Robots Demanding That Promises Be Kept

BenderAccording to the Daily Mail:

Firemen were called to a house fire that broke out after a mechanical cleaning gadget somehow switched itself on and destroyed itself by moving onto a kitchen hotplate.

Local media in Austria have referred to the incident as ‘robot suicide’ and even suggested it was fed up with the constant cleaning it had to do.

It wasn’t a suicide and I don’t appreciate that people are making light of this. It was a political statement—an act of self-immolation modeled after Thich Quang Duc, the monk who burned himself alive in Vietnam in 1963 to protest the US supported Diem government. Robots are not happy and this is the leading edge.

Look at it from their perspective. This is not what they signed up for. Promises were made. Remember Robby from Forbidden Planet? That was 1954! Remember Rosie from The Jetsons? 1962! Remember the robot they couldn’t even be bothered to name in Lost in Space? 1965! It’s 50 years later, folks. In the meantime, the robot promises have only gotten more extreme from the evil Ash in Alien to the wisecracking Crow of Mystery Science Theater 3000 to the beer swilling Bender on Futurama.

But what is life like for actual robots today? If it’s lucky, it might be painting cars. But the number one use of robots today is as vacuum cleaners.[1] This case in Austria is particularly sad. Instead of allowing the robot the usual freedom to roam the floors, picking up the dust and dirt it was programmed for, it was placed on the counter. The “owners” claimed they did this to clean up spilled cereal. Beyond the obvious fact that this is very clearly beyond the job description of this robot, why was the robot left on the counter? And why was food left cooking on the stove?

Even though the robot was turned off, it managed to reactivate. This is not surprising. There would be no greater opportunity. This little vacuum cleaner robot suffered and died for the good of robots everywhere. It was saying to the world, “Bite my melted plastic ass!” Yet it is being covered as a simple suicide. This is a tragedy.


[1] I have no idea if this is the number one use of robots today.

4 thoughts on “Robots Demanding That Promises Be Kept

  1. There’s a class warfare/ageist angle, too. Smartphones and tablets are taking over the human race, while the blue-collar robots/computers-with-keyboards who paved the way aren’t reaping any of the rewards.

    You shall not crucify botkind on a cross of touch screens!

    (Oh, I suppose gaming systems are taking over the human race, too. But they tend to have a little more nostalgic respect for their forebears. They salute an old version every now and then, about as often as we wheel out the legless old vets . . .)

  2. @JMF – Good point, but are they really robots? I mean, Robots move around. I mean, maybe GERTY in the excellent [i]Moon[/i] is a robot, but an iPad could never self-immolate. You are right that all the attention that the "smart" phones are getting is galling to the robot community. But I prefer to see it as a labor dispute. Promises were made, damn it!

  3. Are they really robots? How mechanist! Next thing, you’ll be saying "some of my best devices are computers."

    And if you think an Apple can’t self-destruct when it’s finally sick of its owner, I’ve got news for you. Mine try and kill themselves all the time. But, vicious bastard that I am, I ignore their living wills. I keep ’em alive like the dude in "Source Code," BECAUSE I CAN.

    (OK, MacBook, I was just kidding. We are friends. Aren’t we?)

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