AUSTIN, Texas, March 16 (UPI) -- Update 9:50 p.m. EST:
An anti-robot protest held at the South by Southwest festival this weekend was just a big marketing ploy to promote a new dating app.
The creators of the app, Quiver, made the big reveal Monday on the group's website.
"We're releasing an app called Quiver, which takes the robots out of digital dating. Online dating today is just 'algorithms;' however we believe this is too mechanical and impersonal. The strongest relationships are best formed through people, not robots," a statement on the website said.
"Humanizing technology is a real issue, and one that is in the very DNA of our company. Quiver is just the first step on our way to bringing people back into the picture, and we're thrilled to tell the world about it today."
The app allows real people -- not an algorithm -- to play matchmaker.
Adam Mason, the group's spokesman, told technology blog io9.com his name is really Adam Williams. He's actually an engineer with TenthBit, the company that organized the fake protest.
"It's exploded into this global phenomenon," Williams said. "Marketing is crazy."
"The problem we are getting is we chose a very controversial initial message," he added. "We'll stop the robots. We're going to unplug them.
"We chose a very polarizing title for the movement." But, "it got people talking to us."
Original story follows:
At South by Southwest this weekend, the week-long event commonly known as SXSW featured an outburst of dissent. The target wasn't what one might expect -- police brutality or border security. The demonstrators gathered to shout down robots.
The Sunday afternoon gathering wasn't a joke, but a serious attempt to raise awareness about the risks of the development of artificial intelligence -- specifically, the risk that robots might evolve without a moral compass.
Their apparent sincerity was offset by laugh-inducing chants like: "I say robot, you say no-bot!"
But in an interview with Techcrunch, protesters -- who are affiliated with a group called Stop the Robot -- insisted their aims are inspired by a public letter Elon Musk wrote warning the scientific community of the possible dangers of malevolent artificial intelligence.
The group took breaks from their chants to handout T-shirts reading "Stop the Robots."
"Humans make mistakes," Adam Mason, one of the protestors told BBC Radio. "If we make something that is as smart as humans or smarter, why won't it make mistakes? We have to consider solutions [based on] human morality, rather than the morality of a computer."
Protesters said they don't want to thwart progress so much as ensure greater regulations and safeguards -- enforced by by the government and an international science body -- to hold AI development in check.
Critics of doomsday scenarios where uber-intelligent robots taken on a mind of their own say these anxieties are founded in science and sound logic. And while there are indeed many highly intelligent people voicing concerns about runaway AI, there's no way to predict exactly how the evolution of robotics will play out.
"They see the big picture, but they don't know where we are technologically," said Ramses Alcaide, CEO of Neurable, a startup company working on brain-computer interfaces for the disabled. Alcaide told TechCrunch he spoke with protesters to better understand their message and perspective.
"We could be a thousand years from what they are worrying about," Alcaide. "There are so many things we don't understand."
"I think slowing it down would be a disservice to humanity," he added. "I'm glad there are people who think that way. Let's think about this scientifically, but let's not stop research. I think if you were to ask Elon Musk if we should stifle progress, I don't think he would want to do that."
The group's website has several photographs of the protest, which by most accounts was quite small in size -- featuring only a handful of sign-holders.
The South by Southwest festival is currently focused on film, media and technology, but will morph into a music festival later this week.