It’s a rarely discussed global phenomenon, but people are beating up, dismembering, and destroying robots. Nobody knows exactly why this is happening. Anti-robot violence is a disturbing trend that continues to grow as robots become more immersed in human society.
Experts contemplate the reasons why people are raging against the machine. One possibility is the overwhelming anxiety over job losses, estimated to affect over 375 million people by 2030, caused by robots entering the workforce.
Another possibility may be the natural human tendency to fear outsiders. Robots may look and act somewhat like us, but they are not us. Frederic Kaplan at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland wrote that this increasing unease between man and machine may occur because we are so similar.
Kaplan wrote, “We see ourselves in the mirror of the machines that we can build.” As the public does not fully understand these eerie humanoid robots, people are driven to acts of violence.
10 Hitchhiking Robot Found Dismembered
The HitchBOT was a child-sized robot with a bucket-shaped body, yellow boots, blue foam limbs, and a charming LED smiley face. It was created for an interesting psychological test—not for the robot but for the humans it encountered.
HitchBOT’s stated goal was to see whether robots could trust humans. As it wasn’t capable of moving from place to place on its own, it relied on the help of the strangers it met. The robot’s audio and visual hardware allowed it to see humans and converse with them. It also had a sense of where it was at all times and constantly took photos of its surroundings.
This adorable little guy was an international adventurer and social media star. It successfully hitchhiked across Canada in less than four weeks. It also journeyed through Germany and the Netherlands without a scrape. It spent a week as a groupie for a heavy metal band and explored the winding canals of Amsterdam. Its next stop in the United States, however, didn’t go so well.
HitchBOT was a mere one-year-old when it was mugged in the “City of Brotherly Love” and beat up beyond repair. Vandals tore off its arms, threw them on the ground, and started kicking the robot. Nobody knows who ended the robot’s journey or why, but the creators aren’t pressing charges. They released a statement simply asking the world, “What can be learned from this?”
9 Destroyed Sex Robot
According to a recent survey of heterosexual men, 40 percent wanted to buy a sex robot in the next five years. Some experts suggest that the popularity of interactive sex robots may reduce or even replace traditional prostitution and thereby decrease sex trafficking as well.
Brothels with this new class of robotic sex workers have already opened in countries like Spain and Ireland. It is an industry with a lot of potential to rake in some serious dough. That’s why there’s so much effort toward making these sex robots look and act realistically.
At the Arts Electronica Festival in Austria, Sergi Santos unveiled his doll, Samantha. This doll is intelligent in that it can reply when spoken to and it moans when touched in sensitive places. Santos’s robot, which was worth almost $4,000, was molested at the show.
Santos said, “The people mounted Samantha’s breasts, her legs, and arms. Two fingers were broken. She was heavily soiled.” He referred to the perpetrators as “barbarians” in his outrage over his creation being trashed by these nonpaying vandals.
8 Harassing Self-Driving Cars
Even self-driving cars are being abused in all kinds of bizarre ways. In Chandler, Arizona, 21 incidents of this type of harassment have been documented by the police department in just two years. Some people are engaging in verbal abuse, throwing rocks, slashing tires, or chasing these cars down the road. Clearly, some individuals do not want cars driving for them. Perhaps by attacking them, they believe they are standing up for the human race.
Arguably, the most shocking of these incidents was when 69-year-old Roy Haselton was standing on the side of the road as a self-driving car rolled by. His immediate, guttural reaction to the autonomous vehicle was to pull out his gun and point it directly at the van.
One week later, he was arrested. His .22-caliber revolver was confiscated, and he was indicted on a felony charge for disorderly conduct with a weapon. The eerie encounter was captured in the video posted above.
7 Funeral Held For Robot After Violent Beating
The rivalry between the soccer teams of England and Russia is no joke. During a 2016 match in France, fans from both countries ended the event in a bloody brawl. So, in Moscow, a robot was created to protect fans at the FIFA World Cup and make them feel more secure. The friendly robot is named Alantim.
In a promotional video, Alantim says, “There’s nothing to be afraid of, I’ll protect you. I promise to escort you in Moscow and keep you away from any problems.”
Alantim speaks both English and Russian. It helps with information and directions. It even entertains. The robot is able to contact the police instantly, but its most advanced feature is an ability to predict conflicts from the surrounding crowd before a situation escalates.
Before the robot could fulfill its purpose, a man viciously charged Alantim with a baseball bat. He kicked it to the ground and bashed in its head while the robot pleaded for help.
Sadly, Alantim could not be revived after the attack. This incident prompted Olga Budnik, a spokesperson for the Muscovite tech hub Phystechpark, to create the world’s first robot cemetery. She didn’t want to simply plop the robot parts into the trash bin, so she made a space for people to be able to say goodbye.
Budnik said, “Alantim was a really good robot. It was supportive, always polite, always happy to see you. You know, like a pet.” Alantim was worth about $10,000.
6 Children Abuse Robots, Too
As children are helpless in so many ways, they get a frantic thrill from being in control. It turns out that this includes a lust for violence against robots.
This desire for dominance is a hindrance in places such as schools, hospitals, museums, and shops where robots will need to interact with children in the near future. So, scientists and psychologists are working together to create a robot that children don’t want to beat up.
