3D vision systems

Braintech And ABB To Provide 3D-Vision Guided Robotics To Automotive Transmission Maker

From the article:Also:Also:Visit Braintech at http://www.braintech.com/.


Pilots and robots

In Robotic Nation I predict that one of the first professions to be automated out of their jobs by robots will be pilots. Therefore I get a lot of mail from pilots telling me that I am wrong.

I think the thing that will hasten the elimination of pilots is human error. This week there were two news stories that made the problem of human error painfully apparent.

One error occured here in Raleigh, NC where I live. A pair of F-18 fighters landed at Raleigh-Durham international airport to refuel. When they took off again, one of the planes had a problem as it was rolling down the runway. The pilot ejected and landed safely.

That would seem like the end of the story. However, the now pilot-less plane was still rolling down the runway at a major commercial airport. It ended up swerving off the runway, crashing in the grass and bursting into flame. If it had swerved just a little earlier, it would have crashed right into the middle of Terminal A, full of people, and burst into flames there.

Obviously a robot would have had no reason to eject, and would have stayed with the plane.

The second example can be seen in this article: ABCNEWS.com : Aloha Airlines Pilot Barred From Flight. From the article:Had he not been arrested, he would have been flying around with hundreds of lives at stake. You might counter by saying that no drunk would ever be allowed to board and pilot a plane, but then you have to explain how the Exxon Valdez had a drunk at the helm when it crashed in Alaska.

Even if most human pilots are competent, there will always be some who are not, even if only temporarily. Humans have a tendency to get sleepy, drunk, sick, etc. on occasion. Accidents do happen. In contrast, robots get better and better each year through incremental improvement. Yes, robots make mistakes. But when they do, the mistakes are corrected and never happen again. Thus, the safety record of robots is always improving. Eventually, the robot is better than the human, and all the humans are replaced.

That is why there will be no pilots in the cockpit in 10 or 15 years -- autopilots will eventually be better than human pilots, and people won't want to risk their lives on the less-reliable human pilot.



Award for the best automated call-handling system

With this week's announcement of Microsoft's Speech Server 2004 (see this article and this one), automated call centers are in the news.

The systems that are coming out right now are very interesting because they work remarkably well. They are simple, yes. Consider that automated systems like this were impossible just a couple years ago, however, and you can see the trendline. Things will progress quickly from here.

I would like to create an award for the best automated customer service system. We will call it "The Brainy". Here are three nominations to give you an idea of the kind of systems I am talking about:Have you used an automated customer service system that really made an impression on you? If so, nominate it for the Brainy. Send your nomination here:


The Future of Work

The Future Of Work is a fascinating article because it tries to look into the future and predict where the jobs might be. For example:So let's look at this -- is Mark Ryan's job secure? Certainly not. Here are four different ways to put Mark Ryan out of work:
  1. Fire Mark Ryan and let two of his former co-workers manage 150 people each. That process is very likely why Mark Ryan now manages 100.
  2. Replace Mark Ryan with a Manna system. Let a computer manage the people.
  3. Replace Mark Ryan with a manager in India who works for $6,000/year and manages everyone by telephone/email. It is likely that Mark Ryan already manages everyone by telephone/email, so what difference does it make if "Mark Ryan" is an Ameican or an Indian?
  4. Eliminate all of the people who Mark Ryan manages by automating them out of their jobs. Then Mark has no one to manage, so he is out of his job too.*
The phrase "no one will ever take Mark Ryan's job" is ridiculously optimistic.

Here is another quote from the article:When was the last time you talked to anyone face-to-face in a business setting? More and more people are now working from their homes and can go for weeks without ever talking to anyone face to face. Everything at work is handled via email or the phone. Then you go out and run some errands -- you talk to no one at the bank (ATMs), the gas station (credit card at the pump), the grocery store (self check out), the home improvement store (self check out), Wal-Mart (self check out), the book store (Web e-commerce), the dry cleaners (leave your clothes at your door, request pickup in a Web site). Even doctors are being automated -- this article from back in 2001 talks about it.

In short "The Future of Work" is that there will be less and less work left for people to do, and the pace of that transition is accelerating. That is why we should be thinking about how to redesign the economy, rather than praying that we can find some sort of job that will not evaporate in a couple of years.

[*Or Verizon can merge with another company. If Mark Ryan's department is redundant with a department in the merged company, Mark Ryan and all his employees are out on the street. A good example of this process can be seen in the recently-announced merger of Bank of America with Fleet. This article states: "FleetBoston Financial Corp. and Bank of America Corp. shareholders approved a $47 billion merger Wednesday that would create the nation's No. 3 bank and reportedly result in up to 13,000 job cuts." Mark Ryan could easily be one of the 13,000. Then what? The obvious answer is, "He can go find another job." But in today's job market, that could take between one and two years, and chances are that he will take a pay cut in the new job.]



