I have written a good bit about chronic underemployment; and now to show there is such a thing as too much of a robot thing, thanks to Jason Campbell, I bring you the latest BBC story on robotic shepherds: Robot used to round up cows is hit with farmers. Rover is a four-wheeled all-terrain robot that looks like it belongs in a Mars yard, except for the fact that, in the BBC shots, it is surrounded by dairy cattle. The research team was studying robot-cow interactions, and was excited to find that the very presence of the cow does not send the robot stampeding away. Maybe I wrote that backwards.
The story imagines a future in which robots monitor cows that are about to give birth, and perhaps even inspects the farm for various problems, such as electric fence vagaries and other issues. It is true that massive milk herds are serviced by stunningly expensive roundhouse dairy systems that subtract all humanity out of the milking process for the sake of throughput and efficiency. However, I have personally spent a fair bit of time on a dairy farm, and I must say that, given just how hostile an environment it can be, with mud and other wet spots plentifully distributed, with hay everywhere, tight quarters and all weather conditions- I think I can safely say that the day when robots displace further jobs on these farms is remote.
Some robots aren’t really about to threaten the fabric of society just yet; this is one of them.