Earlier this week, a chess-playing robot fractured a boy’s finger when it was apparently irked when the seven-year-old began playing without waiting for the machine to complete its move. While such incidents are rare, they only exacerbate our fear of robots. Mint examines the issue.
How often do we see such incidents?
Not very often. Robert Williams was the first worker to die at the hands of a robot in January 1979 at the Ford Motor plant in Michigan in the United States. In March 2018, an Uber driverless car hit and killed Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old woman in Arizona. Robotic surgeries, on their part, are minimally invasive but can also get botched up due to software or machine errors. Between 2000 and 2013, there were 144 deaths, 1,391 patient injuries and 8,061 device malfunctions during robotic surgeries, according to a study published in scientific journal PLOS One in 2016.
But aren’t robots helpful too?
Certainly. Lighter and smaller collaborative robots (cobots) routinely perform repetitive, monotonous and dangerous jobs in warehouses and factories where humans can get tired and commit a mistake. AI-powered social robots, on their part, interact with humans and other robots, and offer solace and comfort to the elderly and mentally challenged. Locomotive robots have been designed to navigate difficult terrains like hills, deserts, forests, pipelines, drains, sewers etc., and have also helped humans capture images on the Moon and Mars. Robots can even vacuum your floor and cook for you.
Then why do we fear robots will hurt humans?
Many people believe robots are turning sentient. Sci-fi movies starring intelligent robots like Ultron, Skynet, Sentinels (killing machines in the Matrix), and India’s own (Rajnikanth’s) Chitti, have only compounded this fear. In fact, the first autonomous drone attack may have already happened in Libya, according to a March 2021 report from a UN panel.
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