The real question that needs to be asked is "who was winning?" An AI driven chess playing robot went berserk last Thursday and crushed a 7-year-old boy's finger during a match at the Moscow Chess Open in Russia. The robot apparently grabbed hold of the boy's finger in the middle of moving one of his own pieces and continued to squeeze until the finger broke. It took four adults to pry the machine away from the child.
Officials at the Moscow Open claim the boy “violated safety rules” when playing the machine, but they offered no further explanation as to why the robot interrupted the child moving his own piece, or why it was built with the strength to crush human fingers. Does it really need that kind of compression force to pick up chess pieces?
The robot was brought in for an exhibition and the Moscow Chess Open says they have nothing to do with its programming or operation.
The conundrum here should be obvious – Either the robot was programmed to disrupt human players and grab their pieces or their fingers for crushing, or, it was NOT programmed to do that but did it anyway. Both options are equally disconcerting.
While this story by itself is not all that frightening, it does raise further questions about the growing prevalence of Artificial Intelligence algorithms and our reliance on robotics in everyday life. AI is even being tested as a tool for predicting "pre-crime." One core concern of course is that machines have no conscience and never will. Actions might be decided in terms of “logic,” but the most logical decision might also be the most immoral decision. Furthermore, when an AI machine does something that harms a person, who is held accountable? Do we blame the programmers, or a machine which is supposedly autonomous?
Did the chess playing machine in Moscow simply malfunction? Probably. The officials at the event blame the child (of course they do), but the young boy who was injured is among some of the top players in Russia. What if the machine was losing and came to the “logical” conclusion that winning required other measures outside of the game?
Some scary food for thought.