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When should a robot say no to its human owner?

“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid that I can’t do that,” intoned fictional supercomputer HAL, and the rest is (pop culture) history. In real life, researchers at Tuft’s Human-Robot Interaction Lab are enabling robots to refuse orders from humans. U.K. tabloid theMirrorcaptured the spirit of much of the popular reaction by calling it “terrifying” while another similar paper warned “uh oh!” Here at Slate, one writer captured the spirit of the popular reaction by dubbing it “adorable” but also a bit “dangerous.” Many of my friends reposted the news on their Facebook walls and mock-seriously asked “what could possibly go wrong?” or warned “it begins” or “soon.”