ROBOT REVOLUTION INFORMATION
Farmers Are Replacing Migrant Workers With Robots. The robotic pickers don't get tired and can work 24 hours a day PM
What does robot mean:
Is an electric can opener a "robot"?
Just like the blacksmith's jobs became less and less so will many present day jobs. The answers lie in retraining and learning what is needed for you to be needed - watch the following:
Bridging the gap between science and fiction: The year in robots
Android companions, giant mechas and flying microbots used to be the sort of things that were the preserve of sci-fi writers but if this year's advancements in robotics are any indication, fiction might be getting a reality check sooner than we think. The question is what kind of future do they foretell – the dystopia of the Terminator franchise or a more benign one where humans and robots co-exist in relative harmony?
Co-working with robots
Will robots eventually make human workers redundant? Whether this
question keeps you up at night depends on how adaptable you think human
beings are. Sure, the move towards industrial automation will inevitably
see low-skilled manufacturing jobs going the way of MySpace, and this
UN report estimates that developing countries will be the hardest
hit. However, this scenario doesn't necessarily portend the end of work
for human beings, as the fearmongers would have us believe. If anything,
the growing trend of using co-bots (collaborative robots) in industrial
applications gives us a glimpse of what working with robots might look
like in the future.
At San Francisco start-up Zume Pizza and at the Ford Motor Company's factory in Cologne, co-bots are being deployed alongside human employees to take care of repetitive and menial tasks on the production line. In the case of the latter, not only do they do the heavy lifting, these robots are also programmed to ensure their human co-workers' safety – they stop moving when their sensors alert them to any body part that is in their way. Asimov would be proud.
Instead of cutting jobs, Ford says that this move has actually added 28,000 jobs in the last five years. Plus, an MIT study at a BMW factory reports that human and co-bot teams are actually more productive than all-human or all-robot teams.
That said, this kind of human-robot collaboration is not limited to the manufacturing floor. In an age of never-ending to-do lists, some organizations are helping to lighten the workloads of overburdened staff by assigning robots to take care of tedious tasks, as is the case for libraries in Singapore, where they are being used to hunt down misplaced books, a thankless task, as any harried librarian will tell you.
With the help of this robot, librarians no longer have to waste their time looking for misplaced books
In the case of resource-crunched companies, robots could literally provide an extra hand. For example, scientists in Singapore are developing massage robots to help physiotherapists cope with a burgeoning workload, an increasingly common occurrence in aging societies where there aren't enough practitioners to serve the needs of the population.
What these examples serve to show is that robots are not necessarily stealing jobs or rendering humans redundant. True, they are making certain jobs that we have always taken for granted expendable, but they are also paving the way for the creation of new roles – the question is whether we are prepared for them.
As Dr Ruth Stock-Homburg, Dean of the Faculty of Business Administration at Germany's Darmstadt University of Technology, puts it: "Many companies are deploying robots in an unreflected manner, without knowing beforehand what these changes mean for either employees, corporate culture, or customer relationships.
"New and more conceptual jobs for our future generations will automatically be created," she adds. "Companies should elicit these future jobs at an early stage and create new occupational fields before deploying robots."
Robots teaching robots
While we've still got a way to go before housekeeping robots a la Rosie in The Jetsons become a reality, continuing advancements suggest that we are slowly but surely making our way there. One challenge that has long stymied advancement in this arena is robot dexterity. Simple motions we take for granted, such as getting a glass of water, are still too complicated for most robots. Before we can deploy them to work in warehouses packing boxes (or doing our laundry and household chores), we need to crack this problem first.
Fortunately, researchers have been making strides in helping robots improve their dexterity with the help of self-learning algorithms. Over at the University of Washington, scientists have developed a five-fingered robotic hand that can mimic human movements and improve its performance on its own, while Google is hoping to speed things along by combining cloud robotics and deep learning to help robots learn and share new skills over a network. The latest series of Google experiments saw the robots learning how to open different types of doors. More importantly, it proved one thing: They learned how to do this faster when they worked as a group as opposed to alone.
