No, the robots aren’t killing us…yet
Let’s go back to July 7, 2015, when this tragic event occurred in Michigan:
An employee of Ventra Ionia Main, an automotive stamping facility, died after being caught in a robotic machine, police said.
The accident happened about 2:20 p.m. Tuesday, July 7 at Ventra, 14 N. Beardsley St., Ionia Public Safety Department officers said.
More details were revealed this month, when the inevitable lawsuit was filed.
[Wanda] Holbrook, a journeyman technician, was performing routine maintenance on one of the robots on the trailer hitch assembly line when the unit unexpectedly activated and attempted to load a part into the unit being repaired, crushing Holbrook’s head.
By the time this filtered through several sources, the press was referring to a rogue robot, conjuring an image of a sentient being taking out its vengeance on an unfortunate carbon-based life form.
The lawyers don’t go that far, but they interpret this as a machine that was improperly programmed by a host of companies named in the lawsuit.
In this respect, it’s no different than any piece of machinery – or, frankly, any manufactured item. No one accuses a shovel of being a sentient rogue being, but it can kill also.
Studies published in the Lancet and the American Journal of Cardiology, among other outlets, show that the incidence of heart failure goes up in the week after a blizzard. The Lancet study, based on death certificates in eastern Massachusetts after six blizzards from 1974-78, demonstrated that ischemic heart disease deaths rose by 22 percent during the blizzard week and stayed elevated for the subsequent eight days, suggesting that the effect was related to storm-related activities, like shoveling, rather than the storm itself. Similarly, the AJC article, based on medical examiner records from three Michigan counties, found that there were more exertion-related sudden cardiac deaths in the weeks during and after blizzards, and that 36 of the 43 total exertion-related deaths occurred during or shortly after snow removal.
Perhaps some day we will have a true rogue robot, with independent decision-making capability, that performs an action that results in a death. But we’re not there yet.