How do we feel when a robot dies? Emotions expressed on Twitter before and after hitchBOT's destruction

In 2014, a chatty but immobile robot called hitchBOT set out to hitchhike across Canada. It similarly made its way across Germany and the Netherlands, and had begun a trip across the USA when it was destroyed by vandals. In this work, we analyze the emotions and sentiments associated with words in tweets posted before and after hitchBOT{'}s destruction to answer two questions: Were there any differences in the emotions expressed across the different countries visited by hitchBOT? And how did the public react to the demise of hitchBOT? Our analyses indicate that while there were few cross-cultural differences in sentiment towards hitchBOT, there was a significant negative emotional reaction to its destruction, suggesting that people had formed an emotional connection with hitchBOT and perceived its destruction as morally wrong. We discuss potential implications of anthropomorphism and emotional attachment to robots from the perspective of robot ethics.

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