By Jasper Hamill
Experts fear it’s only a matter of time before robots declare war on humans.
Now the tech world has taken one small step toward making this nightmare scenario a reality.
An American engineer has built the world’s first robot that is entirely designed to hurt human beings.
The pain machine breaks the first rule in science fiction writer Isaac Asimov’s famous “laws of robotics,” which states that machines should never hurt humans.
“No one’s actually made a robot that was built to intentionally hurt and injure someone,” robot designer and artist Alexander Reben told Fast Company.
“I wanted to make a robot that does this that actually exists.
“[It was] important to take it out of the thought experiment realm into reality, because once something exists in the world, you have to confront it. It becomes more urgent. You can’t just pontificate about it.”
Luckily for us humans, the pain-bot is not quite the shotgun-wielding death machine depicted in the “Terminator” films.
Its only weapon is a small needle attached to a long arm, which is used to inflict a small amount of agony on a human victim.
The robot randomly decides whether to attack people who are brave enough to put their hands beneath its arm, although it’s not strong enough to cause major injury.
Reben said the aim of the project wasn’t to hasten the end of humanity. Instead, he wants to encourage people to start discussing the prospect that robots could soon have some terrifying powers.
“I want people to start confronting the physicality of it,” Reben says. “It will raise a bit more awareness outside the philosophical realm.”
“There’s always going to be situations where the unforeseen is going to happen, and how to deal with that is going to be an important thing to think about.”
Last year, world-famous British physicist Professor Stephen Hawking claimed robots and artificial intelligence could wipe humans off the face of the planet.
Billionaire Elon Musk agrees, having spent much of the past few years warning about the apocalyptic scenario of a war between man and machine.
Both Hawking and Musk signed a letter last year urging world leaders to avoid a military robotics arms race.
It is likely that the battles of the future will involve machines capable of killing without needing to be directed by a human controller.
“[Robotic] weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group,” the letter said.
“We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity.”