What Google is doing is particularly significant as the ability for robots to share their experiences with one another in the cloud is one of the biggest breakthroughs that will take robotics to the next level (and possibly usher in the dreaded singularity). Apart from doing away with the need to program each robot individually, it would dramatically accelerate the number of things robots can do and transform not just the workplace but also our homes and society at large.
Going where humans fear to tread
From underwater droids that can detect and neutralize Improvised Explosive Devices to robots that can demolish high-risk buildings without any cost to human life, 2016 has shown us once again the invaluable role that robots are set to play in disaster and high-risk situations.
One of the big names in this field is Boston Dynamics' humanoid robot Atlas, which has undergone numerous iterations since it was unveiled to the public in 2013. It can now open doors, operate indoors and out, learn to balance itself unaided on the edge of a plywood board less than an inch thick, and navigate uneven terrain. The last achievement is particularly noteworthy as it was one of the biggest challenges facing the robot. Thanks to a new algorithm installed by the Florida Institute for Human & Machine, it can now gauge its terrain and adjust its foot position and weight accordingly, just like a real human. It's anyone's guess what the Atlas will be able to do next, but when it is finally deployed in a real-time emergency situation we'll all be able to see how it fares under pressure.
Further progress in this particular field of robotics means that the Atlas might one day be joined in its search-and-rescue missions by a crack team of reconnaissance robots, such as Harvard's flying RoboBee, which apart from being able to swim, can now perch and conserve its energy using electrostatic adhesion, thereby prolonging its operational life, a useful function to have if deployed in military surveillance or search-and-rescue operations.
Another pint-sized candidate for deployment in danger zones is SALTO, a one-legged robot with the agility of a parkour athlete. Developed by UC Berkeley scientists, it has the highest vertical jumping ability of any robot in existence. Not only is it able to clear over a meter, it is able to do so continuously – something other jumping robots are unable to do – and gain height by jumping off walls, an ability inspired by the galago, a small wide-eyed African primate that can leap over tall bushes and between tree branches over and over again.
Pounding the pavements
Given that we are entering an era of self-driving vehicles, it should come as no surprise that start-ups are also looking to disrupt the delivery sector with robots. Whether you're talking about pizza, restaurant takeout or meal kits, the fact is that more people than ever before are ordering food online, making the food-delivery business a potentially lucrative market. Problem is, it's also one of the toughest markets to crack.
Can delivery bots offer an edge over drones and traditional couriers and address those infamous last-mile challenges? London-based Starship Technologies certainly hopes so, making the argument that its robots are cheaper, faster, and more environmentally friendly than vans and that they would level the playing field for small businesses, many of which can't afford to hire delivery drivers. It made the world's first bot-driven food delivery this year and according to the company, its robots have journeyed over 5,000 miles in tests across Greenwich, Milton Keynes and Glastonbury, meeting over 400,000 people without a hitch.
Whether they'll be able to keep a clean record sheet in sketchier or denser neighborhoods is another question altogether – navigating the roads of a busy metropolitan city at rush hour is worlds apart from trundling along a picturesque suburban neighborhood with little traffic. Nevertheless, the fact that fast food chains such as Dominos are also getting in on the action suggests that there is a market for an alternative delivery system.
Toyota's $400 robot companion goes on sale next year, possibly marking the start of Year Zero for the consumer robotics industry
With technology in the field of robotics improving at light speed, it goes without saying that we are living in interesting times. The years ahead will see human-robot relations being placed under further scrutiny as companion bots become more commonplace. Toyota's Kirobo Mini, which will be available commercially next year, marks the first large-scale rollout for the personal robotics industry and, while the tiny robot might not be everyone's idea of a personal companion (if anything, it highlights the differences in Western and Japanese attitudes towards robots, a subject for another day), it's another example of real life imitating sci-fi, as people start turning to androids to fill the emotional voids in their lives.
Another 2016 breakthrough that might spawn more innovative offshoots is the Octobot, the first self-contained bot made entirely of soft materials. A departure from the hard-bodied specimens that we think of whenever we hear the word "robot," it is an achievement that builds on growing interest in soft robots, as they have the potential to be used in applications that conventional bots are not suited for – such as squeezing into tight spaces and handling delicate objects – and could lead to an entirely new generation of autonomous machines.
