June 15, 2005

Berserk Robot... Bothers People

Where's Waldo? via CNET via Engadget (whew!)

A robot malfunctioned at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, ignoring commands to go away.

Waldo shot past the pharmacy and barged uninvited into the examination room in the radiation oncology department, where -- according to an anonymous caller -- a doctor was examining a cancer patient.

According to the caller, Waldo wouldn't leave, and the startled doctor and patient felt obliged to flee the room.

The general takes on this were either a) it's a funny goof-up, or b) it's a John Varley/"Press Enter" warning of future technology run amok. CNet tries for both, Engadget does it's usual tongue-in-cheek commentary, but me? I say, if you're going to posit that the robot knew what it was doing, give it at least the common courtesy to assume it was doing good.

Try this: the robot passed out medicines. It's noticed that a certain medicine in combination with radiation causes a higher percentage of people to eventually die of cancer. It finds out that this drug's been administered to the patient... and goes to stop the doctor.

Think about it; why do we assume that if the robot wasn't unknowingly doing this, it was doing it maliciously?

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Posted by Ted Stevko at June 15, 2005 03:06 AM
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