A three-month long art project in Switzerland called “The Darknet– from Memes to Onionland” came to an interesting close after the brains of the project was seized by authorities in January.
It wasn’t the artist, but the art itself who was seized. Or at least the better part of it was. Because the project centered on an automated bot known as “The Random Darknet Shopper.” The bot–a computer programmed to spend $100 worth of bitcoins weekly on random products found on the deep web–randomly purchased $48 worth of ecstasy and a $25 fake passport on two of its buying weeks. As a result, the boys in blue came in to confiscate the bot the day after the installation was completed.
On their website, the artists (!Mediengruppe Bitnik) detailed what they know about the seizure. “The purpose of the confiscation is to impede an endangerment of third parties through the drugs exhibited by destroying them. …We believe that the confiscation is an unjustified intervention into freedom of art.”
The project mission statement asks “What does it mean for a society when there are robots which act autonomously? Who is liable, when a robot breaks the law on its own initiative?”
Well, luckily for the Bitniks, not the artists who created the robot–according to Swiss authorities. Because none of the artists have been taken in under any pretenses. Just their robot. And the drugs it bought.
Whether this sets a trend for the coming age–a time in which robots are being seized and shut down or worse for their wrongdoings–is neither here nor there. Well I guess it is here. Because it’s already happened. But until Johnny 5 is in a lineup for slingin’ work on the corner, it might be too early to call it a trend. For when the time does come, may the maker have mercy on our souls…