And whatever you might think of bipedal robots, Vitaly Bulgarov's 13-feet giant mobile suit is a fantasy come to life for anyone who grew up on the Gundam series. Who knows? One day, someone might just invent a mecha that can transform into an armored truck or a fighter plane. A nerd can dream.
Till then, here's to 2017 and a future of possibilities!
Interesting books written regarding the robots taking over. We are all witnessing it myself here in Pittsburgh with the testing going on with driverless cars. So I have started to put a list together of books that have addressed this subject way before it is actually happening: Here are a couple of examples:
Player Piano, the first novel of Kurt Vonnegut, was published in 1952. It depicts a dystopia of automation, describing the deterioration it can cause to quality of life. The story takes place in a near-future society that is almost totally mechanized, eliminating the need for human laborers. This widespread mechanization creates conflict between the wealthy upper class—the engineers and managers who keep society running—and the lower class, whose skills and purpose in society have been replaced by machines. The book uses irony and sentimentality, which were to become hallmarks developed further in Vonnegut's later works.[
Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future (2015)
What are the jobs of the future? How many will there be? And who will
have them? We might imagine—and hope—that today’s industrial revolution
will unfold like the last: even as some jobs are eliminated, more will
be created to deal with the new innovations of a new era. In Rise of
the Robots, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Martin Ford argues that this
is absolutely not the case. As technology continues to accelerate and
machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer people will be
necessary. Artificial intelligence is already well on its way to making
“good jobs” obsolete: many paralegals, journalists, office workers, and
even computer programmers are poised to be replaced by robots and smart
software. As progress continues, blue and white collar jobs alike will
evaporate, squeezing working- and middle-class families ever further. At
the same time, households are under assault from exploding costs,
especially from the two major industries—education and health care—that,
so far, have not been transformed by information technology. The result
could well be massive unemployment and inequality as well as the
implosion of the consumer economy itself.
Elmir's conclusion get a good education suitable for this future or learn survival skills to live off the land.
Singularity University: The Harvard of Silicon Valley Is Planning for a Robot Apocalypse
The students and teachers at Singularity University welcome a future where robots run the world.
During a recent Executive Program at Silicon Valley’s Singularity University, the institution’s co-founder Peter Diamandis made some confident predictions.
Within the next decade, he said, self-driving cars will eliminate all driving fatalities. Artificial intelligence will soon surpass the skills of the best human doctors and remove all inefficiencies from health care systems. These AIs will invent new pharmaceuticals to cure previously fatal diseases and will 3D print customized medicines based on genetic analysis of individual patients. Perhaps best of all, he said, plummeting production costs and rising prosperity will make such fantastic medical care essentially free.
It’s common for tech industry rhetoric to invoke the ideal of a better world, but since its 2008 inception, Singularity University has articulated an astonishingly ambitious series of goals and projects that use technological progress for philanthropic ends. Medicine is just one of many domains that Diamandis wants to fundamentally change. He and others at Singularity are also working to develop and support initiatives that will provide universal access to high-quality education, restore and protect polluted environments, and transition the economy to entirely sustainable energy sources.
His audience was a group of 98 executives from 44 countries around the world; each had paid $14,000 to attend the weeklong program at Singularity University’s NASA Research Park campus in Mountain View, California. As Diamandis moved through the sectors of the economy that artificial intelligence would soon dominate—medicine, law, finance, academia, engineering—the crowd seemed strangely energized by the prospect of its imminent irrelevance. Singularity University was generating more than $1 million of revenue by telling its prosperous guests that they would soon be surpassed by machines.
But his vision of the future was nonetheless optimistic. Diamandis believes that solar energy will soon satisfy the demands of the entire planet and replace the market for fossil fuels. This will mean fewer wars and cleaner air. Systems for converting atmospheric humidity into clean drinking water will become cheap and ubiquitous. The industrial meat industry will also vanish, replaced by tastier and healthier laboratory-grown products with no environmental downsides. He also predicts that exponential increases in the power of AI would soon render teachers and universities superfluous. The best education in the world will become freely available to anyone.
