Monday, August 10, 2015

The hitchBOT Tragedy

Sometimes, I am really embarrassed to be from the United States. For the most part I love my country, and I love the ideals that my country was founded on and the principles that are at the core, but it's stories like the one below that makes me sad to be an American. This particular story is about a traveling robot name hitchBOT, a hitchhiking robot.
A bunch of really nice humans had already helped hitchBOT traverse the length of Canada and most of Germany, the robot was going to try to make it from Massachusetts all the way to California. HitchBOT is the brainchild of two Canadian social scientists. As Frauke Zeller and David Harris Smith explained it in a piece for the Harvard Business Review, it was an experiment meant to spark a discussion "about trust, notions of safety, and about our attitude towards technology."
For his third trip, hitchBOT, a cute robot with kitsch appeal — made of a bucket, a display and noodle appendages — was dropped off at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., on July 17. The first few days, things went smoothly: With the help of friendly humans, who gave hitchBOT a ride and also charged him, he hit up Fenway Park and Providence and New Haven and even crossed off the first item on his bucket list: "See the lights in Times Square."
Eventually, he made it to Philadelphia, where Jesse Wellens, of YouTube fame, showed him around town in the early morning hours of Saturday. At 3:57 a.m. ET on Saturday, Wellens tweeted that he was dropping hitchBOT off at Elfreths Ally, the oldest residential street in the U.S. Unfortunately, that's where hitchBOT's journey ended.
On his blog, the robot wrote that his body was damaged but "my love for humans will never fade."
HitchBOT's family — aka the researchers — issued this statement:
"hitchBOT's trip came to an end last night in Philadelphia after having spent a little over two weeks hitchhiking and visiting sites in Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead, and New York City. Unfortunately, hitchBOT was vandalized overnight in Philadelphia; sometimes bad things happen to good robots. We know that many of hitchBOT's fans will be disappointed, but we want them to be assured that this great experiment is not over. For now we will focus on the question 'what can be learned from this?' and explore future adventures for robots and humans."
In an interview with the CBC back in March, Smith said he hoped hitchBOT's journey would lead to some introspection on the way society works. Maybe, he said, it could spark discussion on some big questions like: "What kind of people are we? Are we kind? Do we live in a safe world, you know, for the most part?". Which leaves me with one question: What does this say about the U.S.?
Sadly, I think it says awful things about the United States. The robot went unharmed across Canada and much of Germany, but after being in the United States for a few weeks, hitchBOT was vandalized. Really, what kind of people do that. I'm afraid more and more, the United States is filled with hate and meanness. Just look at how Donald Trump is doing in the polls. The meaner more hateful he gets the higher his numbers climb. How can people really want that type of person to lead our country? Yes, he speaks his mind, and yes, he doesn't mind speaking the truth about himself, but it just goes to show how Americans are fascinated by a culture of rudeness and disrespect.


Anonymous said...

I agree. I don't know what happened to us but as a country we just seem to be filled with so much hate anymore it pains me. I love my country but at times I am also ashamed of us. For example, at one time we were the country that would never start a war and now it seems like some of our leaders just can't wait to start one.

Michael Dodd said...

Of course, the vandals probably thought, "Hey! It's just a bunch of metal. No big deal."

Sadly this is the way we have come to view one another -- "Hey, it's just a [fill in the blank with your chosen ethnic, religious or other slur]! No big deal."

And we do this all while claiming to be a Christian nation ...

JiEL said...

As a Canadian, I must admit that what @Michael Dodd said is the kind of thoughts we have, up here, about some USA people behaviors...

Sure, most of your people ARE NOT like that: I have many friends in your country and they are nice and peaceful people.

When we see on the news stations (we have ours but I can tune CNN and others too) all those terrible gun shootings: in schools, toward innocent black men etc...
The feeling we have is that of a HATING part of your population against all what Michael mentioned.

The way gay rights are struggling against seems as what happened to this «peaceful HithBOT»... Violence before trying to really know about the other and comprehend is «difference» to respect him..

When I see Donald Trump is allowed to say all those idiot comments and that many USA people agree and support him, I too am a bit discourage for you in USA.
As I said, there are MANY good people in USA and I hope that GOOD will win against VIOLENCE and HATRED.

Yes, I'm decieved of all those «GOOD CHRISTIANS» that go out protesting is such HATE manner... HATE is NOT the law of GOD...

God bless you and hope He'll intervene to make it better..

Friendly yours from Canada

PS. We have also some issues with our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper (on election now. Hope he'll be OUT next Oct. ) who did join the USA club in Syria and other war places... Now, he wants to forbid ALL Canadians to go on trips to the countries where there is ISSIS issues and some war too..
Many are raising because this is against our Liberty Chart.

Andrew Weiss said...

I'm not saying that we don't have "issues" with hatred and violence in the USA. But one act of violence against a robot does not mean that we are an evil or violent people as a whole.

Trump? I know his hyperbole and bravdo can be annoying, but in some sense his lack of political correctness, blunt talk and candor is refreshing. Kind of the anti-politician. He is touching a nerve with many people.

Joe said...

I'm not saying that one act makes America evil or violent but more that we don't respect others property. When I was teaching, I saw it everyday. Kids just destroy or take things with no regard for anyone or anything. That is a problem with the United States, a lack of respect, which I see in Trump's behavior. He's rude, and I was always taught to be polite as much as possible.

Andrew Weiss said...

I believe that the female moderator in the debate was deliberately trying to bait Trump and did not treat him with much respect. Far less so than the other candidates.

Not saying that Trump is the right choice for President, just saying people like him because of his feisty, take no abuse from anyone sort of nature.

Joe said...

I agree with you that the Fox News correspondent was in the wrong. All three were pretty pitiful in my opinion as debate moderators. Trumps feistiness is a large part of what has made him famous.

mistress maddie said...

I know what your saying and couldn't agree more. I have been to Europe for the first time in the last two years, once to Amsterdam and once to Scotland and it really opened my eyes to a lot..... of just how different things are. From manners, to enjoying life, etiquette, dressing, and respecting things in general. A real eye opener. Soon we'll be a bunch of mean people who over eat, and wear athletic clothing, while working, going home and starting over again the next day.

Joe said...

I agree. If I could snap my fingers and live where I wanted, it would be in Europe, preferably Italy. It's a different way of life and one we have gotten too far away from.

Joe said...

To amend my earlier comment, while
Fox News personas are prone to bait people, we honestly will never know if that's what Megan Kelly was doing or not because she was interrupted and not allowed to ask her question, which is one that should have been asked, maybe just slightly differently. However, like I said, she wasn't allowed to finish her question.

Jay M. said...

Old news.

Peace <3

Joe said...

Jay, I'm in Alabama. We are always a little behind, lol. I actually hadn't heard of it until I saw it in my weekly NPR email yesterday. Old or new, I still find it sad.

Jay M. said...

Yup, sad, no doubt!

Peace <3