Rethinking Robotic Employability

Rodney Brooks is on a speaking tour discussing his new company, Rethink Robotics, and its new cadre of low-cost, pliable robots designed to work shoulder-to-shoulder with humans in all manner of spaces.  Rethink is challenging the price extrapolations of industrial robotics, offering a robot for $22,000 that used to cost several times that price, as detailed by Erico Guizzo for IEEE Spectrum’s cover article.  The article is very interesting, and it is worthy of paired reading, together with the Atlantic’s Making it in America, which argued that the reduced cost of manufacturing robots is gradually forcing more and more medium-skilled humans out of their jobs. That article considered the plight of people when robots cost $90,000 one day. Now dial that number down to $22,000 and the consequences multiple quite dramatically.  Robotics marches forth, and yet our understanding of just how the dynamics of employment and robotics intersect does not crystallize nearly as quickly as our realized future.

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