Last evening, as I sat down to work on the post I had intended to write for today, the Mysterious Mr. C delivered some terrible news: hitchBOT, the adorable hitchhiking robot from Canada that I featured in Saturday’s “Nerd Alert” had been damaged beyond repair by some guy in Philadelphia. (In fact, now that video of the attack has surfaced, it appears that the poor little guy met his demise before I even posted about him. [And no, I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it.])
Like millions of hitchBOT’s fans, I was absolutely devastated. I had really been looking forward to seeing his travels throughout the United States and was hoping to catch him when he finally came to D.C. Unfortunately, and ironically, the “City of Brotherly Love” was just too much for a tiny immobile robot that relied on the kindness of strangers to get around.
Now, I will be the first one to admit that my reaction to hitchBOT’s death was a little intense – there were a lot of tears and there was a lot of swearing – especially for something that I had never interacted with and wasn’t technically alive. But while some of the emotion stemmed from my lost (and perhaps, unlikely) opportunity to meet the robot, most of it was mourning the fact that the social experiment had ended so violently in my home state (luckily though, I’m from Pittsburgh). I just couldn’t quite understand why someone would do this – I mean, if he didn’t want to be a part of the project, he could have just left hitchBOT alone and gone on his merry way.
I also felt like the news confirmed my increasingly cynical view of humanity since hitchBOT had traveled safely through Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands. Indeed, according to reports, he had spent a week (A WEEK!) on the road with a heavy metal band (A HEAVY METAL BAND!).
But while I ranted and raved about the cruelty of this act, hitchBOT’s creators responded with the kindness that was supposed to be inherent in the project. In statement on hitchBOT’s web site, the “family” wrote:
“Unfortunately, hitchBOT was vandalized overnight in Philadelphia; sometimes bad things happen to good robots. We know that many of hitchBOT’s fans will be disappointed, but we want them to be assured that this great experiment is not over. For now we will focus on the question “what can be learned from this?” and explore future adventures for robots and humans.
We have no interest in pressing charges or finding the people who vandalized hitchBOT; we wish to remember the good times, and we encourage hitchBOT’s friends and fans to do the same.”
After feeling properly chastened by their magnanimity (and reading this excellent requiem by Lloyd Alter on the Mother Nature Network), I began to calm down and decided to take their advice.
So here’s to you, hitchBOT. While you weren’t long for this world, you certainly made it a little brighter.