On NPR (Radio Lab) last night there was a show on Blog bots (AI – artificial intelligent) computers that can talk with people and that for the most part you can no longer tell you are talking to a computer. They also had on this show the developer of the ferby doll and a more sophisticated cute AI dinosaur doll for kids. His intent was to make a toy that encouraged empathy in humans. It showed affection but also if hurt cried, whimpered and limped. Soon after its release a video of it being systematically tortured, abused, and eventual beat to death went viral, 100,000 likes. While 1000,000 people cheered on it whimpered and cried, louder and louder until it eventually died. The inventor was dumfounded and appalled that a toy he made to encourage empathy instead brought out antisocial behavior. He was in development of an AI baby doll and now had no idea what to do to prevent people from torturing and abusing it? The answer he drew was to just have it turn off if it was abused but a better answer would be like in the experiment MIT developed for hate speech on the internet. They wrote an AI bot that would troll the trolls and when hate speech was identified would say things like that is not appropriate, you hurt his feelings, and such. They found that if the troll didn’t know they were talking to a computer and if the likes the bot has were greater than the likes the troll had they would tone down or off their antisocial negative speech. The dinosaur doll and new baby doll if abused should do the same. Stop whimpering, turn to an adult voice and point out the inappropriate behavior. Turn to behavioral teaching mode.
Why did the abuse of the dinosaur toy go viral? And how does that relate to the turning down of hate speech when talking to a perceived more popular person?
Humans are territorial animals. We think in terms of us or them. They are in or out of our social group. Humans are also pecking order animals. The systematic beating of the toy robot satisfies both criteria. It says we are above the computer/better and they are out/other.
It shows the same thing studies on natzi soldiers showed. They were normal healthy individuals, no psychopathology for the most part but easily given to other and out thinking and we they and we are better than they.
A friend of mine studies psychopathology and psychopaths. His research is consistent with the natzi research showing that psychopathic behavior isn’t some separate and unique behavior limited to few sick individuals but an exaggeration of normal behavior everyone has. A natzi or an abuser of a robot toy are on the spectrum of normal human behavior. As a culture we have to be vigilant not to let this become the norm of behavior for easily and quickly it can and will. A little of other mixed with a tad of better than is all it takes to shed tears and blood.