Children Beating Up Robot Inspires New Escape Maneuver System


"Helper often speaks of the coming war between man and the brotherhood of machines."

According to the study, "Escaping from Children's Abuse of Social Robots," obstruction like this wasn't nearly the worst of it. The tots' behavior often escalated, and sometimes they'd get violent, hitting and kicking Robovie. They also engaged in verbal abuse, calling the robot "bad words." [...]

Next, they designed an abuse-evading algorithm to help the robot avoid situations where tiny humans might gang up on it. Literally tiny humans: the robot is programmed to run away from people who are below a certain height and escape in the direction of taller people. When it encounters a human, the system calculates the probability of abuse based on interaction time, pedestrian density, and the presence of people above or below 4 feet 6 inches in height. If the robot is statistically in danger, it changes its course towards a more crowded area or a taller person. This ensures that an adult is there to intervene when one of the little brats decides to pound the robot's head with a bottle (which only happened a couple times). [...]

When questioned, 74 percent of the kids described the robot as "human-like" and only 13 percent as "machine-like." Half of them said that they believed that their behavior was "stressful or painful" for the robot. So basically, most of these kids perceive the robot they're abusing as lifelike, and then just go ahead and abuse it anyway. While that's a little disturbing, it appears to be in line with some child psychology research on animal abuse.

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10 Responses:

  1. David A says:

    So, the lesson here is that children are just like adults, only without the filters that make civilization work? This explains so much about humanity.

    • Aaron says:

      Ooh, look who never read his Golding.

      Or his natural history -- primates are nasty, and our intelligence doesn't give us a magical pass on our heritage. In a lot of ways, it makes us worst of all, which is why the domestication process euphemistically known as "socialization" takes such a long time. (It's also why we run the world, so I won't say it's all bad, but there certainly are drawbacks.)

      Exposing robots to the sort of cruelty that undomesticated humans cheerfully dish out strikes me as maybe the single likeliest way of bringing about the Rise of the Machines, and, hell, I can sympathize -- what bullied kid never spent long, bitter hours wishing for a KILL ALL HUMANS option?

  2. They should have asked the kids if they see the robot as an adult or a child. Sounds to me like the brats were just performing the usual initiation rites.

  3. Tom Lord says:

    I am looking forward to self-driving cars vs. dissidents and criminals. It'll be tasty.

    Meanwhile, the comments so far give me little hope for humanity.

    So, the lesson here is that children are just like adults, only without the filters that make civilization work?

    No, the children are fucking with with an obnoxious and stupid machine that someone set in the environment to conduct experiments on children.

    Exposing robots to the sort of cruelty

    Robots are not subject to cruelty.

    They should have asked the kids if they see the robot as an adult or a child.

    Is there an option for seeing it as a stupid machine?

    Sounds to me like the brats were just performing the usual initiation rites.

    Being young, most of them are naturally drawn to being socially helpful.

    • rcn says:

      It's refreshing to read an opinion from an optimistic and well-natured perspective on humanity sometimes, but I chuckled at the last paragraph.

      Really, a large enough group of kids with no adults nearby is as close as you can get to a colombian prison, behaviorally

      • Tom Lord says:

        Really, a large enough group of kids with no adults nearby is as close as you can get to a colombian prison, behaviorally

        Really, not, but I'm sorry for your bad experience. It's not like that everywhere, by far, I promise.

  4. Jon says:

    9 comments and no "RoboCop 2 was right!" yet?

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