Mr. Georgeson said that some commenters approve of the robot beatings, “saying we should be doing this so they can never rise up. But there’s this whole other group that says we shouldn’t be doing this because when they” — the robots — “see these videos they’re going to be pissed.”
But Agnieszka Wykowska, a cognitive neuroscientist and the editor in chief of the International Journal of Social Robotics, said that while human antagonism toward robots has different forms and motivations, it often resembles the ways that humans hurt each other. Robot abuse, she said, might stem from the tribal psychology of insiders and outsiders.
“You have an agent, the robot, that is in a different category than humans,” she said. “So you probably very easily engage in this psychological mechanism of social ostracism because it’s an out-group member. That’s something to discuss: the dehumanization of robots even though they’re not humans.”