Danger, Will Robinson!!

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Many are in mourning following the death in Philadelphia of a Canadian made socialist robot named Hitchbot. He was designed to initiate discussions about trust, notions of safety, and our attitude towards technology. The  robot was not able to walk – it completed its “hitchhiking” journeys by “asking” to be carried by those who picked it up. The droid also had artificial intelligence (AI) systems that allowed it to recognise speech and converse with people it encountered on its journey.

It was created as a social experiment, as it depended on the kindness of strangers. To keep drivers engaged in conversation, Hitchbot ran social media and Wikipedia application programming interfaces so that it could make small talk. Because he looked childlike and humanoid, and not like an inanimate object, people had more of a sense of responsibility towards it. Much like the AI robot in Short Circuit.

Because of its innocence and dependency Hitch gave people the feeling they were nursing something. Despite hard wiring towards empathy humans must still traverse the oral developmental stage of human psychosexual development: the first growth hurdle we face. It is also referred to as the phase of basic trust vs mistrust.

Tricky parental balancing of need gratification versus frustration is required to exit the oral phase unscathed. Unfilled longings lead to anger and resentment. This overrides the hard wiring we may have towards empathy and altruism. And so Hitchbot was likely destroyed by orally damaged urban sociopaths in a culture that breeds and worships that existential position. I am surprised he even made it 200 miles from Boston to the city of brotherly love.

When HitchBOT was HitchBOTing across Canada and Europe people joked that if it was in the US, he’d be shot multiple times and left in a ditch. I guess they were right….

 

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The willful destruction of Hitchbot only two weeks into its attempt to journey across the US speaks volumes of the vast cultural divide between Canadians and Americans.

Though it was a social experiment, the obvious problem, it seems to me, was that HitchBOT was not exercising its 2nd amendment right to bear arms. This is what happens when you send a friendly unarmed hitch hiking robot to the United States of America.

I speculate it’s almost certain a Republican did it. I’m surprised he wasn’t shot with a gun or possibly a bow and arrow and chased down for 7 hours, decapitated, with his head now mounted on some republican dentist’s wall. There’s some research that suggests that humans who hurt animals are more likely to hurt other humans too. Will the same be true for empathic robots?

So far robots don’t have rights beyond that of the owner. Though with advances in AI that may change.

Perhaps he was destroyed by a visiting denizen of Wall Street. This robot was of socialist design from a “pink” country. It depended on the kindness and benevolence  of strangers. So as such it was  a threat to the capitalist running dogs of corporate America.

It  has also been suggested to me that as the bot was beheaded, it proved that ISIS  training cells are in America. The choice of decapitation as opposed to a  homophobic building toss or theft related hand amputation, suggested they were worried it was a clandestine spy operative.

When Hitchbot was found dismembered and brutalized, the typical polite Canadian response was.. “Unfortunately, HitchBOT was vandalized overnight in Philadelphia; sometimes bad things happen to good robots”

The identity of the barbarians behind the beheading is not known but the creators said recently…”we have no interest in pressing charges or finding the people who vandalized HitchBOT; we wish to remember the good times, and we encourage HitchBOT’s friends and fans to do the same.”

That’s civilization. Although Mexico might be a safer bet for Hitchbot 2, the creators are working on a new design for a future trip to the USA…

 

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One Response to “Danger, Will Robinson!!”

  1. kristina nadreau says:

    thank you for my first LOL of the day. If any part of the hitchbot story is true, I am not surprised at the willful destruction of the machine in the USA. Survival accross Canada and Europe does surprise me.

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