Robot Deliberately Harms its Creator

Robot Deliberately Harms its Creator

Isaac Asimov’s First Law of Robotics famously states: “A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” Tell that to Alexander Reben. The robot that he built “autonomously and intentionally” stabs him.

The robot is not defective or malfunctioning, though – its harm is by design. Reben, a roboticist and artist based in Berkeley, California, build the machine with the intent of inflicting damage to humans. Minimal and superficial damage – a prick to the finger with a sharp needle – but damage all the same.

“I view it as a piece of tangible philosophy,” Reben proclaimed to The Washington Post.


Reben’s first attempt at creating a robot birthed an automated head scratcher. “The robot would make people shiver,” he said. “They start feeling really weird about it.”

Seeing the reaction people had to his head scratcher, Reben began to consider how humans and automatons interact, and how accountable creators should be for the actions of their robots. A quick retrofit of the head scratcher – costing a total of $200, according to the BBC – converted it into the unnamed finger stabber.

“The real concern about AI is that it gets out of control,” Reben told the BBC. “[The tech giants] are saying it’s way out there, but let’s think about it now before it’s too late. I am proving that [harmful robots] can exist now. We absolutely have to confront it.”

While the robot is capable of causing harm whenever a person places their finger in the appropriate spot, it is not guaranteed to happen every time. Reben even admits that he doesn’t know what the chances are of being stabbed by his robot.

“The decision to hurt a person happens in a way that I can’t predict,” he admitted. “I don’t know the probability.”

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