It’s getting easier by the day to imagine a future where robots can understand and express emotions, and replace humans in even jobs that now seem safe from automation. It only follows that eventually, ethics will be applied to the way we use robots (the recent high budget flop Chappie addressed this concern).
By networking robotic “plants” (which he calls drones), Reiche created a digital “garden” in which resources–in this case bandwidth–are limited. The bots are programmed to fight for their own survival, hoarding as many packets of data as they can. Humans (not to mention robots) of the future may have a very different perception of this art project than we have now. Has Reiche intentionally created robot suffering? Does programming a machine with a will to live mean that “killing” it is immoral? These are questions we’ll undoubtably be facing as the line between human and machine blurs.