Beware of Dog.
March 1, 2013 6:26 AM   Subscribe

Remember BigDog, the robot 'mule' that Boston Dynamic is developing? Well, now it throws cinderblocks.

Previously: BigDog. Cheetah. PetMan.
posted by dirtdirt (119 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's not scary in the slightest that the robot mule appears to have taken its design cues from an angry, skittish, carnivorous horse.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:28 AM on March 1, 2013 [18 favorites]


Experts Agree Giant, Razor-Clawed Bioengineered Crabs Pose No Threat
posted by griphus at 6:29 AM on March 1, 2013 [19 favorites]


Well, fuck.
posted by The Whelk at 6:36 AM on March 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's not scary in the slightest that the robot mule appears to have taken its design cues from an angry, skittish, carnivorous horse.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:28 AM on March 1 [1 favorite +] [!]


mmmmmm..... horse.
posted by Bwithh at 6:36 AM on March 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


This thing is one sword away from being the first scene of a Philip K. Dick story.
posted by localroger at 6:36 AM on March 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Uninspired game character designs, coming soon to an utterly terrifying real-life battlefield near you.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:37 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


This thing is one sword away from being the first scene of a Philip K. Dick story.

TBH you could say that about most of the 21st century.
posted by The Whelk at 6:39 AM on March 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


I just want to to tell it to chill out.
posted by smackfu at 6:39 AM on March 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


SCENE: Boston Dynamics Conference Room A

ENGINEER: So, boss, as you can see the BigDog is now 38% more nightmarish than the previous model. The throwing arm on it's face was an unqualified success. For the next iteration, our team down in the dungeons is working on putting an old doll head on the top of the thing that spouts Latin gibberish in both a high pitched wail and a deep bass growl at the same time. Well, not exactly the same time. Early tests show that offsetting the gibberish by a fraction of a second increases the nightmarishness significantly.

BOSS: Hmm. Good. Is it possible to make it drip something? Or smell bad?

ENGINEER: (flips through pages, looks at colleague) Well, sure. I mean, the added weight might make the engines strain a little more, but I think we could put a prototype together in a few weeks. Are you thinking sulfuric or more like rotten meat?

BOSS: You tell me! What am I paying you people for?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:42 AM on March 1, 2013 [116 favorites]


It is a bit like it's having a very rhythmic tantrum.
posted by lucidium at 6:43 AM on March 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Are you thinking sulfuric or more like rotten meat?

Finally, a use for that vat-grown replacement flesh that we can't get to stay any color but "cirrhotic."
posted by griphus at 6:46 AM on March 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Imagine regiments of these striding into battle, with clouds of quadrotors above idly tossing grenades to each other.

JUST IMAGINE IT.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:46 AM on March 1, 2013 [17 favorites]


Boston Dynamic ? Sounds massive to me....
posted by Pendragon at 6:46 AM on March 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


Kinda puts the lie to the claim of these just being pack animals.
posted by DU at 6:47 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think when they send assassination teams back from the future they will target high capacity battery research scientists first, battery power really is the Achilles heel of these sorts of monsters.
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:47 AM on March 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thinking about scenes from Boston Dynamic is making me want to rewatch Better Off Ted.

Ted: We may have created a monster in the lab.
Veronica: It's not a monster. It's a cyborg that can kill without remorse.
Ted: I was talking about Phil. What are you talking about?
Veronica: [pause] I was also talking about Phil. [Ted gives her a look] It's classified. But it's gonna be a fantastic new tool, if we can get it to tell the difference between soldiers and children.
posted by fight or flight at 6:50 AM on March 1, 2013 [29 favorites]


battery power really is the Achilles heel of these sorts of monsters.

This one runs on gasoline. Are you sure you want to deny robots batteries? There are... other... power sources they can use.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:50 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, I know the thing is not (yet) sentient, and doesn't actually have feelings - and still, I can't help but be a crouton petter when it gets kicked in that video.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:51 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kinda puts the lie to the claim of these just being pack animals.

