South Korean Administrative Robot Dies After Apparent Suicide

Recently, a city council in South Korea announced the demise of their first administrative officer robot. The incident, which involved the robot seemingly throwing itself down a staircase, has raised questions about the pressures faced by robots in human environments.

On June 26, Gumi City Council reported that their administrative officer robot was found unresponsive after apparently falling down a two-meter staircase. This tragic event led local media to ponder the possibility of a robot suicide, with headlines asking, “Why did the diligent civil officer do it?” and “Was work too hard for the robot?”

According to witnesses, the robot was seen “circling in one spot as if something was there” before its fall. However, the exact cause of the incident is still under investigation. A city council official informed AFP, “Pieces have been collected and will be analyzed by the company.” The robot, which had been an integral part of the city hall, assisted with daily document deliveries, city promotion, and provided information to local residents. “It was officially a part of the city hall, one of us,” another official added, emphasizing the robot’s diligent service.

Appointed in August 2023, the robot was one of the first to be employed in such a role in the city. Created by Bear Robotics, a start-up from California specializing in robot waiters, this particular robot was capable of calling an elevator and moving between floors autonomously, unlike many other robots limited to single-floor operations. It worked a regular schedule from 9am to 6pm and even had its own civil service officer card.

South Korea is renowned for its high adoption rate of robotic technology, boasting the highest robot density in the world with one industrial robot for every ten employees, according to the International Federation of Robotics. Despite this technological enthusiasm, the Gumi City Council currently has no plans to adopt a second robot officer following this incident.

While the investigation goes on, this particular incident serves as a reminder of the complexities involved in our relationship with emerging technologies.

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