Robot Bites Man!

The old newspaper saying holds that a dog biting a man isn’t news, but “Man Bites Dog” is a stellar headline. So instead of focusing on the usual human-on-small-robot torture experiments as we usually do, we bring you “The First Law“, an art piece by [Alex Reben].

[Alex] built a robot that “intentionally” defies Asimov’s First Law: doing no harm to humans. A human puts its little pink finger in the slot, is sensed, and a robot arm with a needle comes down and smashes through the meatbag’s puny fleshy appendage. Or maybe it doesn’t — it’s got a randomization routine that can be said to be “choosing” to prick you or not.

Yeah, the pin-prick is trivial, and yeah, the robot is not really deciding, but the point of the ‘bot is to get people talking. In a world where killer robots are not (yet, explicitly) against the Geneva Convention, soon we’re going to be facing this problem for real. If we need robot-art that makes literary references to get us thinking about these issues, so be it.

Of course, you don’t need to wait until there’s moral consensus to build your own terribly dangerous “robots” at home. How about an automated flamethrower or a knife-wielding tentacle? Or maybe this once, we’ll say that it makes more sense to just sit back and read about other folks doing it.

Via [Fast Company]. Thanks [fishocks367] for the tip!

49 thoughts on “Robot Bites Man!

  1. I don’t think Asimov himself would be against a robot breaking the first law. Anybody who has read “I, robot” knows the whole book is about robots breaking the laws as a way of exploring them. However, he would definitely be against the “trivial” pin-prick of this robot that immediately resets for the next victim since he died of AIDs that he contracted from a blood transfusion.

        1. I could have Googled something better. That was just a quick & dirty… There were a BUNCH of videos about turning off Data’s safety protocols (Asimov 1st Law?) but I didn’t have the time. Also I could have Googled that iRobot movie too. I’m pretty sure my long tenure on HaD is understood by most of the old-timers here as being the resident comedian at large, superfluous information-mill, tin-foil hat consp theorists, and way uber-TMI on intel community. Sorry if I’m boring some of you. I’m just in my cyber-element here at HaD and my haunting is on over-drive I know, as I like the company here so much. I’m sorry if I stepped on some political toes with my “insult generator”. I know I tend to get too political at times, but Hirudinea’s posting was too much of a tempting target for me (in a good way!)

          Everybody here knows I mean well. I’m not trying to be a troll. I’m just that crazy old man that lives on the house on the hill. The guy you really like to have a beer with but are afraid he won’t stop talking about off-topic stuff and is not really an Arduino guy (yet!). And you’d be right! :-D

        2. That scene is from the MOVIE “Star Trek: Generations” and not from the syndicated TV show “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. You didn’t see that scene in an episode of the show, perhaps in an airing of the movie.

  2. I’m not quite sure I understand what point is being made here – machines have been capable of killing and injuring humans since the beginning of the Industrial Age and routinely do. I was once in an inclosed paint booth when the resident Fanuc robot arm made an “unscheduled jog” and scared the shit out of me about fifteen years ago the idiot operator I was with hadn’t locked it out as he should have. It had nothing to do with it being a robot and everything to do with a lax attitude towards procedures. Powerful machines are potentially dangerous and you are not safe in their working zone and it has always been thus.

    1. You are right. This is not really a robot (yes, there are such a thing as grey space) and it seems like a person who can’t do trying to neutralize the work of people that can do, using a high level theme like art or philosophy to seem like they can do.

      1. “This” does not do anything on purpose. It is a stupid bunch of parts that do “something” and the machine is not aware of anythign it is doing. This whole thing and the purpose of it is rather stupid than anything else and has nothing to do with Asmiovs laws at all.

  3. It’s a conversation we have to have, the issue of robotic ethics is a lot closer than people realise. Wait until a few years from now where your latest generation Tesla is faced with the decision to either continue steering you towards that group of people (schoolchildren maybe?) that have stepped onto the road directly ahead or into the path of that oncoming speeding truck in the next lane over.

    1. Where’s the dilemma? Hit the people. They chose to walk in front of a car. Don’t hit the innocent.

      Although realistically, the vehicle would have slowed down at the potential hazard to give it time to reduce the impact to non-fatal if necessary. If it has time to swerve around them, it had time to brake.

    2. ONCOMING SPEEDING TRUCK SOLUTION: You know those anti-deer whistlers available at American dollar stores? How about making an Arduino based subliminal noise maker. The sound effect is the scary low frequency sound of the tripods from War of the Worlds 2. The police can not say it’s an illegal siren as it sounds like a plausible sound from a bad tire or something. Then superimpose a female voice just under the tripod level that repeats the dire warning “Danger – Danger – Danger” in an endless loop. You could put in a switch to engage or disengage it at will. It would sound something like this:

      Great ringtone too!