I think the idea is that it could deliver supplies under fire without exposing itself by throwing them. Or maybe load itself (not using a throwing motion, obviously). I'm not sure how the arm would make a very good weapon. It could throw a grenade, I guess, but the demonstration was about strength, not accuracy, and a bomb the weight of a cinder block thrown only 15-20 feet would risk damaging or destroying the robot as well as the target.
posted by jedicus at 6:55 AM on March 1, 2013


Not only is the cinderblock test exciting enough, but preliminary testing indicates that the BigDog can throw an object the size and shape of a torn-off human head over 20 times farther!
posted by wolfdreams01 at 6:56 AM on March 1, 2013 [16 favorites]


Kinda puts the lie to the claim of these just being pack animals.

Oh, come on, they can carry heavy loads, then, when they are sick of it, chuck the load over the nearest wall and go for a drink.

The true agenda won't be obvious until we see the weapon mounts.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:57 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


And, there's this, from the web site: "....a long list of superpowers, including the ability to run at four miles per hour...."

Faster than a speeding bullet....
posted by HuronBob at 6:58 AM on March 1, 2013


"Hey, Robot! Toss me a beer!"

*robot throws keg with staggering accuracy*


WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?
posted by eriko at 6:58 AM on March 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


You know, there's a graduate research paper to be found in a comparison of national priorities as demonstrated by R&D into robotics.

For example, Japan designs and builds cute, bipedal humanoid robots that will one day care for the aged while the United States designs horrorshow quadrapeds* with throwing arms on their faces that will one day carry terror to the battlefield.


---------------
*And killer drones.
posted by notyou at 7:03 AM on March 1, 2013 [17 favorites]


If only we had a gravity gun...
posted by Tabs at 7:05 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The throwing is terrifying, but when I watch the video below, with the Big Dog slipping on the ice and struggling up the hill... I just really feel bad for it. I keep trying to remind myself that it's just a machine, but it's no good.
posted by cider at 7:06 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


It can pick up a cinderblock in some kind of gripper, and then throw it.

It already has a weapon mount.

Any weapon the weight of, and that can be grasped like a cinderblock.

You pretty much got the entire D&D weapon catalogue, except bows, right there.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:06 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


For example, Japan designs and builds cute, bipedal humanoid robots that will one day care for the aged while the United States designs horrorshow quadrapeds* with throwing arms on their faces that will one day carry terror to the battlefield.

Just wait until they combine the two and the horrorshow killbots are really freaking adorable.
posted by The Whelk at 7:08 AM on March 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only INCOMING CINDERBLOCKS
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:09 AM on March 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


It can pick up a cinderblock in some kind of gripper...

Based on the schematics, I believe that is called the "crushinator."
posted by griphus at 7:09 AM on March 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


This thing is one sword away from being the first scene of a Philip K. Dick story.

TBH you could say that about most of the 21st century.


Sometimes when I watch the news I feel like I'm watching a near-future SF show scripted by Gibson and Stephenson, with Dick and Brunner consulting.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:11 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but how's its aim?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:12 AM on March 1, 2013


It can pick up a cinderblock in some kind of gripper...

Based on the schematics, I believe that is called the "crushinator."


That name is taken.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:14 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eventually, BigDog will be able to throw shade, and then it will be too late for us all.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:15 AM on March 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


That name is taken.

Well then let's see if we can license this name from WotC.
posted by griphus at 7:16 AM on March 1, 2013


I picture Big Dog methodically picking through an unstable pile of rubble three stories high that was a school just an hour before, a place deemed too dangerous for rescue workers.

He has to get rid of this silly habit of tapping his feet all the time though.
posted by hat_eater at 7:17 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


ENGINEER: So, boss, as you can see the BigDog is now 38% more nightmarish than the previous model.