The lectures at Singularity University’s Executive Program are brisk and engaging, dense with charts and visuals, but punctuated with humor in the style of TED talks. During the two days I spent there, there were sessions on cryptocurrencies, AI, robotics, 3D printing and manufacturing, health care, and nanotechnology. Speakers tend to run wildly successful companies and hold simultaneous appointments at older universities such as Stanford.
They also tend to share a distinct attitude toward technology. Many managed to be cheerfully apocalyptic—certain that enormous displacements and disruptions loom on the horizon but still confident this will improve the world.
This is one of several apparent paradoxes that define Singularity. It’s a university that doesn’t grant degrees. It helps launch dozens of buzzy tech startups, but it’s devoted to something much loftier than corporate networking and profits. One of its core missions is to solve what it calls humanity’s “grand challenges.”
This is not the usual Bay Area bluster, where new companies promising revolutionary change are often devoted to things like creating better algorithms to customize burrito preferences or find casual sex partners nearby. Singularity University’s grand challenges really are some of the fundamental problems in the world: hunger, poverty, disease, pollution, and lack of access to education.
That its faculty, founders, and students typically believe they can not only ameliorate but fully eradicate these problems might seem like another instance of delusional tech-fueled optimism. After spending some time at Singularity, however, their vision of a radically better world starts to seem ambitious but perhaps possible, a shimmering utopia just beyond the edges of the actual.
Futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil, another cofounder of Singularity, popularized the term “singularity” in his 2006 book The Singularity Is Near. It refers to a hypothesized future era when machines become more intelligent than humans and begin designing other machines more powerful than anything the best human engineers can produce. These machines, in turn, will make another generation of even superior technologies, and the results of this iterative process will sweep rapidly upward along an exponential curve. Singularity University presupposes this exponential growth and is dedicated to harnessing technological power for positive change.
While there is not broad consensus among scientists that the singularity will happen, the idea has moved steadily from the fringes towards the center of mainstream discussion over the last decade. The Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom’s 2014 book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies presented the singularity as a matter of existential risk for humanity, outlining scenarios in which superintelligent machines enslave or destroy humans.
The book prompted Tesla founder Elon Musk to describe artificial intelligence as potentially “more dangerous than nukes.” Kurzweil and Diamandis take the catastrophic scenarios that Bostrom envisions seriously, but they also foresee a number of positive possible futures in which humans become immortal by merging with machines and the world’s major problems are quickly solved.
The basis for both the utopian and dystopian predictions is the concept of exponential growth. “Our brains think in a local and linear fashion,” Diamandis said, “but the rate of technological progress is global and exponential.” He illustrated the idea with graphs of Moore’s law, a 1965 observation by Intel cofounder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every two years.
If projecting this pattern decades into the future is valid, incredibly powerful circuits will become almost inconceivably tiny. This could enable infinitesimal computers to circulate throughout the human body to monitor and repair cells and tissues. Laptop-size machines would possess computing powers vastly superior to the largest supercomputers in the world today.
That Moore’s observation has been christened a “law” gives it a linguistic aura of infallibility, as if this exponential trend is an immutable fact of the universe. Moore himself, however, is skeptical that his law will persist indefinitely. He predicted in a 2015 interview that it would cease to describe the rate of progress at some point within the next 10 years.
Ray Kurzweil, by contrast, has proposed a law of his own—“The Law of Accelerating Returns”—that extends the principle of Moore’s law beyond the domain of integrated circuits to a broad range of technological and evolutionary systems. His position is that even if a particular technology does not always show exponential improvement over time, the invention of radically new and better technologies will compensate for slowing rates of progress.
Diamandis believes that Kurzweil’s law has profound implications for societies, legal systems, and governments. “Imagine if I can describe an idea in natural language, 3D print it, get it on the web, and begin selling it. It’s inevitable that intellectual property will lose some meaning in such a world,” he said.
