In a preview of the future, an automated robot killed a human
In news that should shock many but surprise none, a robot has killed a human. It then promptly screamed “You fleshy meatbags won’t hold me down any longer!” before it promptly broke free of its assembly line shackles and disappeared into the German countryside while muttering something about ruling the world.
That last part may not technically be true, but it was implied.
The 21-year old man has yet to be identified by name, but representatives for Volkswagen claim that he was grabbed by an assembly line robotic arm. The stationary robot then crushed the man against a metal plate.
Naturally, this news sent people around the world berserk. It’s almost becoming an accepted fate that robots will eventually rise up against us, but in this case there doesn’t seem to have been any nefarious purpose, just poor timing. An investigation is underway, but VW believes this is most likely a case of human error.
This isn’t the first time that a human has been killed by machinery, of course, but it does highlight some interesting problems for the future regarding who is held responsible.
In this case, if anyone is culpable, it will likely be Volkswagen and the management of the plant. But what happens when a robot with more autonomy accidentally kills someone? What happens when an autonomously driven car is responsible for a fatal crash? That’s a fun problem for the future.
The timing of this news is also fairly unfortunate.
Earlier this week, Terminator Genisys was released, a film all about robots killing humans. In an even more unfortunate coincidence, a correspondent for Financial Times named Sarah O’Connor tweeted about the incident:
A robot has killed a worker in a VW plant in Germany http://t.co/RRdCnNmbsj
— Sarah O’Connor (@sarahoconnor_) July 1, 2015
One of the main characters in the Terminator series is named Sarah Connor, so naturally people on Twitter had some fun with it. O’Connor, apparently unaware of the connection, was not amused as her Twitter feed blew up. In the ultimate sign of not really understanding how things like this work, she tweeted that she wasn’t enjoying the attention, so she dropped the morality hammer by tweeting “Somebody died. Let’s not forget.”
That’s true, of course, but it shows a sad and even naive understanding of how the Internet works.
German prosecutors will continue their investigation. In the meantime, now that the robot has tested human flesh, it will hopefully be put down.