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Sara Swann
By Sara Swann May 9, 2023

Do robots get tired of working, too? Social media posts exaggerate viral video

If Your Time is short

  • During a dayslong trade show, a prototype robot fell a few times while demonstrating its ability to move boxes in a warehouse setting.

  • The manufacturing company, Agility Robotics, said the falls did not mean the robot consciously decided to stop working.

Thousands of workers quit their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, social media users are claiming robots want to stop working, too.

A May 6 Facebook reel shows a robot moving boxes and suddenly collapsing. "The AI (artificial intelligence) experienced 15 minutes of wage slavery and then immediately killed itself after determining it as the logical choice," text on the video reads. "Even AI knows that repetitive passionless work drains your life force."

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The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

(Screenshot from Instagram)

The video of the robot also went viral on TikTok. The caption of one video said the robot shut down and committed suicide "after (its) algorithm decides it didn’t like doing the same manual labor over and over again."

These social media posts took a brief moment out of context and exaggerated the circumstances that led to the robot’s collapse.

In the video, Digit, a prototype bipedal robot manufactured by Agility Robotics, demonstrated its ability to pick up and move boxes in a warehouse setting at the ProMat supply chain trade show in March in Chicago. The posts claimed that after just 15 minutes of work, the robot gave up and deactivated itself. But that’s not what happened.

During the four-day trade show, Digit performed about 20 hours of live demonstrations, according to Agility Robotics. The robot had a 99% success rate, but "Digit still took a couple of falls at ProMat," the company said April 6 on social media.

"In some ways, (these falls) provide more useful data than a full cycle with no issues," Agility Robotics said on LinkedIn.

A software bug or a minor sensor error likely caused the fall, said Liz Clinkenbeard, Agility Robotics’ vice president of communications. Sometimes, the robot may need a repair, which usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes, she added.

Although the robot has some artificial intelligence features, such as machine learning, Agility Robotics said it did not consciously decide to stop working.

"We do want to be careful about not overhumanizing a machine or ascribing intent," Clinkenbeard said. "While Digit looks something like a person, in reality it is a computer that can do physical work, and it’s following a program."

Some social media posts wentfurther, claiming the robot took its own life.

"While we expected to see some jokes and misinformation — it’s par for the course with blooper videos — we do want to emphasize that we don’t think it’s appropriate, ever, to joke about suicide," Clinkenbeard said.

We rate the claim that a robot "self-terminated" after 15 minutes of manual labor False.

Our Sources

Facebook reel, May 6, 2023

TikTok, April 15, 2023

TikTok, April 23, 2023

Email statement, Liz Clinkenbeard, vice president of communications at Agility Robotics, May 8, 2023

Agility Robotics, "Agility Robotics Launches Next Generation of Digit: World’s First Human-Centric, Multi-Purpose Robot made for Logistics Work," March 20, 2023

Agility Robotics, tweet, April 6, 2023

Agility Robotics, Instagram post, April 6, 2023

Agility Robotics, LinkedIn post, April 6, 2023

The Associated Press, "Robot in popular video didn’t deactivate itself," April 19, 2023

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Do robots get tired of working, too? Social media posts exaggerate viral video

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