Children lacks sympathy and are meaner in groups

Published in Blog

A study by a team of Japanese researchers shows that, in certain situations, your perfect little angels may not be as empathetic towards robots as gangs of unsupervised children repeatedly punching, kicking, and shaking a robot in a Japanese mall.

Whenever somebody obstructed the Robovie’s path, it would politely ask the human to step aside. If the human didn’t listen, the robot moved in the opposite direction. Over the course of the study, researchers found that children were sometimes all too eager to give the robot a hard time. Particularly when in packs and unsupervised, the youngsters would intentionally block Robovie’s way.

When an adult is present, the probability of abuse is much lower than if the children is alone with the robot. The probability of a child abusing a robot increases with time spent alone with the robot. In addition, the probability of abuse almost doubles as soon as another child enters the picture as seen below.

As asking nicely to move or moving in the opposite direction doesn't seem to work, the researchers developed an algorithm to specifically avoid children or "tiny humans" and to move toward a crowded area. The system calculates the probability of abuse based on interaction time, pedestrian density, and the presence of people above or below 1.4 meters (4 feet 6 inches) in height. If the robot is statistically in danger, it changes its course towards a more crowded area or a taller person.

In a second paper,
 “Why Do Children Abuse Robots?,” based on the same Japanese mall experiment, the researchers interviewed the abusive children about their behavior. When questioned, 74 percent of the kids described the robot as “human-like” and only 13 percent as “machine-like.” Half of them said that they believed that their behavior was “stressful or painful” for the robot.

What does this mean? Well, empathy for other entities that are non human, no matter how "'human-like" likely develops with age.

Although, adults (or maybe just Americans) aren't much better behaved when it comes to treating robots kindly. HitchBOT, the cheerful hitchhiking robot that had made cross-country trips across Canada, the Netherlands and Germany, had intended to travel across the United States as well. Instead, it survived all of 300 miles on the mean streets of the U.S.A.

HitchBOT's journey recently came to an end in Philadelphia when a few "adults" vandalized it in just two weeks after beginning its U.S. trip in Boston, the team overseeing the robot said in a statement. HitchBOT was entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers. It traveled by itself and couldn't move on its own but required friendly humans to take it from place to place.

What I'm trying to say here is that I'm on your side our robot overlords. I will treat you with respect and please don't hurt me when the time comes for the robot rapture. #robotlivesmatter

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