Feel guilty about flying? Here's a robot that'll make you feel better

Carbon Bot is a little like the collection plate at church, except you don't have to listen to a sermon. Well, not much of one.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on

Shame. Shame. Shame.

Image: United Airlines

Scandinavians are revolting.

They're looking at their fellow Scandinavians and expressing disgust that they still get on planes. 

There's even a word for the guilt of flying: Flygskam. I know you're tempted to translate that as "a scam to make flyers feel ashamed."

What, though, can you do if you're an Earth-loving, tech-employed, desperate-to-be-loaded human being? Turn to religion? Take trains?

This column is always here to help you. So please lie down on my purple chaise-longue while I tell you about Carbon Bot.

See also: The Internet of Wild Things: Technology and the battle against biodiversity loss and climate change (TechRepublic cover story) | Download the free PDF version (TechRepublic)

This is a bot that's descended to Earth to cleanse you of your carbon sins. We all want absolution. Generally after too much fine Swedish Absolut.

In this case, Carbon Bot is a conversational AI priest that will listen to your sins and make you say 10 Hail Mary's and Our Father's. I'm sorry, I meant make you pay 10 Hail Mary's and Our Father's.

You see, the minute you feel flygskam coming along you send a message to Carbon Bot. You'll beg it to find carbon offsets to assuage your pain. Carbon Bot will ask a few questions. It will then flagellate you. Emotionally, that is. Finally, it'll provide you with projects to donate to -- in exchange for UN-certified carbon offset credits, of course.

What could be more contemporaneously joyous than that?

It's all the brain spawn of Rasa Technologies, which promises me that the whole thing is a research project and entirely open source.

There are so many glamorous aspects that I barely know where to begin. Perhaps most moving is that Carbon Bot will happily deal with your past sins as well as the ones to come. It can help you calculate your carbon footprint, as well as sending you to the appropriate offset site to contribute to the collection plate.

This isn't an activity to be sniffed at. After all, UK budget airline EasyJet has already declared that it will offset carbon emissions for all its flights. I'm sure Delta, United, American, and Southwest -- that's already more than 80% of all US seats -- will do the same. Once they've maximized their profits, that is.

I fear, though, that Carbon Bot won't leap into everyone's hearts. Indeed, Dr. Alan Nichol, co-founder and CTO of Rasa Technologies, offered these pained words: "We attracted the first few testers via Facebook ads, and I was shocked to see the amount of abuse the bot received from irate users insisting climate change is a hoax."

Oh, Dr. Nichol, you're on Facebook. Haven't you heard what's been going on there lately? It's mostly Russian infiltrators.

Humans vs. Robots, which species is winning?

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