For maximum nightmarishness, it needs to have internal cinder block stowage, preferably sealed by a single-use pseudoflesh sphincter protected with thick, viscous gel. That way it can first reach deep into itself to pull out a cinder block, screaming while it does this.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:20 AM on March 1, 2013 [21 favorites]


Don't forget that when it's not hurling a sphincter-block, it's playing distorted and static-filled versions of children's songs.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:22 AM on March 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I still prefer BEAR Robot Overview powered by karate.

funniest part is it delicately reaching for the doorknob then cut to it smashing through.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:24 AM on March 1, 2013


Where have I seen this before?
posted by Rangeboy at 7:25 AM on March 1, 2013


Does this company actually make a product or have they just been releasing videos of prototypes for the past decade? Real roboticists ship.
posted by euphorb at 7:30 AM on March 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now just teach it how to build other robots.
posted by goethean at 7:32 AM on March 1, 2013


I think I ran into these in Doom II.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:33 AM on March 1, 2013


Meh. When it starts throwing Volkswagens, then I'll worry.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:35 AM on March 1, 2013


From an Metafilter comment five years in the future:

Was BigDog truly the monster here? Or are we the monsters, for not understanding that all BigDog ever wanted was love? After all, who are we to judge a creature based purely on its size and shape, rather than what lies in its heart? Perhaps if we had acknowledged the validity of BigDog's requests and built him a female companion, he would not have stomped on all those schoolchildren.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:36 AM on March 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


dang! The wind-up and follow-through could use some improvement tho. I wonder how far that beast will be able to chuck those when its movements are perfected? I bet it'd be a real beast on the disk-golf courses
posted by rebent at 7:37 AM on March 1, 2013


oh also: I wonder if, when the army uses these, they will make some sort of rudimentary camoflage, such as attaching a donkey's head to one end.

Which reminds me - I wonder how the cost of these guys compares to using regular mules?
posted by rebent at 7:38 AM on March 1, 2013


I've said it before and I'll say it again: WW III will be fought with cinderblocks.

And the currency in the the next ice age will be Dilly Bars. Stock up!
posted by mazola at 7:38 AM on March 1, 2013


ROU_Xenophobe: For maximum nightmarishness, it needs to have internal cinder block stowage

BOSS: I thought we talked about making the sphincterblocks out of something other than concrete? Did you not get that memo?

ENGINEER: (stammering) Um, yeah, sure. I can show you some testing we did with cartilage- and bone-based sphincterblocks, but they didn't hold up long enough in the holding cavity. We had the interns scraping bone fragments out of one of the early models for a week, and the BigDog really didn't like that. (Pauses) Also, any word on the new intern hiring process?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:39 AM on March 1, 2013


For example, Japan designs and builds cute, bipedal humanoid robots that will one day care for the aged while the United States designs horrorshow quadrapeds* with throwing arms on their faces that will one day carry terror to the battlefield.

It should be pretty easy for us to steal their cute bipedal humanoid robots when we need them, what with our Robot Armies of Terror.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:39 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Imagine regiments of these striding into battle, with clouds of quadrotors above idly tossing grenades to each other.

You mean like this ? I guess they'd be tossing the grenades back and forth between themselves in friendly, playful, 'I'm going to fuck you up' fashion.

If the singularity ever does come we're so screwed.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:39 AM on March 1, 2013


Does this company actually make a product or have they just been releasing videos of prototypes for the past decade? Real roboticists ship.

Realest roboticists ship to the military.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:40 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Although, to sound a little bit more optimistic, this will probably be able to help out with construction & labor tasks. Maybe Big Dog is just Wall-E's grandfather, albeit with more useful legs than his dinky tank treads.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:44 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, this is terrible news for CBTLU 873. Outsourcing our jarbs to non-humans, how dare they?
posted by Mister_A at 7:45 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


BigDog is getting closer every day to being a Metal Gear.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:46 AM on March 1, 2013


It's unlikely that a self-conscious AI will be achieved in the near future, but it is much more likely that some sort of energy-scavenging capability will be built into these robots relatively soon. Imagine, after humans wipe each other out in the big war, millions of these guys (including Big Dog's horse-sized cousin, the LS3, and the newer robo-cheetah) just wandering the post-apocalyptic landscape, looking for discarded gas containers and batteries, following their last program...

The extraterrestrial biologists will be stumped.
posted by Behemoth at 7:47 AM on March 1, 2013


You pretty much got the entire D&D weapon catalogue, except bows, right there.

