravaged education system. With a new school year fast approaching, plans for teaching students still in flux, and political in-fighting driving more fear and confusion about whether or not to re-open campuses, teachers and parents are concerned. Meanwhile, most kids are just fine with spending less […]
Creating a fantasy world for a video or role-playing game is tough enough. In addition to all the game framework and functionality that goes into a build of any size, creators invariably sweat over the most minute details of every weapon, outfit, or other distinctive objects in their game. Even if your game is set […]