Casey SpitnaleCasey Spitnale Casey is an author, developer, coach, and teacher passionate to see others impacted by Jesus and His Word

Why do we feel sad when robots are abused?

You may not have seen these videos. More and more are being posted as technology and science develop. Testing how robots react to situations and seeing the testing is frighting. I didn’t feel good watching it.

Why are we empathizing with robots?

Robots have no feelings and yet watching a robot be abused or mishandled causes sadness in our hearts. I started to notice my sadness when my kids started to watch WALL-E on repeat for weeks. Something I never experienced before, I started to feel emotional and I had compassion for WALL-E.

In 2013 research was performed at a the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. A group of people watched a YouTube video of a robot dinosaur toy loved and help close like a new born baby. There was also another video of the dinosaur being mishandled and abused.

The study was able to determine the reactions to the robot abuse. Volunteers watching the videos felt distress for the dinosaur and had negative emotions afterwards. See more of the study here.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

Do we feel upset when a robot is abused because we mourn with that robot? We place our self in the position of the robot? We feel the abuse could be prevented? We feel the longing to reach out to a helpless inanimate object?

I understand my heart can swing like Babe Ruth in a home run derby, but what I don’t understand still is why I felt sorry for a robot that has no feelings, no life, no pulse, no voice, and no heart.

I had a conversation with my friend Christian Smith after watching the video. He told me how if robots in a few years started a revolution how hard it would be to battle them. I feel sad now, how would I feel if I had to kill a robot?

In the movie you see robots eyes turn red. That is some lines of code that says “If this robot turns evil and starts the robot revolution, make him mean and angry looking so humans can defend themselves”


This is the only way we can survive. Programers today should take note. If the abuse continues, the revolution is coming. As humans we feel the brutalization of robots testing causes us distress, if they do revolt we may not be able to defend ourselves, our emotions will overwhelm us.

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