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Why Do People Bully Robots?

Why do humans hate robots so much? | Image By Bas Nastassia | Shutterstock.com

Why do humans hate robots so much? | Image By Bas Nastassia | Shutterstock.com

Humans are attacking robots all over the world.

In June 2015, a hitchhiking robot met a brutal demise in Philadelphia after it was assaulted and dismembered. During an electronic show, a sex robot named Samantha was attacked and destroyed.

A man in Russia attacked Alantim, a teaching robot, with a baseball hat. And three boys from Osaka, Japan were seen beating a humanoid robot.

Also, on August 1, 2018, a man waved a gun at a Waymo self-driving van as it cruised through a Chandler neighborhood.

These incidents point at an emerging trend; violent hate that’s directed towards machines. This is especially common when the robots are designed to look like humans.

Now, experts are wondering — why?

Violence Against Robots

According to a hypothesis in the New York Times, the violence may be caused by economic anxiety. In other words, there’s a deep fear that the machines could collect their jobs in the future.

While this may be true, researchers suggest a more plausible cause of the violence against robots.

We see the machines as outsiders. And humans have an ancient, brutal tendency to be unwelcoming to outsiders.

According to cognitive neuroscientist Agnieszka Wykowska, humans engage in a psychological mechanism called social ostracism when we see a robot as an outside-group member.

In other words, we dehumanize the robots as they are not humans in the first place. That’s where Frankenstein syndrome comes in.

Read More: Why Manners Matter More to Robotic Automation Than You Think

What is Frankenstein Syndrome?

Wykowska described Frankenstein syndrome as “the fear of unknown things that are somewhat like us, but different in uncanny ways.”

According to the cognitive neuroscientist, this may be the reason why people brutally assault robots.

When a colleague of the neuroscientist introduced robots into a kindergarten class, the children were cruel to it. They would kick it and assault it in different ways.

Then the teacher humanized the machines by sharing the names with the children, the violence stopped.

As impressive as the story sounds, other research suggests that the problem is not caused by a lack of empathy.

The Japanese Mall Experiment

In an attempt to understand why children abuse robots, a group of researchers interviewed the abusive Osaka children about their behavior.

Seventy-four percent of the kids described the robot as “human-like,” and 50 percent of the children believed that their action was “stressful or painful” to the robot.

In other words, the children hurt the robot even though they perceived it as life-like.

We can blame it on fear of robot uprising, lack of empathy, or fear of losing our jobs to machines. However, there is another horrible but simple explanation; we may be wired to beat robots up.

Do you think there is any solution to stopping our inherent need to commit violence against robots?

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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