Is this video a test of your rationality or your humanity or what?

Boston Dynamics builds robots. Here’s a video of “Spot,” their robotic dog. Watch until at least the 10-second mark.

Is it wrong to kick the dog? What can we learn from our reactions to this video?

An article here reports on the reactions of others.

Beyond the Ivory Tower. Workshop for academics on writing short pieces for wide audiences on big questions. Taking place October 18th to 19th. Application deadline July 30th. Funding provided.
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
9 years ago

You know, Kant is often made fun of in philosophical circles for saying our duties to animals are indirect, having to do with how we humans are affected by an act rather than wronging the animal itself. This is perhaps ludicrous for some animals, since they really seem to be sentient or sapient or whatever. But he may well be onto something regarding how we do think of treating animals that lack certain key capacities for moral consideration. People’s reactions to kicking the robot dog seem to fit this picture. E.g. commenter DonatelloNJA writes on a website (

“Does anyone else feel bad for the robot dog? Does anyone else kind of hope they treat it well? I mean, it’s not a real dog. It can’t feel anything. It doesn’t care. I shouldn’t care. But… I care.”

That is, many people’s condemnations of the kicking seem driven by how it affects them or other humans, not how it affects the robot.

9 years ago

That particular video is no different from letting a phone drop to demonstrate that its screen and case will not crack. If you think that would not be wrong then kicking the robot-dog is not wrong.