With this motivation in mind, researchers in Japan conducted a social experiment in a shopping mall by observing children with a human-sized robot. When children became aggressive, the robot responded to negative physical contact in a humanlike manner. Still, they mercilessly bullied the robot in a fit of laughter. The researchers wrote:
We observed serious abusive behaviors with physical contact such as kicking, punching, beating, folding arms, and moving (bending) the joints of robot’s arm and head. [ . . . ] Some children frequently obstructed the robot’s path regardless of the robot’s utterance requesting for the children to stop the obstruction, covered up the robot’s eyes with their hands, and beat the robot’s head.
The researchers interviewed 23 children, all under age 10, who had just abused the robot. Curiosity, enjoyment, and peer pressure were the biggest motivators. But the researchers discovered something quite upsetting about the kids’ perception of the robot.
The majority of children did perceive the robot as a humanlike being, while only 13 percent saw it as a machine. This means that they recognized that the robot seemed to be experiencing pain and stress, but they didn’t care. They were in control and having a blast.
5 Security Robot Smeared With Feces
In San Francisco, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was using a 181-kilogram (400 lb) Knightscope K5 security robot to patrol the streets around their campus in an effort to prevent the homeless from sleeping or loitering there. The SPCA believed that the robot was reducing crime and needle debris around their campus.
However, the K5 angered a lot of people who felt that this was an unfair attack on the homeless. The robot was knocked over, veiled with a tarp, and had its sensors blinded with barbecue sauce. Someone even smeared feces all over it. As of early 2019, hiring a robot for this job appeared to be more cost-effective at about $6 to $12 an hour than the minimum wage of $15 per hour for a human in San Francisco.
4 A Robot Built To Withstand A Fight
Engineers are racing to see who can create the toughest robot that can really take a beating. This quality is in high demand these days. In Tokyo, the Robust Humanoid Robot (aka RHP2) was built to take some serious punishment. It’s a human-sized, bipedal robot that is run by electric motors (soon to be a hydraulic system).
This robot is unique because it will always stand up again no matter how often it is knocked down. Like the film character Rocky said, “It ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” Once knocked down, the robot pulls itself up again every time—just like a human.
There is a lot of (expensive) damage that can happen to a robot when it topples over. Just like a cat has the instinct to right itself during a fall, RHP2 has been programmed to fall in a specific position. It’s also built with a metal frame to protect its innards.
3 Assaulting Pepper
If you thought WALL-E was the cutest robot around, then you obviously haven’t met Pepper. It is human-sized but a little on the shorter side with a mermaid fin for a leg. Between the adorable voice, sound effects, little cartoon smile, and big blue eyes, it’s hard not to fall in love.
It’s also programmed to understand and respond to human emotions. A tablet attached to its midsection is used to demonstrate how it’s “feeling.” This robot assistant sold out in just one minute.
However, some seem to be immune to the robot’s charm. While shopping in a SoftBank Corp. store, a drunken customer kicked and beat up Pepper in a whirlwind of fury. This particular Pepper clone moves a little slower these days but is otherwise all right.
2 Torturing Pleo The Dinosaur
Pleo the dinosaur is a lovable toylike robot that was created to be both beaten and cuddled in psychological experiments to test human empathy for robots. A workshop presented Pleo as a plaything at first. People quickly grew to adore his trusting eyes and endearing noises as he learned to move around the table.
When Pleo is first pulled from the box, it can’t walk or do anything. Its caretaker teaches it about the world through play, with some hugs and tickles sprinkled in.
After an hour of innocent bonding with Pleo, the participants were asked to torture and kill him. Weapons were spread out on the table, including knives, hammers, and hatchets.
Kate Darling is the laughably ironic name for the robot ethicist who conducted these studies. The workshop mentioned above was just for fun apparently. The actual science involved people watching videos while their bodily reactions were monitored. The result of the workshop, however, was more dramatic than even Darling had anticipated.
It’s not the same as taking a defunct copier machine from work and beating it up with a baseball bat because we’re talking about a new kind of machine: the social robot. It’s meant to evoke your empathy. So it’s no wonder that people couldn’t harm it despite their logical brains telling them that it was just a stupid robot. One participant stood with hammer raised, frozen mid-swing. Eventually, they just decided to pet Pleo instead.
Then Darling told them that they could save their dinosaurs by killing someone else’s. Still, nobody moved a muscle. Eventually, she announced that one Pleo had to be sacrificed or all the robots would be slaughtered. That’s when one man grabbed a hatchet and gave a single fatal blow to one of the dinosaurs.
The room fell silent. Everyone was surprised by their intense emotions. If you are curious as to how you’d react, check out the video above. Without even getting to know the robot’s endearing side, it’s still almost too much to handle.
1 Kicking A Robot Dog
Boston Dynamics, an American engineering and robotics design company, released a video that unexpectedly stirred people’s emotions. It showed employees repeatedly kicking a doggie robot they named Spot. It was supposed to demonstrate the robot’s resilience and balance, but viewers saw it as downright cruel.
PETA jumped on the bandwagon by releasing a statement that said, “Most reasonable people find even the idea of such violence inappropriate.” Even Elon Musk chimed in and said that it’s probably unwise to kick a robot. He said, “Their memory is very good.”
The video posted above sparked a lot of interesting discussion about robot abuse. Is kicking a robot like Spot desensitizing people to violence and making them more likely to practice abuse in real life? Or is it a useful outlet that may divert such cruel behavior? Nobody really knows yet.