When robots get 21-gun salutes.

PBS is holding a conversation with Reddit about anthropomorphism and what happens when soldiers start treating their machines like comrades – tools with personalities:

“They would say they were angry when a robot became disabled because it is an important tool, but then they would add ‘poor little guy,’ or they’d say they had a funeral for it,” [Julie] Carpenter[, a Ph.D. in education at the University of Washington] said. “These robots are critical tools they maintain, rely on, and use daily. They are also tools that happen to move around and act as a stand-in for a team member, keeping Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel at a safer distance from harm.”

UPDATE: Several interesting discussions have broken out on Reddit, where members of the military are recounting their experiences with robots in the field. Reddit user mastersterling reports that one bot received its own 21-gun salute.

Writing now as someone who regularly holds conversations with my car, and for that matter with my hammer, I’m not sure if this is a new development. But there’s certainly something easily overlooked about the way we relate to our machines.