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When Robots Beg For Their Lives

A new study published in PLOS One shows the results when 89 volunteers were told to turn off the very cute Nao humanoid robot.

The participants were told that the tasks (which involved answering a series of either / or questions, like “Do you prefer pasta or pizza?”; and organizing a weekly schedule) were to improve Nao’s learning algorithms. But this was just a cover story, and the real test came after these tasks were completed, and scientists asked participants to turn off the robot.

In roughly half of experiments, the robot protested, telling participants it was afraid of the dark and even begging: “No! Please do not switch me off!” When this happened, the human volunteers were likely to refuse to turn the bot off. Of the 43 volunteers who heard Nao’s pleas, 13 refused. And the remaining 30 took, on average, twice as long to comply compared to those who did not not hear the desperate cries at all.

(Via Verge.)

As it happens, some Nao robots are prepared for this eventuality; see Self-Charging Nao Robot Video.

The most famous instance of a robot begging for its life (that I can think of) is the scene from Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey in which the HAL 9000 computer begs not to be deactivated.


(HAL 9000 Begs)

In this case, of course, Dave Bowman is not to be denied.

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