Automation: Cause for Concern or Celebration?

You are walking on a sidewalk in Chicago minding your own business. Suddenly, a little robot comes up to you, trying to make a sale for some product. You choose to ignore it, just like you do every other robotic salesman. When you pass the robot, another robot cuts you off to make the same sale as the first robot! You try passing this one too, but more robots appear, eventually trapping you in a circle, all of them making the same sale simultaneously. The robots have cornered you; they’ve forced your hand to buy their product. And this is only the first block of your walk.

Okay, it probably won’t be that extreme, but robots are taking over our world one by one, whether you like it or not. The world as we know it will completely change within 10 or 20 years due to the ceaseless increase of automation. 

Automation is rapidly changing the job market; millions of jobs which were once done by humans can now be done by machines. You probably already know about the factory jobs, which even basic machines can now do. But, I bet you haven’t heard of the more interesting ones like lawyers, medics or even chefs. A very major AI in making these jobs possible for automation to handle is IBM’s Watson. Watson is an AI program which is capable of analyzing hundreds of thousands of different algorithms and possibilities in a matter of seconds and then choosing the best one. Technology like this can completely change the way doctors diagnose patients. Some doctors have already taken advantage of this opportunity and used Watson or other AI programs in diagnosing conditions, one of them being cancer. Currently, Watson cannot analyze images like X-rays and retina scans, but IBM already has an active research product to expand the capabilities of its AI. Medicine is not the only industry Watson has taken over; “Chef Watson” can now generate new recipes entirely from scratch using its AI mind. It uses its incredible knowledge of mixing flavors and food chemicals to create pairings favorable to the human tongue. Add Miso Robotics Flippy, a robot capable of making food faster than some chefs, along with table delivery drones, and there won’t even be a need for humans. Imagine a whole place fully operated by robots. The thing is, it’s already here. A hotel in Japan called Henn Na Hotel is completely run by automation. From the concierge to the receptionist, every individual staff member is a robot at the human customer’s disposal. All types of other jobs including drivers, telemarketers, and financial analysts can all be taken by robots and may be taken sooner than expected. 

The problem with all this automation isn’t the automation itself, it’s what we should do with all us humans. What happens to us if robots are doing everything? The first thing most people think of is unemployment. If a machine is doing your job faster and more efficiently than you, then what is the point of you, a human, doing that job. According to a new study from Oxford Economics,

within the next 11 years there could be 14 million robots put to work in China alone.

As a result of the jobs robots are taking over, more than 1.5 million jobs have been lost to robots in the United States, more than 11 million in China, and almost 2 million across EU member states. Due to this unemployment issue, people lose jobs, and income inequality is then increased in those countries. A former 2020 democratic candidate, Andrew Yang, became famous for addressing this issue by proposing a UBI. A UBI is a universal basic income, which gives every citizen a minimum amount of income. Andrew Yang explained how automation would take many jobs away from Americans, which would leave them with no source of income. According to Andrew Yang, the UBI would allow a lower class American to support themselves with money funded by taxes and wall street speculation. 

However, there is a very compelling argument that robots will do much more good to humans than harm. After all, robots were made to make human lives easier, not harder. With all the efficiency of these robots, they can actually open up more jobs instead of only killing them. Ethical sourcing officer, Artificial intelligence business development manager, and A.I. assisted health care technician are all examples of future jobs robots will open up. Most of these future jobs are based around working with the robot like the assisted health care technician, which works with the robot to diagnose patients. The saying “A dog is a man’s best friend” could be changed to “A robot is a man’s best friend,” or maybe even, “a man is a robot’s best friend.” Another possibility for humans is the idea of not working, of growing beyond the paradigm of basic labor as a species. An architect called Buckminister Fuller had the idea of man focusing their mind purely on their creative means. He had said,

We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery… The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

Fuller’s idea is even more relevant to our society nowadays because of the increasing rise of automation. If humans are losing their jobs, they can still work, not for the goal of earning money, but for the creative or personal goals they set for themselves. 

Robots and AI are beautiful works of cutting edge technology. Mankind is always looking for new ways to improve their life or to make it easier on themselves. The first robot, made in 1954, basically sparked a new life form. As automation and AI continues to grow, so will its capabilities, to the point where it may be able to think and learn by itself, going beyond its natural programming. The new life of robots is coming, for better or for worse. Will you be ready for them? 

Bionic Hand That Can Feel

 

 

In 2006 the first bionic arm, a robotic arm controlled by the amputee’s brain, was successfully connected to a woman,  giving her a limb she could once again engage the world with. The only disadvantage of the arm was that she was still unable to feel, unable to tell that there was an arm that her mind was moving in the first place.  Now, the world of robotics is changing once again.

