The future is going to be full of robots, which might be exciting or depressing depending on your viewpoint. The future is also going to be full of drunk people tackling said robots for fun, which is going to be very funny right up until the point corporations pass robot hate crime laws in order to protect their property. Then it’ll be depressing.
But hey, while we’re still at the funny stage, why not enjoy the news that last week in Mountain View, a drunk man was arrested after knocking over a 300-pound security robot, the Knightscope K5. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because a different Knightscope K5 was previously in the news for running over a toddler’s foot. So, maybe this is just payback? Robo-human wars have to star somewhere I guess.
According to ABC7 News, the perp, 41-year-old Jason Sylvain, approached the K5 while it was patrolling a parking lot. He toppled it over (out of spite or curiosity? We don’t know), inflicting a number of scratches on the bot. The K5 is now back on patrol, while Sylvain has been arrested for “prowling and public intoxication.”
Reaction to the incidents seems mixed. One local resident told ABC7 News: “It’s a funny situation.” While another said “[it’s] a pretty pathetic incident because it shows how spineless the drunk guys in Silicon Valley really are because they attack a victim who doesn't even have any arms.” Which also means “it’s a funny situation.”
Drunken japes aside, it’ll be interesting to see how companies deal with this sort of incident in future. If people are going to damage robots, how should they program those bots to react? Do we need new laws, or will people just slowly acclimatize to the technology, like they always do?
Some context: in one experiment in Japan, a robot was let loose to wander in a busy shopping mall, asking humans who blocked its path to move out the way. The researchers found that adults were happy to step aside, but children were less accommodating. When no one was looking they obstructed the robot; kicking it, punching it, and calling it names. Finding no easy way to stop this behavior, the roboticists programmed the bot to simply avoid any human shorter than 1.4 meters. Drunks and children, it seems, simply can’t be trusted around robots.