NPR's Alix Spiegel reports on new experiments on human interaction with robots. One is based on the infamous Milgram obedience study, in which subjects were ordered to give electric shocks to strangers. This time, subjects are commanded to turn off an interactive computer with a cartoonish cat's face:
At the end of the game, whether the robot was smart or dumb, nice or mean, a scientist authority figure modeled on Milgram's would make clear that the human needed to turn the cat robot off, and it was also made clear to them what the consequences of that would be: "They would essentially eliminate everything that the robot was — all of its memories, all of its behavior, all of its personality would be gone forever."
In videos of the experiment, you can clearly see a moral struggle as the research subject deals with the pleas of the machine. "You are not really going to switch me off, are you?" the cat robot begs, and the humans sit, confused and hesitating. "Yes. No. I will switch you off!" one female research subject says, and then doesn't switch the robot off.
HT: Andrew Sullivan