Top Robot Controversies of All Time

Form optimizing logistics, conducting research, detecting fraud, providing translations, and more, intelligent machine systems, or more commonly known as robots, are transforming the lives of people for the better. As they become more capable, the world also becomes more efficient and richer. However, like many other things, robots or Artificial Intelligence (AI) also has its negative sides, which cause some people to worry. 

In fact, technology pioneer Elon Musk said that artificial intelligence competition with China and Russia could possibly be the cause of World War III, which got a lot of people worked up. But the controversy over robots isn’t new. Many people are already worried about the dangers of forming an artificial being long before AI became a science. 

Did you know that the word “robot” came from a play written by Karel Capek in 1920, which was called Rossum’s Universal Robots? The story starts in a factory that makes synthetic people serve as workers. Robots are initially developed without human emotions, but as more human robots are created, they do what an army of emotional robots generally does. It may sound cliché as there have been many novels, television shows, and movies that were created with this kind of plot. But why do you think it always ends badly for the humans involved when computerized beings become sentient? 

With the continuous advancement of technology, it’s about time that we talk about the nearly boundless landscape of artificial intelligence. With this, what issues do you think might be keeping AI experts up at night? Read on to know more about the top robot controversies of all time. 

1. The Fall of the House of Uber

In 2016, Uber reportedly had a scary tale of artificial intelligence gone wrong. It was when they are testing out some self-driving cars in California, which are all powered by onboard AI computers. As the trial is ongoing, one of the vehicles in the company’s fleet was said to have failed in recognizing six red lights and ran through at least one of them in San Francisco while pedestrians were present. 

According to Uber, this incident owed to human error. However, based on the report of the New York Times and internal Uber documents they viewed shows that the mapping program of the vehicle did not recognize the traffic lights. Many people today believe that self-driving cars are going to revolutionize the transportation industry. However, this controversy is quite frightening. 

2. Google Assistant vs. Google Assistant

Over the years, Google has been pursuing AI across different technologies, such as self-driving cars and disease research. But many people interact with Google’s AI through its Google Assistant. It is a virtual AI assistant that can be found in Google Home smart speakers. In some cases, it has demonstrated to have a mind of its own. 

In 2017, a Twitch user started streaming a conversation between two Google Assistants from Google Home smart speakers. The pair of Ais were able to talk about marriage, love, having kids, and were able to tell each other Chuck Norris jokes, as well. There were times when the conversation turned philosophical, and the two Google Assistants argued which one of them was the computer and which one was the human. And at one point in the conversation, one of them declared it was God. That’s kind of creepy, right?

3. Escaping Robots

It is not new to hear about humans escaping or trying to escape confinement. However, when robots do that behavior, it’s quite alarming. In Russia, a service robot called Promobot caused a traffic jam when it once escaped from the lab. When it was captured, the engineers reprogrammed the robot to solve the problem. However, the robot tried escaping again after that and reached 50 into the street after breaking down, which caused another traffic jam.

Aside from those incidents, Promobot was also arrested for taking part in a political rally in Russia. It was there because it was recording the opinion of voters to later be examined by the political party. Police tried to handcuff the robot, and fortunately, it did not put up any resistance at that time. It seemed like Promobot was suffering from some emotional problems and wanted to be noticed by people.

a white robot

4. Robot Waiters

In 2016, there were three restaurants in Guangzhou, China, that fired their robot waiters due to their “utter incompetence.” The robots performed so bad that two of the restaurants have closed down. The third restaurant started to re-hire humans. It kept one robot as an example to other employees what bad works look like. 

According to the restaurant owners, the robots kept on breaking down. They are able to do well when repeating tasks but unable to find their bearing when they need to interact with people. This only proves that there is still a large gap between public expectations for robots and what they can actually do. 

5. When AI Turns Into a Racist

A 22-year-old student and DJ named Richard Lee from New Zealand tried to renew his passport in 2016. However, he faced some weird issues during the process. When he was filling up the online application on the Department of Internal Affairs website, he uploaded his photo, but a racist result was given. The AI software that approves photos of applicants rejected his application because his eyes were closed on the photo.

Richard Lee uploaded the photo on Facebook, where everyone can see that his eyes were open. But he did not take it offensively. In fact, he even joked about it and shared a photo of him with a filter where his eyes were big and wide open. 

6. When Alexa Liked to Party

Alexa is one of the most popular smart assistants today. But there was an instance in 2017 when Oliver Haberstroh, a German man, noticed something really weird with Alexa. When he was away from home, Alexa began playing music on its own at 1:50 AM. It even turned the volume up, waking the entire neighborhood. It ended up calling the police officers who broke into Oliver’s house to disconnect Alexa.  

These are some of the top robot controversies of all time. Even though there are some of these mysterious robot stories, AI, over the years, still has done wonders in different areas. And it is getting better and better, helping humans accomplish tasks easier. But as they say, nothing is perfect, and even robots can make mistakes.