What we learned from Boston Dynamics: how to bully a robot

25 Feb 2016

As we move closer to a roboticised future, we’re seeing a few different types of people emerge: those who embrace a future where we work alongside robots, those who anticipate a future where we’re slaves to the superior robots we created (Asimov’s three laws be damned) and, lastly, the robot bulliers.

News broke yesterday of incredible advancements in Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot. A video released by the crack robotics team showed a robot that could traverse uneven, snowy ground unaided, pick up boxes, open doors and right itself to standing after a fall.

The video was chilling for two reasons. For one, it showed such advanced robotics that a robot overlord future seems ever more likely. For another, it showed a whole new aspect of cyber bullying: the bullying of cyber creations.

As one Imgur commenter put it, “The engineers at Boston Dynamics are a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.”

All in the name of science, sure, but the kicking shoe will be on the other foot when you’ve inspired the uprising, guys.

Robot bullying is real

Of course, what Boston Dynamics is doing is what some might call a necessary evil. They have to test robots’ balance, ability to recover from unexpected situations and more, but the epidemic of robot bullying is all too real outside the labs at MIT.

There’s something about robots that turn us all into jerks.

Cast your mind back to August of last year, when someone murdered a hitchhiking robot and left its decapitated body to rot in a ditch.

Or to just a week later, when Japanese researchers had to teach a robot how to deal with bullying when a group of kids set upon it at a mall.

Perhaps the human race is just full of terrible people? Maybe, when we finally have to bow before our robot overlords, it will be nothing less than we deserve.

At the very least, as immakinganotehere pointed out, the benevolent leaders’ first few days in power could be pretty busy.

Gigglebit is Siliconrepublic.com’s daily dose of the funny and fantastic in science and tech, to help start your day on a lighter note.

Main image via Shutterstock

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic