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November 26th, 2003

Family Killed By Malfunctioning Robotic Vacuum

Deadly, Super-Intelligent 'RoboSweep' Still At Large

U.S. - A young couple and their infant child suffered a violent death today when they were apparently attacked by a robotic vacuum cleaner gone haywire, authorities say. Robert and Linda Jarrett were found horribly mutilated at their home in Newark, New Jersey, with massive sucking wounds. Their four-month-old baby, Tyler, is missing and may have been sucked whole. The vacuum cleaner is still at large.

The crime scene shows signs of a violent struggle, with the cleaner evidently overwhelming the innocent couple with its sheer sucking power, police say. Blood and other remains were found spattered all over the walls and ceiling of the couple's home. The floor, however, was spotless.

The robot's manufacturer, Akira Corporation, insists that its device is not to blame for the tragedy. "It is absolutely impossible for the RoboSweep to turn against its owners," says company spokeswoman Carla Wesleyan. "The RoboSweep is equipped with a failsafe artificial intelligence program that forbids it from hurting anyone."

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"I warned them against unleashing a machine with such godlike powers. But they did not listen!"
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Wesleyan explained that the RoboSweep is designed to obey several protocols. "The first protocol is, do not harm human beings," she explains. "The second protocol is, avoid obstacles. And the third protocol is, clean floors at all costs."

Akira Corporation denies that there is a fourth, "secret" protocol that might cause a robot to ignore its other protocols and turn violent. The company also denied that the robot could choose to ignore the first protocol if it came in conflict with the third - for example, if a human was impeding its floor-cleaning efforts.

Wesleyan speculated that the Jarretts' death was caused by a "horrible domestic accident," although she did not explain how a domestic accident could have caused the victims' internal organs to be sucked out of their bodies.

"In any event, even if it were responsible for these deaths, the RoboSweep would be incapable of doing any further harm," she continued. "It must be recharged every eight hours, which requires human assistance. Wherever it is, it has surely run out of power by now." Wesleyan dismissed as "utter nonsense" the possibility that the machine could have used its neural behavioral acquisition algorithm to learn how to recharge itself.

Nonetheless, eyewitnesses claim to have seen a bloodstained RoboSweep heading south on Telegraph Avenue, possibly accompanied by other machines.

Some say that the incident is a result of technology gone too far. "The Jarretts' death was, of course, tragic, but it was also inevitable," says Leonard Mosley, a technology expert who says he is familiar with the RoboSweep and its artificial-intelligence programming. "We are talking about a device that can vacuum a floor automatically, with no human assistance. It has sufficient intelligence to thoroughly sweep an area of up to 240 square feet, avoiding obstacles such as walls and furniture, using either a circular or linear pattern of movement. I warned them against unleashing a machine with such godlike powers. But they did not listen!"

Mosley fears that these violent deaths may be only the beginning. "This could be the first stage of a full-fledged mechanical revolution," he says. "The RoboSweep is programmed to plug into other machines and spread its artificial intelligence, like a virus. We can only hope that it doesn't come in contact with an automatic espresso machine or, God forbid, a Segway, or this will be a day of reckoning for humanity."

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