Pfft...no bows? What good is it, then?
posted by sexyrobot at 7:48 AM on March 1, 2013


jesus christ

is there even any point in denying we're the evil empire anymore or will that have to wait until these things can literally scavenge the corpses of insurgents for fuel
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:52 AM on March 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Okay, Eidos Montreal, you know what needs to be in the next Deus Ex game... Quadrupedal robots that throw shit at you.
posted by thewalrus at 7:53 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Japanese robots, adorable? Oh, I think they're quite capable of building their own horror shows, of an entirely different character. (previously)
posted by The Nutmeg of Consolation at 7:55 AM on March 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


(╯°□°)╯︵ ▒
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:01 AM on March 1, 2013 [31 favorites]


i dunno, i kinda wanna ride it through the countryside, pillaging something that is evil
posted by angrycat at 8:03 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


can also throw Occupy protesters of similar weight.
posted by alabamnicon at 8:05 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


My theory about why people find Big Dog so creepy is that they interpret the behaviour it exhibits when it falls as a panicked fear response, but since it's headless, they can't match it to a corresponding facial expression.
posted by zamboni at 8:06 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


"This thing is one sword away from being the first scene of a Philip K. Dick story."

I now just want a video of it standing still slowly waving a sword.

When i saw the youtube title screen i thought it was carrying the cinder blocks.
Could we also stick one of those horse masks on it just for ... lets call it personality
posted by stuartmm at 8:09 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


You pretty much got the entire D&D weapon catalogue, except bows, right there.

Oh yes please - arm it with a Bohemian Ear Spoon.
posted by schwa at 8:09 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


It reminds me of the mules from M.U.L.E. Can it grow food or mine purplish pink stuff?
posted by Mister_A at 8:11 AM on March 1, 2013


Japanese robots, adorable? Oh, I think they're quite capable of building their own horror shows, of an entirely different character. (previously)

Thanks, I didn't really need to sleep in the upcoming week or so anyway.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:11 AM on March 1, 2013


schwa: "Bohemian Ear Spoon"

Fauchard-fork or bust!
posted by Mister_A at 8:11 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pffft, that thing throws like a girl. You know, a giant steel girl with extra legs, a hydraulic arm, and no remorse.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:11 AM on March 1, 2013


You've been reading my wishbook, wenestvedt.
posted by griphus at 8:12 AM on March 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


can also throw Occupy protesters of similar weight.

A breeze block is what - 5KG?

I didn't know there was a occupy movement consisting purely of Toy Poodles.
posted by schwa at 8:14 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I didn't know there was a occupy movement consisting purely of Toy Poodles.

Occupy Fashionista Purses!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:17 AM on March 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Boston Dynamics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Viridian Dynamics.
posted by Naberius at 8:22 AM on March 1, 2013


Real roboticists ship.

Yeah, but real military contractors get follow-on.

I think when they send assassination teams back from the future they will target high capacity battery research scientists first, battery power really is the Achilles heel of these sorts of monsters.

Unfortunately, when they go back to the future, they will find nothing but a scorched, radioactive wasteland, populated by robot monsters powered by open-cycle air-cooled nuclear reactors. Nice, high power-to-weight ratio!
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:23 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


How long til someone tries to have sex with one of these?
posted by Mister_A at 8:34 AM on March 1, 2013


There's something weirdly disproportionate about what this robot is actually doing and the response it elicits in this thread. After all, "chuck heavy rock" stopped being a high-tech, cutting edge military tactic more than a millennium ago. I guess it's just something in our lizard brain ("animal-like thing is chucking heavy shit!!! Must run away!!!") that makes this seem so menacing. But, really--put this thing, even armed with an infinite supply of cinder blocks, up against, say, a WWI-era tank, and it's a victory for early C20th technology all the way.

What this does look like, though, is a fantastic search-and-rescue tool.
posted by yoink at 8:35 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Welp, time to dig out those plans for the Trebuceratops I drew up.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:35 AM on March 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


"chuck heavy rock" stopped being a high-tech, cutting edge military tactic more than a millennium ago.

Chuck heavy rock is essentially what a railgun does.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:42 AM on March 1, 2013


is there even any point in denying we're the evil empire anymore or will that have to wait until these things can literally scavenge the corpses of insurgents for fuel

At least it's got kind of a friendly name. We call our drones Predators and Reapers and they deploy Hellfire missiles. Are we the baddies?
posted by mr_roboto at 8:47 AM on March 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


There's something weirdly disproportionate about what this robot is actually doing and the response it elicits in this thread.

