Robots, touch and underemployment

Here is a multi-faceted story in the New York Times by John Markoff once again: A Robot with a Reassuring Touch. This story is interesting both because it motivates the need for robots that are deeply safe in close proximity with humans, and because the small employment example given in it suggests that the unskilled employees weren’t laid off, they were just taken to more highly skilled training sessions when Baxter became a success. The attentiveness to this detail is fascinating, particularly because it’s impossible to believe. If Baxter costs money, even $20,000, and saves no jobs, then just how is productivity so enhanced that companies will purchase it in spite of no decrease in overhead?  A further mini-discussion revolves around the Emergency Stop, or E-Stop. Robots frequently have a big red button that, when twisted or pressed, shuts down a robot so it can do no further damage. Petrol stations have the same thing that shuts down pumps and lines to the underground tank in case of an above-ground fire. Rodney Brooks points out that we eventually need to wean ourselves off of assuming robots should always have E-stops. I think it would be a joy to sit down and try to understand, just when would this happen, and just how would be ensure that robots are safe enough to make this change justifiable?

 

3 thoughts on “Robots, touch and underemployment

  1. Anonymous

    Seems to me that the technology is faultless but the marketing narrative is now hoping to throw a camouflage net over the ‘elephant in the room’.For me commercial robotics in general will continue to get it wrong until they realise that ethical & ‘useful’ robotic assistance rather than human replacement is key. We need everybody aboard before the ‘ship can sail’ and continuing to target capitilist venture is a an enduring mistake! The majority will resist robotic technology if there is even a whiff of job losses?Personally I favour the ‘daemon’ style model, the robotic friend who (which) is always there for you. If you have accepted robotic technology on a personal level then you are far more lightly to accept the capitalist/replacement model in the future?Great Blog by the way!

    Reply
  2. LFC

    “Rodney Brooks points out that we eventually need to wean ourselves off of assuming robots should always have E-stops. ”

    For a “legendary roboticist”, as he is referred to in the article, he doesn’t seem to have ever actually worked on a large scale production grade software project. Of course, by “eventually” he may mean 50 years, but that’s a near eternity in tech terms.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Chronic Underemployment Goes Mainstream! | robotfuturesbook

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