By Isaac Kirschner ’17

Tufts engineers create robot that disobeys human requests

Engineers Gordon Briggs and Matthais Scheutz at Tufts University successfully tested a robot that disobeys human commands if it views them as contrary to their self-preservation. This model is part of a larger program aimed at creating robots that interact in a more human way.

Brigg’s and Scheutz’s robot responds to commands such as “standup” and “sit down,” but when it is commanded to walk into an obstacle, it politely refuses. In a video released to the public, the robot refuses to walk off a table when its director commands it to.

In a paper presented to the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, the pair said, “Humans reject directives for a wide range of reasons: from inability all the way to moral qualms… Given the reality of the limitations of autonomous systems, most directive rejection mechanisms have only needed to make use of the former class of excuse - lack of knowledge or lack of ability.”

Although many leading figures, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, have warned against the dangers of artificial intelligence, these Tufts engineers believe that their work is not a threat.

“There still exists much more work to be done in order to make these reasoning and dialogue mechanisms much more powerful and generalized,” said Dr. Scheutz and Mr. Briggs.

Colby lacrosse coach unexpectedly passes away

Jack Sandler, the head lacrosse coach at Colby College, unexpectedly died on Nov. 19th after collapsing on a treadmill in his hotel. Sandler was 35.

“Jack was incredibly energetic and warm,” Colby Director of Athletics Tim Wheaton said. “He was a classic NESCAC Renaissance man, where he cared a great deal about a sport and loved it, but also loved everything surrounding the sport at his school.”

On the day after Sandler’s death, current and former players came together to console one another and commemorate their former coach. The players were joined by other members of the Colby community who came to support their classmates after the tragedy.

Before beginning his coaching career, Sandler was a four-year varsity starter on the Bates College lacrosse team. He finished as the program’s second all-team leading scorer, earning both NESCAC rookie of the year and all-NESCAC honors. After graduating from Bates, Sandler went on to become an assistant coach for the school’s lacrosse team before being hired as the Head Coach at Colby in 2013.

“It was clear he loved the game of lacrosse and coaching, but his real passion was teaching and helping students develop their full potential physically, intellectually, and personally,” Colby President David Greene wrote in a letter to the Colby community. “We have been incredibly fortunate that Jack has been such an integral part of our community. I join others who will miss him greatly, and our thoughts are with his players, colleagues, and family.”

Colby later went on to say that the athletic department had no current plans to begin searching for a new head coach. “We’ll deal with the leadership of the program after we handle the situation and take care of each other,” he said.

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