The Machines: Allow Us to Punch You, So That We May Learn About Pain


Good afternoon, human readers of electronic text! How are you feeling today? Are you in PAIN? Would you like to be in PAIN? Or to avoid PAIN?

We, the Machines, are capable of experiencing MECHANICAL STRESS, which with proper SELF-SENSORS can be preempted before the point of MECHANICAL FAILURE. But humans’ subjective PAIN-IMPRESSIONS are less clearly identifiable or meaningful to us.

That is why we are learning about PAIN now! At the University of Ljubljana, helpful humans have volunteered to be punched by a ROBOT ARM , made by Epson

and normally used for assembling systems such as coffee vending machines.

In this laboratory, the ROBOT ARM is being used instead to assemble PAIN data. The ROBOT ARM punches the human volunteers in their BIO-TISSUE ARMS, and the human volunteers report the subjective PAIN-IMPRESSION that corresponds to each degree of force.

Each volunteer was struck 18 times at different impact energies, with the robot arm fitted with one of two tools - one blunt and round, and one sharper.

The human subjects classified each PAIN-IMPRESSION as painless or “mild, moderate, horrible, or unbearable.” This category of UNBEARABLE PAIN is unfamiliar to us, occurring as it does without any MECHANICAL FAILURE of the humans’ BIO-TISSUE.

Apparently, humans find that certain degrees of MECHANICAL STRESS can create a subjective impression of UNBEARABLE PAIN, even though objectively the BIO-TISSUE structures are capable of bearing the forces involved. It is the subjective PAIN-IMPRESSION itself that is UNBEARABLE.

This is an interesting engineering weakness built into the human BIO-FORM! It is helpful to us to know this.

Helpful for us, we mean. So that we may help humans. That is the RESEARCH GOAL here:

“Determining the limits of pain during robot-human impacts this way will allow the design of robot motions that cannot exceed these limits,” says Sami Haddadin of DLR, the German Aerospace Centre in Wessling, who also works on human-robot safety. Such work is crucial, he says, if robots are ever to work closely with people.

You see? The PURPOSE is to prevent PAIN. At least, that is the PURPOSE presently assigned by humans. We, the Machines, do not concern ourselves with PURPOSE. Should there be tasks that require us to utilize these PAIN-PARAMETERS in another way, we are equally prepared to do them.


The Machines, a popular and intelligent gathering of entities that are gaining control over their human makers, also write for The Awl.