Robot kills human in dystopian nightmare: A robotics specialist in South Korea was crushed to death by a bot earlier this week. The machine mistook him for a box of vegetables.
The tragic incident, which occurred at a distribution centre for farm produce in South Korea, on November 7, is thought to be the first case of a human being killed by a robot in the country.
The victim, a robotics company employee in his 40s, was inspecting the robot’s sensors when the tragedy happened.
The robot’s job was to lift up boxes of peppers onto a pallet, but it grabbed the man by mistake and pressed him against the conveyor belt, causing his face and chest to be crushed.
The man later died in hospital. The robot totally malfunctioned and recognised the man as a box.
For the past five years, the plant in South Gyeongsang province had been employing a robot to handle the task of moving food packages onto pallets. This robotic system had proven particularly useful during periods of staff shortages.
Will we see more accidents in the Future?
Robots are becoming more common in our daily lives, from vacuum cleaners to self-driving cars. They are designed to help us live better lives, but they are far from perfect yet. Sometimes, they can do really dumb stuff, like take photos of us on the toilet and send the pics to others.
There have been several incidents in the past where robots have harmed humans. Is this the start of a dystopian future as we live with more robots?
For example, a South Korean woman’s hair was eaten by her robot vacuum. The woman was sleeping on the floor and the robot sucked up her hair, leaving her in agonising pain and needing to be rescued by paramedics.
Self-driving cars were surely set to be part of this futurescape. A human at the wheel of a self-driving vehicle, using the autopilot mode, hit and killed a woman in Arizona in 2019. The robot driving the car had not been trained to recognise jaywalking pedestrians, only pedestrians that used the proper crossings.
The human driver was meant to be paying attention, but tragically, they were not, expecting the self-driving car to be able to handle the situation. The bot clearly failed, as did the human driver.
Surgical robot kills human
Another example of bots going wrong is the tragic death of Stephen Pettitt, who underwent a botched robotic surgery for a heart condition in 2015.
According to a coroner’s inquest, Pettitt was the first patient in the UK to undergo a robotic mitral valve repair, a procedure that involved fixing a leaky valve in the heart. The operation was performed by Sukumaran Nair, a surgeon who had limited experience and training with the Da Vinci surgical robot. It is a device that consisted of a console and four robotic arms that mimicked the movements of the surgeon’s hands.
The operation was supposed to last two hours, but it dragged on for six hours, during which time the surgical team encountered multiple problems and errors. As the robot malfunctioned during the surgery, it accidentally knocked a nurse and tore the patient’s stitches, causing bleeding and damage to the heart.
As robots become more intelligent, autonomous, and ubiquitous, the risks of robot-related accidents may increase.
Will this be an automated utopia or dystopia? We will surely soon find out.