Just as Stephen Hawking warned? Here comes 'the world's angriest robot'

Technically Incorrect: A New Zealand-based company says it's building a very, very angry robot to help companies deal with angry customers.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Mad as HAL? DJAlienPhantom/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It's almost a religious question: in whose image are we making robots?

Will we only make clever, efficient robots who will do what they're told -- built, naturally, in the image of your average middle management functionary?

Or will we attempt to build monsters -- just because we like to put our fingers in the fire occasionally?

A New Zealand company called Touchpoint Group says it's building a robot that will be the worst of us.

It will be angry all the time. Angrier than a motorist trying to tolerate yet another cyclist who goes straight through a stop sign. Angrier than Kanye when he sees a paparazzo. And, yes, angrier than any Comcast customer that ever lived.

The idea, in fact, is to help organizations deal with angry customers. As the Australian Business Review reports, Touchpoint is working with a bank so that its machines can better understand why customers get angry.

Those who enjoy their Isaac Asimov might be amused (or appalled) that this project carries the name Radiant. In Asimov's work, Prime Radiant predicted how humans might behave in the future.

Watch this: I played ping-pong against a robot

Some, though, might be concerned about Touchpoint's angry robot.

It is, of course, marginally hilarious that a bank might need a robot to explain that bad or opaque customer service might get humans mad. What is there to understand? Or is this, perhaps, another step for financial organizations to remove, say, employees altogether?

Indeed, Touchpoint CEO Frank van der Velden told the Australian Business Review: "Companies don't have the numbers of staff to go through this manually. It's very difficult. Take a bank for example, they receive a hell of a lot of data every day. But it gets to a point where that dataset grows so large that it becomes meaningless unless you can interpret it. That's where Radiant will fit in."

However, the eminent scientist Stephen Hawking and others have warned us repeatedly that AI could be, in Hawking's words, "the worst thing ever for humanity."

From one well-intentioned project like Touchpoint's angry robot will come other projects that delve deeper into angry robotic possibilities.

Soon, angry birds will come to life and peck at us till we succumb to their whims. Just because they can.

Soon, our robots will simply be having a bad day and will take that bad day out on us.

I'm mad as HAL, and I'm not going to take this anymore.