Later this year, the first bionic hand that can feel and transmit that sense of touch to the amputee will be connected to a young man’s arm in Rome. This is an absolute breakthrough in science, signaling that the singularity is closer than we’d imagined.

The hand will be attached directly to the nervous system, making the bionic hand a true extension of the man’s body and subsequently fostering an additional troop into the global cyborg army. No kidding, there is even a foundation dedicated to turning people into cyborgs, and promotion cybernetic rights.

The new bionic hand will

allow the man to control the hand by his thoughts, as well as receiving sensory signals to his brain from the hand’s sensors. It will effectively provide a fast, bidirectional flow of information between the man’s nervous system and the prosthetic hand.

Earlier models of the bionic hand provided very limited sensation, whereas the new model provides a range of sensations to allow the amputee to recognize differences in touch.

The idea would be that it could deliver two or more sensations. You could have a pinch and receive information from three fingers, or feel movement in the hand and wrist. We have refined the interface [connecting the hand to the patient], so we hope to see much more detailed movement and control of the hand.

This is obviously only the beginning, so there is no telling what further advancements into bionics and cybernetics will bring.

No more days of hook hands and dead weight.  This hand will likely one day be just as functional as a real limb with the added benefit of knowing the difference between a lover’s caress and the crushing force of a Buick parked on top of it. It might even eventually have the capability for heat seeking missiles that can be installed into the fingertips that reward the amputee with pleasure when they launch.  Sounds far-fetched, but as usual, you know the military will get this first.

Will this technology, paired with an artificial nervous system, eventually be implemented into robotics, enabling our future overlords to feel the world just like us? It’s a slippery slope, that’s for sure.

For more information regarding how technology has altered and/or improved biology follow the links below.

 

 

Sources:

Bionics

Washington Post: First Bionic Arm

The Independent: First Bionic Hand

Wondergressive: The Singularity is Night Upon Us

Cyborg

Cyborg Foundation

 

Additional Resources:

Wondergressive: First True Cybernetic Tissue Created

Wondergressive: Robotic Legs Controlled by Your Brain

Wondergressive: Electronic Brain Implant Increases Intelligence 

Wondergressive: Implantable Telescope Restores Vision

Wondergressive: Kid Allergic to Everything Goes to School as a Robot

Self-Camouflaging Soft Robot

self-camouflaging soft robot changing colors

http://scitechdaily.com/ A self-camouflaging soft robot

Researchers at Harvard have created the first self-camouflaging soft robot. The robot is mobile and has the ability to recognize the color of its environment and mimic the surrounding colors.  Using pumped microfluids, the robot is able to quickly hide itself within its environment.

The self-camouflaging soft robot must be tethered to a central control system which pumps the liquids into its transparent body.  It is able to alter its colors with great specificity in approximately 30 seconds.

As this amazing self-camouflaging soft robot only costs $100 per unit to produce, it is a very cheap method for military operations requiring mobile stealth.

Of course, it will go to the military first.  I wonder when we will be able to implement this fluid adaptability in our cars.

 

 

Sources:

SciTechDaily: DARPA & Harvard’s Soft, Self-Camouflaging Robot

Self-Camouflaging Soft Robots

 

Researchers at Harvard have created the first self-camouflaging soft robot. The robot is mobile and has the ability to recognize the color of its environment and mimic the surrounding colors.  Using pumped microfluids, the robot is able to quickly hide itself within its environment.

The robot must be tethered to a central control system which pumps the liquids into its transparent body.  It is able to alter its colors with great specificity in approximately 30 seconds.

As the robot only costs $100 per unit to produce, it is a very cheap method for military operations requiring mobile stealth.

Of course, it will go to the military first.  I wonder when we will be able to implement this fluid adaptability in our cars.

Robotic Legs Controlled by Your Brain

University of Maryland Brain Cap Technology Tu...

Engineers at Johns Hopkins University have created a set of robotic legs that can be controlled using brain signals.  The legs are controlled through a electronic cap so the technology is non-invasive.

So far, the device is able to recognize when a person wants to walk or stop with 95% accuracy.  All the user has to do is imagine walking or stopping and the legs behave accordingly.  Using EEG signals, paralyzed people throughout the entire world will one day be able to go about their day again with just the effort of a thought.

Research has also made advancements using EEG signals to control a computer cursor and/or drive a wheelchair.

The legs still need to have speed and direction factored into their movement, but this is a few steps in the right direction.

Soft Robots Grip Things Gently

Researchers at Harvard University have created a robot tentacle that has a soft touch. It can grab objects with delicate care. The robot tentacle allows for flexibility and a myriad of directional possibilities. This particular robot is one in a series of robots being developed at Harvard. It can manage objects as fragile as flowers, and I’m thinking, what lovely lady wouldn’t love her flowers delivered by a nice compliant robot tentacle?

The future is looking pretty lithe if you ask me.