ROBOT KILLS KOREAN MAN
This disturbing story is one you might want to pay close attention to, because if you've been following the robotization of normal "work" chores, we're not off to a very good start. In fact, for several years Catherine Austin Fitts has been warning about the move to somehow create a tax on robot "labourers", but what happens when one of those robot workers runs amok and, for whatever reason, kills a human being? The technology in the instance of this story has not yet even caught up with Isaac Asimov, who wrote his three laws of robotics over fifty years ago in his eerily predictive I, Robot. In case you don't know what those are, here they are courtesy of Wikipedia:
- The First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- The Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- The Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Of course, we've been using robots for quite some time. In Japan, for example, automobile assembly lines have had robots helping to assemble cars.
But one senses that there's something very "different" about this story, shared by K.M. and T.M. (with our thanks; I include the versions shared by both people):
Man killed by robot that confused him for a box of vegetable .. Read more at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/105081494.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst
Now, obviously, the top version is much more "sensational" and "inflammatory" than the bottom one, so let's deal with the bottom version of the story first, before we deal with the top one and, therewith, our high octane speculation of the day.
In the bottom, Times of India, version we learn that a man was mistaken for bell peppers by a robot that was, apparently, placing the bell peppers in boxes, and then stacking the boxes on a pallet. But here's the clincher; the robot grabbed the man and:
... against the conveyor belt. The robotic arm then pushed the man's upper body down against the conveyor belt, crushing his face and chest, according to the report. The report claims that the man had been checking the robot’s sensor ahead of the test run at the pepper sorting plant. He was reportedly called to check problems with the robot’s sensor that were noticed two days earlier. He was taken to the hospital but died later, the report said. In a statement, an official from the Donggoseong Export Agricultural Complex, which owns the plant, called for a “precise and safe" system to be established, reported Yonhap. This is the second such case reported in South Korea this year. In March, a South Korean man in his 50s suffered serious injuries after getting trapped by a robot while working at an automobile parts manufacturing plant.
The paprika-sorting robot, reportedly created and installed by the victim's employer, spotted the man with its sensor, figured him for a box of vegetables, then seized him using its arms and tongs. After grabbing the technician, the robot apparently smashed him against a conveyor belt.
According to the Korean-language Yonhap News Agency, the victim's face and chest were crushed. He was taken to a hospital, where he later died.
Nikkei Asia reported last year that a rising minimum wage and a dearth of workers have made robots price-competitive in a variety of industries. For instance, robot waiters and robot chefs, introduced four years ago, are now in restaurants across the country. Robotic chefs can apparently fry 50 chickens an hour or cook up spicy rice cakes for five people in under 10 minutes. Fleshy and inspirited concierges are also fast being replaced by silicon and steel, although doesn't seem their charm has yet been replicated.
According to the International Federation of Robotics, South Korea, the fourth-largest robot market in the world, has 1,000 robots installed per 10,000 employees, such that as of 2021, the country had the highest industrial robot density in the world by a giant margin.
Kang Jin-gi, lead investigator at the Goseong Police Station, indicated the South Korean worker's killer "wasn't an advanced, artificial intelligence-powered robot, but a machine that simply picks up boxes and puts them on pallets," reported the Washington Post.
An unnamed police official suggested that the victim may have had a box in his hands at the time of the incident, which might explain why the robot snatched him up.
"It's clearly not a case where a robot confused a human with a box — this wasn't a very sophisticated machine," said the official.
Whew... I feel so much better now. We can all relax, it wasn't a very sophisticated robot. It couldn't tell the difference between a box of paprika or bell peppers and a human being. Pardon me for asking this, but I also detect a massive difference between a box of paprika and a box of bell peppers... Did a robot write these articles, because that would seem to be yet another "sensor problem" in a "not very sophisticated machine". The bottom line is, a robot killed a human being, and it was not the first instance of harm being done by a robot.
What bothers me about this article is that in spite of the sensational headline, the tone is that of the other article: it's very matter-of-fact. Indeed, it seems to go to great lengths to reassure us that this was all just a case of bad sensors and a tragic mistake and accident. It was, after all, bound to occur in a country like South Korea where so many robots are deployed. Ok, so having once mentioned the sensors, why do we need to know about how many robots South Korea deploys in the restaurant business as concierges or chefs? The article, in other words, has that "sleight of hand" feel to it: look over here while we shuffle the really interesting thing off the stage altogether. It could be, as it seems was clearly intended, a bit of journalistic boilerplate and "filler".
Or it could be, as per my sleight of hand suggestion, a distraction to keep the other obvious high octane question from being asked: what if the accident was not an accident, and what if there were indications that it was "intentional"? Was the robot networked with a central computer operating system? Was that system in turn in use at the plant with the auto-worker? Who programmed that system? and so on... In short, there are a lot of unanswered questions here, and we need answers to them before what may be a mere coincidence becomes a pattern, per the old adage, two is a coincidence, three is a pattern.
That's why those questions about networking of such robots to a central computer system are also important... because in Asimov's book, you'll recall, murder is being committed by that computer (which has "woken up") via the robots she (yes the computer is a she) controls, giving a whole new twist to the phrase "cyber terror"...
See you on the flip side...
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