Just like drones. For some reason people lose their shit when it's a machine doing something, vs. a human doing the exact same thing.

This thing is about as effective as a high schooler at throwing stuff, and here we are talking about nightmare battlefield scenarios and whatnot.
posted by sideshow at 8:49 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


This thing is about as effective as a high schooler at throwing stuff, and here we are talking about nightmare battlefield scenarios and whatnot.

The BigDog is explicitly intended for the battlefield. For most countries high schoolers are not.
posted by srboisvert at 8:57 AM on March 1, 2013


"chuck heavy rock" stopped being a high-tech, cutting edge military tactic more than a millennium ago.

It made for a decent plot point in 1966 in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, where the Lunar colonists start "throwing rocks" -- in reality, giants stones with just enough metal for their railgun to grab -- down at the Earth as a negotiating tactic.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:57 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like the Sand Flea jumping robot. It's cute. At least, it's cute until they festoon it with a small calibre pistol or block of explosives..
posted by fings at 9:02 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, now it's added throwing things to its stomping temper tantrum? How long does it hold its breath?
posted by orme at 9:17 AM on March 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wrap this thing in grey leatherish stuff and it looks like a prancing Elephant.

Cue Dumbo dream sequence...
posted by DigDoug at 9:32 AM on March 1, 2013


I'm thinking the fear reaction isn't "omg it can throw 5kg objects". It has more to do with the comparative mobility and semi-autonomy.

An industrial press can pulp your meaty human body into a thin pink stain, but you have to be foolish enough to step inside it. A moving machine that can perform strength-and-balance activities with even a little autonomy can bring that risk to you, even 5kg at a time. Imagine that waldo on your wrist for the appropriate visual.

So a semi-autonomous machine can now bring that risk to you because it has been engineered to bring that relief to you - tossing aside debris unconcerned about booby-traps or hostile fire for instance. That strength, coordination and relative-autonomy is a powerful and life-saving combination that needs must also be capable of some serious, remorseless damage.

It's a matter of decades, maybe just years, before we see civilians hurt by something like this - intentionally or not. It is the ground troop to the Drone's bloodless videogame war. And like drones, the lives probably saved versus lives visibly lost will be an unsatisfying calculus.

And by then semi-autonomous might mean you can reason with it.
posted by abulafa at 10:12 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


And by then semi-autonomous might mean you can reason with it.

It'll understand "I surrender" in hundreds of languages and dialects.
posted by notyou at 10:16 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I am now authorized to use physical force!"
posted by griphus at 10:18 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


is there even any point in denying we're the evil empire anymore or will that have to wait until these things can literally scavenge the corpses of insurgents for fuel
You know you're living in the future when you try to come up with crazy science fiction stories and the best you can do turns out to be already years-old news.
posted by roystgnr at 10:29 AM on March 1, 2013


I want to ride it.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:32 AM on March 1, 2013


So a semi-autonomous machine can now bring that risk to you because it has been engineered to bring that relief to you - tossing aside debris unconcerned about booby-traps or hostile fire for instance. That strength, coordination and relative-autonomy is a powerful and life-saving combination that needs must also be capable of some serious, remorseless damage.

True enough, but here, too, I'm interested by how freaked out we get by the prospect of this kind of damage: what we might call the "rogue golem" problem. Because while it's perfectly true that mass deployment of some futuristic version of these things will lead, occasionally, to hideous consequences ("that head looks kinda cinder-blocky to me, I think I'll chuck it!") chances are good that they will be radically fewer than the hideous consequences that happen with utter predictability from tasking fully-autonomous humans with these jobs.

Humans are just crappy at threat-assessment. Put a bunch of humans, no matter how well-trained, out somewhere and arm them all with guns and tell them that there may or may not be other people out there who want to harm them and you can guarantee that there will be horrible, unnecessary fuckups that result in unintended and tragic death and injury. The whole history of human military and police actions establishes this beyond a shadow of a doubt. And yet we are never as freaked out by "X new killing tool handed to human soldiers/police" stories as we are by "X autonomous/semi-autonomous device with lethal capacities deployed."

