Robot Kills Human!
January 25th, 1979 marks the first recorded human death by a robot.
31 years ago today, at just 25 year old, Robert Williams, a Ford Motor assembly line worker, was killed when a robot’s arm slammed into him in a casting plant in Flint, Michigan.
The robot that killed Williams clearly broke the first of Isaac Asimov’s Robotics rules, all of which are listed below:
It wasn’t murder per se, but more along the lines of manslaughter, because there was no will or intent to kill Williams. Or perhaps in the way we say “he died in a car accident” as opposed to “the car killed him,” we should refer to this as a “robot accident.”
Williams’ family received $10 million in damages after a jury agreed that the robot struck him in the head due to a lack of safety precautions.
Two years later, 37 year old old Kenju Urada, a Japanese factory worker was gruesomely killed when a robot pushed him into a grinding machine.
In March 2008, 81 year old Francis Tovey lived alone in Burleigh Heads, Australia and one day he decided to build a robot. With plans downloaded from the Internet, involving a jigsaw power tool connected to a .22 semi-automatic pistol loaded with four bullets, he programmed the robot to shoot him in the head.
We create robots, and our creations have been known to hurt us before. Its imperative as we take the next steps into a world increasingly populated with robots, that we define safety parameters to handle our mechanical friends. Robots are commonplace today- vacuuming our floors, building sewage pipes, detonating landmines, roving Mars and taking care of Grandma. A new field of intellectual property law has emerged to explore the legal implications of robot actions.