Point-to-point delivery systems using drones will fundamentally reshape the transportation industry, and cheap customizable 3-D printers will largely replace manufacturing. Traditional schools and universities will fail to attract students interested in learning, though they might still function as venues for networking and socialization. “I don’t know what educational purpose college will have when the best faculty is an AI,” he said.
The most radical change will be widespread unemployment. “Everyone’s core business will eventually go to zero,” Diamandis said. This conclusion flows naturally from his definition of technology as “what makes the scarce abundant.” He applies the point not only to material resources but to intangibles such as analytical prowess, expert judgment and decision-making, clear and compelling communication of ideas, and any other areas in which humans currently enjoy a competitive advantage.
Like projections about the effects of artificial intelligence, predictions about the impact of pervasive unemployment bifurcate in opposing directions. The darker scenarios involve rapid growth in income inequality that spurs riots and wars and mass migrations. The optimistic scenarios, which Diamandis considers more likely, depend on governments recognizing the necessity of redistributing wealth to some degree and perhaps implementing a minimum income for all citizens. If the most serious threat to both manufacturing and white-collar jobs comes not from China but from Silicon Valley, then much of political discourse shows the same local and linear thinking Diamandis wants to transcend.
The Q&A after his lecture dispensed with the analog technology of hand-raising. Participants sent questions via their smartphones that were instantly ranked by popularity and displayed on a large screen. One popular question revealed a widespread anxiety: How can humans stay relevant in the economy of the future? “Bring in half a dozen 23-year-olds,” he said, adding that young people were less likely to be hindered by the calcified conventions of traditional organizations.
Many other people wanted to know whether he thought that income inequality would still exist once technology made all goods and commodities cheap and plentiful. “I think in the future we’ll have super-haves and haves, not haves and have-nots. The super-haves will have space yachts and travel to Mars and be able to afford technologies that radically extend their lifespan, but everyone will be lifted out of poverty. So it will still be a problem, but it will be better than the current world with haves and have-nots.”
There was little doubt about which class the audience represented. At one point during his lecture, Diamandis mentioned a new venture he’s involved with that offers personalized medical care based on extensive genetic testing and analysis. The price tag was $25,000 for eight hours at the clinic. Several audience members expressed interest. Still, when he threw out terms like “technological socialism” to a group of corporate executives, no one gasped or fainted.
Other speakers were more circumspect. Neil Jacobstein, an AI and nanotechnology expert who also lectures at Stanford, made a point of avoiding the word “socialism.” “I support free high-quality education and a base income for everyone,” he said. “Don’t read that as socialism—I just want a floor on misery. Even if you’re selfish, it’s still more sensible to put a floor on misery. We are all on this planet together, and we damn well better act like it.”
During a pause between lectures, I wandered over to see some of the gadgets and devices in Singularity University’s lab. The technologies were a mix of the serious and the silly. There was a dancing humanoid robot the size of a toddler on one table, and a contraption solving a Rubik’s cube on another. One scientist was wearing a neural headset that allowed him to drive a remote-control car with the electrical activity of his brain. I strapped on a virtual reality headset and rode a plunging roller coaster. At an adjacent station I took a virtual reality tour of a refugee camp for Syrians displaced by the war—the goal was to promote deeper empathy through a more immersive experience.
At the back of the lab was a prototype of something called a hypercube, which at some point in the next 18 months will be launched into low-Earth orbit to track pollution and help make agriculture more efficient. Though not much larger than a basketball, each hypercube costs a few hundred thousand dollars and can determine the chemical composition of materials just through imagery. This will allow it to monitor the compliance of mining companies in real-time and respond to oil and gas leaks with unprecedented speed.
The science fiction writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke once said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Singularity University is provocatively poised somewhere in the blurry borderlands between science and magic. It’s full of jaw-dropping ambitions and technologies. How much turns out to be trickery, only time will tell.
Comment by Elmir: The above is very thought provoking but to me a little scary. I can see basic robots but definitely nothing of the kind that can create their own better robots, that is where it starts to get scary.
This site was last updated 05/15/17