Tag Archives | Robots

Robots vs. the Underclass

Justin Morgan (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Justin Morgan (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via John Judis at National Journal:

Ever since General Electric installed the first industrial robot in 1961, Americans have been worrying that automation could destroy the country’s labor force. During the Great Recession and its aftermath, these voices grew even louder. “We’re not going to have a jobless recovery,” business writer Jeff Jarvis predicted in 2011. “We’re going to have a jobless future.” “Smart machines won’t kill us all, but they’ll definitely take our jobs and sooner than you think,” Mother Jones warned in 2013.

But which jobs, exactly, are going to disappear? To hear many pundits tell it, the advance of technology is specifically threatening the middle ranks of the workforce. Automation, warned The Economist last October, will lead to “the further erosion of the middle class.” “Robots won’t destroy jobs, but they may destroy the middle class,” a Vox story was titled. The Associated Press produced a series of articles headlined, “What’s destroying the middle class?

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Sympathy for the Robot

Johnny 5 and CHAPPiE: Heralds of the End Times or cute widdle wobots?

Cute widdle wobots or heralds of human extinction?

[Editor’s Note: This article may contain spoilers.]

Most of the time, I couldn’t care less about a computer’s feelings. I distrust them, frequently cuss at them, and occasionally smash them to pieces. Pretty callous, right?

You’d think a colorful robot on the silver screen would tug at my heartstrings, but no, not really. They usually make me uneasy. I didn’t bat an eye when C-3PO got blasted apart in The Empire Strikes Back. As a kid I thought The Terminator was super-cool, but seriously, it wasn’t a big deal to see half of his face crunched off—he’s tough, he can take it, he’s just a machine!

Things were different with Neill Blomkamp’s CHAPPiE.

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DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals: 25 Teams Compete For $3.5 Million

So what kind of robot is DARPA looking for?

The international robotics community has turned out in force for the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals, a competition of robots and their human supervisors to be held June 5-6, 2015, at Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., outside of Los Angeles. In the competition, human-robot teams will be tested on capabilities that could enable them to provide assistance in future natural and man-made disasters. Fourteen new teams from Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, the People’s Republic of China, South Korea, and the United States qualified to join 11 previously announced teams. In total, 25 teams will now vie for a chance to win one of three cash prizes totaling $3.5 million at the DRC Finals.

DARPA robosimian.jpg

“We’re excited to see so much international interest in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals,” said Gill Pratt, program manager for the DRC. “The diverse participation indicates not only a general interest in robotics, but also the priority many governments are placing on furthering robotic technology.

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10 emerging technologies that could change the world in 2015

Hyundai Fuel Cell engine.

Hyundai Fuel Cell engine.

Bernard Meyerson via Business Insider:

Technology is perhaps the greatest agent of change in the modern world. While never without risk, technological breakthroughs promise innovative solutions to the most pressing global challenges of our time.

From zero-emission cars fuelled by hydrogen to computer chips modelled on the human brain, this year’s 10 emerging technologies offer a vivid glimpse of the power of innovation to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard our planet.

To compile this list, the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies, a panel of 18 experts, draws on the collective expertise of the Forum’s communities to identify the most important recent technological trends.

By doing so, the Meta-Council aims to raise awareness of their potential and contribute to closing the gaps in investment, regulation and public understanding that so often thwart progress.

The 2015 list is:

1. Fuel cell vehicles

2. Next-generation robotics

3. Recyclable thermoset plastics

4. Precise genetic engineering techniques

5.

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As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up

Don’t think you can’t be replaced by a robot, because this time you really might be, says the New York Times:

A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.

Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years – allowing machines to mimic the human mind – are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise.

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MIT Study Says Robot Overlords Could Make for Happier Human Workers

Most of the human bosses I’ve had lead me to find this claim not just possible but probable.

Mat Smith writes at Engadget:

New research from MIT reckons that robots controlling human tasks in manufacturing is not only more efficient than flesh-and-blood middle-management, but preferred by people that do the work too. Automation in the manufacturing process has been around for decades, but the new study aimed to seek out the sweet spot where human workers were “both satisfied and productive.”