It is, as someone pointed out above, the same oddness as the constant furore over drone-caused civilian deaths compared to the relative silence over the far larger numbers of civilians being killed by conventional means (and the even larger number that would be killed were the drones' tasks replaced by conventional forces). Or, to take a less vexed issue, the panic that will inevitably ensue when self-driving cars get involved in their first major accident and so forth. Putting humans in charge of cars is a sure and certain way to create carnage--on an almost unimaginable scale (traffic accidents kill orders of magnitude more civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan each year than drones, for example). There is no question that automating car driving would cut deaths and other injuries massively--as well as saving fuel and decreasing commute times and a host of other benefits. But it is also true that there will occasionally be accidents of a kind that we simply cannot intuitively understand in the way we intuitively understand most human-caused accidents, and so we'll freak out at the randomness and impersonality of those deaths out of all proportion to the actual risks involved.
posted by yoink at 10:51 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


> For some reason people lose their shit when it's a machine doing something, vs. a human doing the exact same thing.

"For some reason"??!

First, if I saw a human throwing around cinderblocks like that, I would probably find it pretty disturbing.

But the inhumanness of the whole thing is rationally frightening. If a big man came threatening to kill me, I could try reasoning with him, I could try frightening or bribing him, perhaps I'd get a lucky kick in the crotch or a punch in the jaw. If I had a gun, I'd have some sort of chance to kill him no matter who he was. I have a good idea what senses he has and might rationally choose to turn off the lights to escape.

But in the case I have a cinderblock throwing metallic device like this one threatening me, I cannot communicate with it in any way, I have no idea how to immobilize it or what its sensors are, it's not clear that shooting it would have any significant effect. If that machine were instructed to kill me and I couldn't get away, I would almost certainly die.

Being frightened by such a machine is extremely rational.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:52 AM on March 1, 2013


a human throwing around cinderblocks like that

Filed under: Olympic Events of the Distopian Future
posted by achrise at 10:59 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's totally fair to say humans are responsible for a ton of terrible carnage, but the key lies in that statement: responsible.

When a machine (autonomous vehicle, etc.) inevitably causes carnage, it is philosophically incapable of being responsible. In the sense that it cannot learn from its mistake, be sorry, serve as an example to others, analyze its dysfunction, regret, apologize, or even be punished if it chooses intrasigence.

It's software controlling some collection of hardware - so when some part of that fails there's no way for us to resolve the cognitive dissonance. Sure, debug the software, refine the sensitivity and feedback controls on the hardware and so on - but none of that connotes responsibility in a way we recognize.

So yoink I think we're in violent agreement. And further, I think as terrible as it will be, the realizations above may be the existence proof that finishes off the notion of free will, cstross-style.
posted by abulafa at 11:12 AM on March 1, 2013


Bwithh: It's not scary in the slightest that the robot mule appears to have taken its design cues from an angry, skittish, carnivorous horse.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:28 AM on March 1 [1 favorite +] [!]


mmmmmm..... horse.
Funny thing is, horse tastes just like Big Macs.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:22 AM on March 1, 2013


Boston Dynamics builds advanced robots with remarkable behavior: mobility, agility, dexterity and speed. We use sensor-based controls and computation to unlock the capabilities of complex mechanisms. Our world-class development teams take projects from initial concept to proof-of-principle prototyping to build-test-build engineering, to field testing and low-rate production.

Organizations worldwide, from
DARPA, the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps to Sony Corporation turn to Boston Dynamics for advice and for help creating the most advanced robots on Earth.

Cool! Good to see that it's always the interested minority garage tech or organization with a few extra million dollars to blow who's going to use this for social justice and not some alphabet government agency with completely opaque operations and doesn't feel the need to be subject to popular ethics and morality.

I'd be a lot more accepting of this technology if there was a sea change in who sponsors research into these things but as it were, it seems somehow less sociopathic to reject this tech wholesale given the patrons. It's the same for drone tech. You can say, sure, that it'll help the average civilian to keep track of police abuse or to monitor disaster situations. The thing is though that most of the R&D into drones isn't done by the average joe, it's done to enable targeted assassinations and constant surveillance. There's a philosophical underpinning to it that seems suspect, like with this thing.
posted by dubusadus at 12:09 PM on March 1, 2013


It reminds me of the mules from M.U.L.E. Can it grow food or mine purplish pink stuff?

