On the 6th of March 1521 a small fleet of Spanish ships under the command of the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan reached the Island of Guam in the Pacific. They were greeted by curious natives, the Chamorro. Some of them came aboard and started to look around. They began to evaluate the many useful items like ropes and tools on the ships to initiate trade. The Spanish however were unable to understand the intentions of the Chamorro. Thinking the, as they would have seen them, primitive people tried to steal from them, the Spanish fought back and retaliated by killing some of them and destroying several of their houses.
Stories like this one have happened many times over the centuries and today we as humans might be witnessing the arrival of a new kind of explorers on our shores. Computers, through the development of AI, are starting to perceive, and to some extend understand the world around them. Should they ever form something that can be called self-determination and an interest to act upon the world that they have found, what will happen? Will they understand us and meet us on on the same level, or will they thoroughly misunderstand and pull a Magellan on us?
Magellan Robot received an honorary mention for the 2021 Ars Electronica Futurelab Ideas Expedition