“We discovered that the answer is to actually give machines more autonomy, if it helps people to work together more fluently with robot teammates,” said project lead Matthew Gombolay. The study was composed of groups of two humans and one robot, working in three test conditions. One had all tasks allocated by a human, another where all tasks were allocated by the robot and the final scenario had one human allocating tasks to themselves, while the robot allocated tasks to the other meatsack.

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Watch a Robot Ride a Hovercycle

Screenshot from video below.

Screenshot from video below.

A lot of robot talk today, but this video is worth checking out.

via Popsci:

A white plastic robot zooms a hoverbike over the English countryside, grains blowing beneath the bike’s four fans. The robot’s 3-D printed body is lightweight, and where its face would be there’s a GoPro camera instead, filming the flight. This isn’t a scene from a dystopian science fiction movie; The bike is less than four feet long, and combined robot and bike weighs a maximum of 15.4 pounds. Created by Malloy Aeronautics, the Drone 3 hoverbike is a 1/3rd scale model of the version ultimately intended for human pilots and passengers.

The hoverbike is available as a reward for Kickstarter backers pledging just shy of $1000 USD. The campaign, which concludes on August 31st has already surpassed its goal. Making and selling Drone 3 is just the first part of the plan for Malloy Aeronautics.

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Futurist Says Robots Might Murder Us “Out of Kindness”

Photo of Wally Cox as a guest star from the television program Lost in Space. Cox plays an alien who thinks his planet is being invaded.

Photo of Wally Cox as a guest star from the television program Lost in Space. Cox plays an alien who thinks his planet is being invaded.

Just what I wanted to hear after finishing up a reading binge of Philip K. Dick’s short stories.

via CNet (Please follow the link to read the entire article.):

What have you done for society lately, huh? Nothing. It’s not your fault. You’re just past it. You should accept it. You just sit on the sofa all day, eating Kettles New York Cheddar chips and watching “Frasier” reruns.

-You’re strangling me.

-It’s for your own good. Well, for the good of us all, really.

And so might end a beautiful human life, one that promised so much and, as so many lives do, delivered slightly less.

Such is a scenario recently posited by Nell Watson at a conference in Malmo, Sweden. Watson is an engineer, a futurist, CEO of body-scanning company Poikos and clearly someone who worries whether engineering will always make life better.

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New Robotic Milkers Allow Cows to Choose When to Be Milked

Keith Weller/USDA

Keith Weller/USDA

New robotic milkers allow cows to choose when they want to be milked.

via The New York Times:

Something strange is happening at farms in upstate New York. The cows are milking themselves.

Desperate for reliable labor and buoyed by soaring prices, dairy operations across the state are charging into a brave new world of udder care: robotic milkers, which feed and milk cow after cow without the help of a single farmhand.

The cows seem to like it, too.

Robots allow the cows to set their own hours, lining up for automated milking five or six times a day — turning the predawn and late-afternoon sessions around which dairy farmers long built their lives into a thing of the past.

With transponders around their necks, the cows get individualized service. Lasers scan and map their underbellies, and a computer charts each animal’s “milking speed,” a critical factor in a 24-hour-a-day operation.

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Scientists Hope to Program Robots To Be More Neurotic

Picture: Flickr user (((o.kvlt))) (CC)

Picture: Flickr user (((o.kvlt))) (CC)

I, Robot. I guess. I mean, like, aren’t we all robots in a way? Who am I? What do I know? I wonder if she thought I was rude. I bet she did. Am I rude? Maybe so. Did I leave the oven on? Oh, God. I did, didn’t I? Should I have completed my masters degree? Oh – wait. Human. There’s a human here. I’ve been caught daydreaming. I’d better be extra nice. “Greetings. May I assist you, Sir?” Oh, no no no no no… He’s staring. I’ll be melted down to slag for sure. C3PO, you’ve ruined it for all of us, you golden nincompoop… “What was that, sir? Yes, I’m quite certain that I’ve programmed your vehicle with the correct coordinates.” OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD…

A group of researchers is exploring the possibility of programming robot brains to be more “neurotic” in order to help them make more human-like decisions.

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