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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Would You Shut Down a Robot That Begged You for Mercy?

Posted by Paul Constant on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 9:44 AM

The New Inquiry brought this experiment to my attention.

At the end of the game, whether the robot was smart or dumb, nice or mean, a scientist authority figure modeled on Milgram’s would make clear that the human needed to turn the cat robot off, and it was also made clear to them what the consequences of that would be: “They would essentially eliminate everything that the robot was — all of its memories, all of its behavior, all of its personality would be gone forever.”

In videos of the experiment, you can clearly see a moral struggle as the research subject deals with the pleas of the machine. “You are not really going to switch me off, are you?” the cat robot begs, and the humans sit, confused and hesitating. “Yes. No. I will switch you off!” one female research subject says, and then doesn’t switch the robot off.

The full story is by NPR. Here's video of someone facing the choice:

Based on the high volume of outdated electronic equipment in my apartment, I think I would have a really hard time shutting the robot down. Especially when it got to the sad, stroke-eyed pleading right before the very end.


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