      1. I am Diabetic and you are not supposed to reuse the disposable lancets.

        However, this would make it more fun and less of a hassle when it comes time to take one’s blood sugar.

        Now if they could make it eject the old needle and replace it with a new one everytime
        and add a glucometer (with a numeric display and spoken readout) to the mix, then it would be a worthy hack.
        Heck, it needs to be IOT or have USB somewhere.
        (think of how this could help the elderly/disabled)

      1. Oh how cute. sonofthunderboanerges has a blob yet ‘narm’ed private. So did you get subscribers to your political anthem?

        HaD wants to know!

        Honestly, You bark up the wrong tree sonny boy ANY candidate that doesn’t export testicles and rebuilds industry would be considered a hero.

        1. JohnScnow – Sorry I stepped on your toes John. I really wasn’t trying to dis’ your boy, He was just the 1st “insult generator” I found on a quick Google search. Just thought it was topical and apropos to post in response to Hirudinea. I know they got a kick out of it too. That was my aim. My dad (notarealemail) was absolutely correct too. He knows me too well. Just having some cyber-fun, lighten up dude! We are all friends here.

      1. Hirudinea does not strike me as a “thin-skinner” like the gross insult-generator demagogue I suggested.If Hirudinea was suggesting Elliot I’d be shocked. Elliot does not seem like the type. Anyway, it’s an excellent idea if it wasn’t just tongue and cheek. I can design a randomizer JavaScript insult machine if someone would feed me a large text file of insults (each one on a new line). Using Google Chrome I can make it speak too.

        1. I can assure you that Hirudinea didn’t mean Elliott. I’ve insulted more people than Elliott, lol.
          There are several here that apparently make it their ‘job’ to insult people’s intelligence and ideas, and they change their username/handle every few weeks/months.
          I’m not thin-skinned either, but we don’t like seeing others being harassed.

          FTR your ‘insult machine’ could be potentially hilarious, though I’ve heard my fair share. ;)

        2. *sonofthunderboanerges makes shuffling noises*

          Yes, yes…. Please continue.

          WE…ARE…SOOoooooo… Intrested in what you have to say. Since you are a REGULAR Contributor, Innovator or Pragmatic yet helpful critic.

          1. JohnScnow – Thanks John appreciate the sarcasm! You don’t have to go data-mining on me. As the old timers here at HaD know for years that I am a transparent haunt. I usually answer personal questions without reservation. Some of the contributors know me by real name and home address. Not hiding at all. I just like the apparent anonymity of my moniker even though I know it’s not private at all. Some even know what it means too. I did not know my WP blog was set to private. I haven’t even used it yet. Actually I think you and I have had friendly dialogs in the past about lasers and stuff. Why change now?

  4. The old joke is: “Man Biting Dog” – it’s a double entendre. Classic 3 Stooges joke :D

    Why not try a cutting laser from one of those old hair removal or DVD-writer lasers? It will sterilize the wound while cauterizing it. Add an ambient UVA or B lamp and it will disinfect the entire Laser Mumblety-peg area ( :D

    In deference to our Hindustani and People-of-Color audience you might want to think about rewording “pink finger”. Just sayin… BTW the laser would be faster on darker fingers too… :D

    (Remember to wear bandwidth appropriate laser eye wear protection!)

      1. Nathan McCorkle – I was referring to the people of India and Pakistan. Their skin color ranges from light-skin (light tan color) to dark-skin (chocolate brown color). Here is a representation of the anthropological pigmentation ranges in India:

        I did not want to say INDIAN as that phrase is sometimes confused with Native Indigenous Americans (aka The First Peoples). That was Columbus’ utter fail.

        Actually IMO anthropologically speaking there are really no “pink” people on Earth as an ethnic group. The same applies to “white” and “black”. We are actually all ONE human race with different ethnic pigmentation which SEEMS to be different shades of yellow extra light yellow (very light skin) to mid-yellow to extra dark yellow (i.e. dark brown skin).. And all those shades can be impacted by levels of UVR from the sun depending on geography.

      1. JohnScnow – Yes John if you are referring to me being the presumptive resident-know-it-all than you’d be correct. However, no, the I’m not a dweller on old bad memories “i,e, survivor remorse”. I tend to have one of those trick-memories (i.e. goes out on me at odd times and I forget old stuff). Maybe a problem with my neural plasticity I guess. :-P

  5. This is disturbing. Not a ‘robot’ really, just someone who hurt himself for attention. I get the point of doing it to ‘start a conversation’ but we have that discussion every week here.

  6. Saw this in the slashdot story comments from yesterday…

    “How is this different than a mechanical bear trap?”

    There is no AI, no decision making, this is a programmed response.
    The three laws are programmed barriers to the AI freedom of action and decision making in a real yet to be realized artificial intelligence.
    Like how Robocop, with a mostly human brain, was blocked from performing certain actions he would have otherwise decided to do by added on programming in his partial brain prosthesis.

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