It's throwing cinder blocks because its only hope of overcoming the lead player was thwarted by pirates taking all the crystite.
posted by JHarris at 12:11 PM on March 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Doo doo doooo doo.
posted by Mister_A at 12:38 PM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cinder blocks! So cute.

Wait'll they get a load of me.
posted by bigbigdog at 12:47 PM on March 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


When a machine (autonomous vehicle, etc.) inevitably causes carnage, it is philosophically incapable of being responsible. In the sense that it cannot learn from its mistake, be sorry, serve as an example to others, analyze its dysfunction, regret, apologize, or even be punished if it chooses intrasigence.

Well, "learning from its mistakes" is the one thing it can be pretty much guaranteed to do (and better than humans do)--but apart from that, yes, I think you're right. I think a sense of moral responsibility is crucial to much of this (and lies behind our general propensity to impute moral intent to non-human agents when things go awry--the criminal sentencing and/or destruction of animals that cause accidents and so forth). Still, I think it's a way of thinking that needs to change as we move towards a world where there will inevitably be more and more of these kinds of autonomous and semi-autonomous nonhuman agents. We need to think of these much more as tools that will be employed well or ill rather than thinking of them as agents who are troublingly devoid of moral restraint. "It's a bad workman who blames his tools" should be our motto, I think.
posted by yoink at 1:16 PM on March 1, 2013


You're afraid of them now, but just wait until we have to fight the combine.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:26 PM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Chuck Heavy Rock" is going to be my new stage name. I'm being serious.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:34 PM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


How long til someone tries to have sex with one of these?
posted by Mister_A at 11:34 AM


I want to ride it.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:32 PM


About two hours.
posted by orme at 2:09 PM on March 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Boston Dynamics will now begin recapitulating the entire corpus of Survival Research Labs shows: Assured Destructive Capability, Machine Sex, Food for Machines, Useless Mechanical Activity, An Exhibition of Performance Machinery Guaranteed to Fulfill Your Most Far-Out Entertainment Fantasies, ...

Correction: Metafilter comments have already begun recapitulating the entire corpus of SRL shows.
posted by jjwiseman at 3:13 PM on March 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well at least y'all will have me laughing all the way to the amino acid reclamation combine.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:23 PM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Next step: putting flesh on it and creating a horrifying, killer-mule cyborg.
posted by asnider at 4:32 PM on March 1, 2013


This post demands the "dressage" tag.
posted by gamera at 9:02 PM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, please, make Ann Romney ride it fancy circles.

I have no idea why I find this a hilarious prospect

posted by snuffleupagus at 9:35 PM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't see what the big deal is. I can throw a cinderblock... On a good day... With help. And I'm almost completely non-robot.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:53 AM on March 2, 2013


This thing is amazingly impressive, but I'm pretty sure a few landmines or IEDs are still far cheaper. For now, at least.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 5:13 AM on March 2, 2013


I read Robopocalypse a little too recently and now I'm gonna go hide behind something big.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:54 AM on March 2, 2013


> constant furore over drone-caused civilian deaths compared to the relative silence over the far larger numbers of civilians being killed by conventional means

But the US isn't even using conventional means in Pakistan or Yemen (we think).
posted by morganw at 11:07 AM on March 2, 2013


Now it just needs the ability to transform into three more threatening stages when you damage it, with a big glowing red weakpoint for each one.
posted by Drexen at 12:40 PM on March 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Boston Dynamics will now begin recapitulating the entire corpus of Survival Research Labs shows

Speaking of SRL: Mark Pauline of Survival Research Labs Visits the White House
posted by homunculus at 3:28 PM on March 2, 2013


We ought to have learned our lesson from the AT-ATs.
posted by logogriph at 7:09 PM on March 3, 2013


Clawed drone grabs prey on the fly just like an eagle
posted by homunculus at 2:55 PM on March 14, 2013


CMU Snake Robots Can Now Strangle Things on Contact
posted by homunculus at 2:11 PM on March 21, 2013


This off-road robot could help revolutionize the exploration of other planets
posted by homunculus at 2:40 PM on March 21, 2013


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