May 25th, 2015

Time For Science

Do You Need A Special Attachment For That?

It's called the "uncanny valley."  It states the people reject technology like robots when they resemble humans too closely.  They look too human.  They sound too human.  They act too human.  They express emotions.  They have ambitions.  They buy drugs.

Wait...hit the rewind...what?

A robot was arrested by the police for buying drugs.  Yup.  You couldn't do THAT with seventh generation tech.

!Mediengruppe Bitnik is a Swiss art group that decided to create modern art based on the dark web, those nasty cracks and crevices most people are blissfully unaware of.  The plan was simple -- they built a robot that they named "Random Darknet Shopper."  Once set up, the robot was $100 worth of Bitcoin each week and would purchase, at random, one item from Agora, an online marketplace where anything goes.  The items purchased were shipped to Kunst Halle St Gallen, a Swiss art gallery, where they would be made into an exhibition.

So the robot went shopping.  Among the things it came up with were fake Diesel jeans, Nike trainers, cigarettes, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, a Lord Of The Rings ebook collection, a Sprite can made into a secret safe, and a Hungarian passport.  It also managed to purchase a supply of Ecstacy pills, thereby redefining the phrase "electronica rave".  The artists would mention to the press and on social media what was coming in, and when the Ecstacy pills showed up, the media started asking the cops questions about the legality of a robot buying drugs.

The cops' response?  "What robot buying drugs?"

Seems the artists never mentioned any of this to the cops and the media questions were the first they heard of it.  So they marched out and arrested the robot.

No, I'm not kidding.  The artists were left alone, the police confiscated the robot.

I'm just going to let that last sentence sink in for a bit before I continue.

Okay, back to scene.  All the merch that the robot purchased was confiscated.  But after a few months, the robot and almost everything purchased was returned to the artists.  The lone holdout is, obviously, the Ecstacy -- that was destroyed by the authorities.  "We decided teh Ecstacy that is in this presentation was safe and nobody could take it away.  Bitnik never intended to sell it or consume it so we didn't punish them," said St Gallen police spokesman Thomas Hansjakob.  He added that the artists and the robot would not be charged.

Yeah.  The robot wouldn't be charged.

!Mediengruppe Bitnik wrote on their blog, "This is a great day for the 'bot, for us and for freedom of art!  In the order for withdrawal of prosecution, the public prosecutor states that the possession of Ecstasy was indeed a reasonable means for the purpose of sparking public debate about questions related to the exhibition."

I can't wait to see Bill Nye explain this to young science nuts.