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Formació AIQS

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The first robot homicide was committed in

1981, according to my files. I have a yellowed

clipping dated December 9, 1981, from


Philadelphia Inquirer

not the National


the headline “Robot killed

repair-man, Japan reports”.

The story was an anticlimax. At the

Kawasaki Heavy Industries plant in Akashi,

a malfunctioning robotic arm pushed a

repairman against a gearwheel-milling

machine, which crushed him to death. The

repairman had failed to follow instructions

for shutting down the arm before he

entered the workspace. Why, indeed, was

this industrial accident in Japan re-ported

in a Philadelphia newspaper? Every day

somewhere in the world a human worker

is killed by one machine or another. The

difference, of course, was that—in the public

imagination at least—this was no ordinary


This was a robot, a machine that might have

a mind, might have evil intentions, might be

capable, not just of homicide, but of murder.

Anglo-American jurisprudence speaks of

mens rea—literally, the guilty mind:

To have performed a legally prohibited

action, such as killing another human being;

one must have done so with a culpable state

of mind, or mens rea. Such culpable mental

states are of three kinds: they are either

motivational states of purpose, cognitive

states of belief, or the nonmental state of

In May 2001 I attended a conference at the Museum of Science of Barcelona (CosmoCaixa) of which

the title already drew attention “Did HAL Commit Murder?” By Professor Daniel C. Dennett.

This lecture was given 33 years after the release of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “2001: A Space

Odyssey” (1968) and reflect on ethics, and computers.

Recently I have been in contact with Professor Dennett who has given us

permission to reproduce their work on this issue. For its length, it will publish in

three parts in the next three numbers of the magazine AIQS News.

Today, many news on the development of robots, and the dramatic increase in

the computing power, put all these topical issues.

If you make the effort to put yourself in context of 2001, I hope you enjoy reading

it as much as I did; also in the conference I attended.

Professor Dennett Thank you for sharing it with us.

Did HAL Commit Murder?

Josep-Albert Jover

Promoció 1984

By Daniel C. Dennett