Chess-playing robot breaks child’s finger, will surely doom us all


Here’s what happened: the other week, a 7-year-old chess player that NBC News names only as Christopher was participating in a chess tournament in Moscow, the Russians having long been on the forefront of chess and chess-related technology. His opponent was a robot animated by artificial intelligence. At one point, the robot’s claw-like hand removes one of Christopher’s pieces from the board and discards it. Christopher, acting quicker than the robot was apparently programmed to act, makes another move, pushing one of his rooks into the space previously occupied by his taken piece. The robot lowers its hand into that space and this time grabs Christopher’s finger. There’s a 15-second struggle before Christopher gets free, his finger broken.

Apart from the injury, Christopher is okay; he even played the next day and finished the tournament. You can watch video of the incident here if you want; it’s not particularly disturbing and Christopher is freed in short order.

The real story here is that the robots are rising. Or maybe the real story is Moscow Chess Federation president Sergey Lazarev talking to Russian news agency TASS and summing up the incident like this: “The robot broke the child’s finger — this, of course, is bad.”

Stock up on magnets; the robots are running wild

Most seem to agree that the problem came down to timing; Christopher made his move before the robot had fully retracted its hand, which confused the machine. “The child made a move, and after that it is necessary to give time for the robot’s response, but the boy hurried, the robot grabbed him,” Lazarev said, sounding a little too sympathetic to the steel-and-chrome set for me key. Who’s side are you on, Sergey?

Christopher’s parents were interested in contacting the prosecutor’s office, but Lazarev is hoping they can work it out. “And the robot operators, apparently, will have to think about strengthening protection so that such a situation does not happen again.” Yeah, or they should junk the thing before it talks to its robot friends and pulls a Westworld. C’mon, open your eyes, Lazarev! Chess champion Garry Kasparov, who famously lost a match to the chess-playing robot Deep Blue back in 1997, was more on the ball. “I tried to warn you!” hey tweeted.

But seriously, folks, this incident probably doesn’t spell our doom; accidents happen…Still, it couldn’t hurt to load the offending machine into a rocket and shoot it into the sun just to be safe, right?

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