Print

Human Machines

The mysterious case of Nikolai Gudkov who was electrocuted by his own computer because he managed to beat the machine at chess third time in a row. Weird enough, they took the computer to court.
A machine could never have man's ability to think. This is the commonly-shared belief. Yet there are some unexplainable phenomenon related to these machines. For instance, an IT exhibition in London, back in 1988, there have been noticed some very strange video records made by an Amstrad PC 1512 computer. Although there was no source of energy nearby, the computer would simply start by itself. It tried to write a message on the screen then stopped 30 seconds later.

But the following story is a bit less funny. In 1981, Klenji Urada, a Japanese technician from the Kawasaki Company was striving to fix an industrial robot. He was suddenly brutally hit by the machinery's mobile arm. Was it just a technical desertion?

In 1985, Theo Locher studied the case of a computer in southern Germany, belonging to a 47-old programmer. From time to time, plenty of threats appeared on the computer's screen. He suddenly read: "You will die, Accident, or Undetectable death". With all the research, experts stated there was no scam involved.

Then in 1989 there was a computer who liked to play mind games with Nikolai Gudkov while he was trying to chess mate for the third time in a row. The player was electrocuted. The Soviet police thought it was murder, then the experts put the blame on a short-circuit, but nobody thought the machine could be held responsible for the electrocution. This case has never been solved.

Nonetheless, the computer was ordered to stand trial for murdering the Soviet chess champion named Nikolai Gudkov. His death occurred at the very instant when he touched the metal board he and the machine were playing chess on. Alexei Shainev, a Soviet police investigator, told Moscow reporters: "This was no accident - it was cold-blooded murder." He also explained to the reporters: "Niko Gudkov won three straight games and the computer couldn't stand it. When the chess master reached for his knight to begin play in the fourth game, the computer sent a lethal surge of electricity to the board surface. The computer had been programmed to move its chess pieces by producing a low-level electric current. "Hundreds of people simply watched Gudkov being electrocuted.

Legal experts all over the word were simply shocked by the astonishing decision to put the computer on trial. Computer experts might be astonished, too by this zany idea. The Soviets are, however, convinced that the computer was endowed with the kind of intelligence and pride to even develop feelings of hatred and grudge towards the chess champion. This was, according to Soviet legal experts, the motive that made the computer kill its owner. The chess marathon between the man and the machine lasted no less than six days.

Reports say that Gudkov managed to win the game three times in a row, beating the supercomputer. Just when he was about to win the fourth game, the lethal dose of electricity sent by the "evil machine" struck the poor man dead. According to Soviet authorities, their initial supposition was that the death was simply caused by some sort of damage in the system, like a short-circuit caused by the overuse of the machine. But, after examining the state of the computer, it turned out that there was simply nothing wrong with it.

Later on, they discovered that the computer made an electricity flow reach the board just to ensure its winning the chess game: "The computer was programmed to win at chess and when it couldn't do that legitimately, it killed its opponent," investigator Shalnev mentioned. He added: "It might sound ridiculous to bring a machine to trial for murder. But a machine that can solve problems and think [sic] faster than any human must be held accountable for its actions."

The Swiss legal expert named Rudi Hagemann shared the same opinion with the Soviet policeman. In his opinion, artificial development has come such a long way these days that some special supercomputers, robots and machinery are bound to be considered human. This is a rather scary perspective on the future of the world.

The funny thought about all this story is-what kind of punishment should be applied to the guilty, murderous computer?
By Claudia Miclaus
Bouquets and Brickbats | What Others Said