Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hitchhiking Robot Meets Grisly End

HitchBOT, a robotic experiment to test the kindness of strangers, had his journey cut short this summer in Philadelphia, after previously traveling across parts of Canada, Europe, and the United States. 

There was a fellow world traveler once, a human, this one, named John Stewart, not the Jon Stewart of fake television journalism fame, mind you -- this John Stewart lived in the 18th century. Interesting character: amateur philosopher and more than a bit of an eccentric, he was called 'Walking Stewart', because he had pretty much walked all over the earth. He had started his career working as a young writer in the service of the East India trading company, but deciding that colonialism and empire weren't things for him and, leaving India, walked back home, via a trek across Asia and hiking through Africa and then all over Europe. Eventually, after tiring of London and Paris, it seems, he came to the Americas and hiked up the South American coast before making his way to the fledgling States. The peripatetic Stewart developed a philosophy that combined Western materialism with pantheism and the yogic conceptions of single consciousness of the East. A true 'Freethinker' of the 18th century, he moved in the fashionable circles of London and Paris, befriended Thomas Paine, and circulated pamphlets espousing ideas which were too radical even for the fashionable European elite. He credited the success of his journeys (meaning, not getting killed) to two surprising things: a vegetarian diet and the refusal to carry arms -- and also to the hospitality and kindness of strangers; without the virtue of 'Xenia' so prized by the ancient Greeks -- it runs all through Homer and the myths -- he would not have been able to wander so.

Well, Xenia does not apply to robots, as far as I'm aware. Good job, Philly. City of brotherly love -- not robot love.

After Philly