Watch out for Bullied Robots

Alexandra Bremers
October 20th 2015

Dystopian future scenarios filled with evil robots are everywhere. We are afraid of robots treating us badly, but what will happen if it'll be the other way around? According to Italian researcher Pericle Salvini, it is predictable that if people ruin static objects, they will not leave moving objects alone. At the same time "bullied" or assaulted robots could be far more dangerous than a vandalized telephone cell.

"Imagine if people would try to sabotage the robot with a stick, or a spray can. If the robot is not programmed in such a way that he can control this situation, he could possibly end up wounding someone one day" he says.

But who would assault a robot? The answer: children. A team of Japanese researchers dived into their motivations to perform aggressive behaviors, ranging from hitting to breaking off limbs, towards the robots. Even when the robot's programmed voice would beg them to stop, a lot of the kids involved in the experiment continued to attack. Making the robots more human-looking would not offer a solution. According to the researchers, even children who recognize the robot as a human would still attack it.

Researchers believe that educating children in how to interact with robots will be the answer, but this solution is not completely convincing Even if this will help, it is only a way to get around the problem, while the underlying cause is not solved. This can be dangerous, since moving task-performing robots just have way more power to do harm than an inanimate, static object such as a telephone cell.

Making robots that can replace humans with performing everyday tasks sounds very promising on one hand, but it has a lot of downsides and potential dangers as well. Robots, especially the ones connected to human interaction, get more and more complex, and so do the issues surrounding them. Perhaps it is time to slowly leave behind our rosy feeling about robots as being easy, reliable and low-maintenance replacements for imperfect human beings, and instead acknowledge and deal with their own potentially very dangerous unforeseen imperfections. Perhaps after all, robots are much more human-like than we think.

Source: Motherboard. Image: Shutterstock

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