Boston Dynamics: how to market yourself on the fears of others (Robot watch)

Videos of robots created by Boston Dynamics have been circulating alot around the Web lately. Here’s one of them, an older one called RISE

Imagine that crawling up your balcony or nearby tree. Or imagine dozens of them, all over your house.

I find it interesting that Boston Dynamics, which is in the business of making military robots, is also very good at promoting themselves with their videos. People that would not watch videos of jet planes or artillery are fascinated by their videos, even if the former videos and weapons could be just as sophisticated as the latter. Boston Dynamics is good at downplaying the military role of their robots, but I am positive that the expectation of the military is that these robots could eventually be used in warfare. (The U.S. military is not funding these machines to help you clean your house.) We watch the videos, partly in admiration and partly in fear.

I think one of the reasons that these videos do well is the air of fear they possess. The robots aren’t doing domestic things. They look harmful, even if they aren’t shown doing anything harmful or potentially harmful. People that have commented on them note that. That’s not necessarily the fault of Boston Dynamics: humans have been worried about robots for along time. (Asimov’s Laws of Robotics are what they are for a reason.) But Boston Dynamics doesn’t do anything to dissuade us that we shouldn’t fear these robots, either. We fear robots, most of all for their potential to overwhelm us. The videos by Boston Dynamics show us that robots are well on their way to doing that.

It’s just a matter of time before we see videos of swarms of small robots or drones like in Minority Report. Or large troops of headless biped robots attacking an outpost. Or a pack of robot dogs pursuing soldiers. This, as much as anything, is the future.

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