Earlier this month, Sony released their most recent version of Aibo, the robot dog. With advanced AI, it has been programmed to love anything pink, and fear heights and enclosed spaces. It also gradually adapts to its surroundings, changing its behaviour as it becomes more comfortable and recognises its owners.
I thought it was cute until tonight, when I watched Metalhead, the 5th episode of Black Mirror where robot dogs take over and apparently destroy humanity.
There wasn’t much context, but it made me wonder about the future of Aibo – by chance I’ve been reading Robo Sapiens Japanicus by Jennifer Robertson, who says that Aibo caters to a tiny, affluent demographic. And perhaps that’s where Charlie Brooker’s social commentary lies – the barren wastelands that Metalhead was filmed against were spotted with the occasional expensive looking house with high-tech gadgets; maybe the dogs had been programmed to be guard dogs of some kind with advanced AI enabling them to track down intruders; in true Black Mirror style, the programming had gone wrong, and now they were just tracking and killing everything.
So what’s going to happen to Aibo? The thought gives me shivers.