Wal-Mart deploys self-checkout systems

I went to Wal-Mart tonight, and our local store in Cary, NC has four brand new self-checkout aisles installed and operational. This is the first time I have seen self-checkout systems in a Wal-Mart.

Now that America's largest retailer is using them, expect every other retail chain and supermarket to follow Wal-Mart's lead. Self-checkout aisles will spread as rapidly as automated gas pumps and ATMs did. Right now, self-checkout is the exception. Soon it will be the norm. Perhaps one million retail employees (especially cashiers in grocery stores, because many of them still have decent pay and benefits) will be out of work over the next three to five years.

The important questions are:
  1. What new jobs will the economy create to absorb these jobs that are lost?
  2. How much will those new jobs pay?
  3. What will happen when the unemployed cashiers collide with the unemployed factory workers in the unemployment office? Or with the unemployed IT workers and other off-shored employees?
Welcome to the Robotic Nation.



Robots Invade San Francisco

From the article:See this post for details.


Robots on the farm

In the previous post we discussed James Miller's contention that robots would drive the value of wages down, but not cause unemployment. Here's another example of why that opininon is incorrect. The article from the NY Times is entitled In Florida Groves, Cheap Labor Means Machines:"Cheap labor isn't cheap enough" is one hallmark of the Robotic Nation. Humans simply cannot compete with the price and benefits of robotic labor, and this will mean massive unemployment as robots reach parity with human beings. See this post for a solution to this problem.



Robots in the factory

This article from U.S. News has a title that says it all: Industrial robots are reshaping manufacturing. This is what the Robotic Nation is all about. From the article:The article also points out that, "North American manufacturing companies shelled out $877 million for robots--up 19 percent over 2002."

The article mentions Robotic Nation in this way:Then the article offers this rebuttal by James Miller, economics professor at Smith College:As it turns out, wages are in fact falling. As pointed out in the article New jobs just don't pay well, "A national study says the new jobs being created pay 21 percent less than the jobs they replace." So what we have to look forward to in the Robotic Nation, in the best case, is a situation where wages and benefits are falling dramatically. For 200 years in America the trend has been toward a rising standard of living. Robots are now in the process of reversing that trend. See this blog for details.

The thing that Miller is missing is the example mentioned up top. The robots in that example only cost $40,000. They replaced human workers who have wages, health insurance costs, sick days and so on. Human workers only work 8 hours a day 5 days a week (8x5), while the robots work 24x7. Robots never get cancer. Robots never take vacation. Robots never need time off to care for sick children. Robots never injure themselves on the job. Robots get better and better every year as technology advances. And the prices for robots will be falling, just like the prices for VCRs and microwave ovens have.

There is no way that a human can compete with a robot on wages, no matter what happens with supply and demand curves. That is the nature of the Robotic Nation.

See this post for a solution to the problem.



So that's why we have jobless recovery

So that's why we have jobless recovery
What if new jobs never happen?

The article is written by David Broder of the Washington Post. It opens with an introduction to Barney Frank:Then it summarizes Frank's new idea:This is exactly the idea laid out in Robotic Nation. Then the article offers Frank's proposal for a solution:Frank seems to be missing the point of the Robotic Nation. The same technology that is improving productivity/efficiency and eliminating jobs today will soon affect every aspect of the employment landscape. It will affect police officers, fire fighters, highway construction/repair crews, etc. in exactly the same way. Fewer jobs will be available once robots are doing all the work.

It is time to rethink how the economy works. Instead of taxing wealth and giving the money to government, we should instead give the money directly to citizens for them to spend as they choose. In this way, all citizens acheive true financial freedom and are able to live their lives without jobs. They are free to do as they like. See Robotic Freedom for details.



Robots and Jesus

Robot Christ used in Gibson film

From the article:According to this article: Mel Gibson manipulated a remote control to move the robot on the cross.

See also this article.

Apparently, no one is immune to robotic replacement.


Recent robotic articles show pace of development

So much has been happening in the robotic space this week -- it shows just how much research and development is going into the creation of the robotic nation right now. Here is a collection of recent articles:



Using maximal robotic technology on a mission to Mars

There is tremendous excitement about a manned mission to Mars right now, but tremendous concerns about costs and safety.

This article proposes a very different way to think about the mission -- what if we make maximal use of the coming robotic technology to augment human beings? It sounds far-fetched until you read the article.

See A Revolutionary Mission to Mars for details.



The advancement of speech recogniton

This article provides an example of how good "speech recognition" and "language interpretation" software capabilities are getting: Talk Your Way Out of Trouble. From the article:It won't be long before the "person" who takes your order at the drive-through, or who takes your call on the help line, is a robot rather than a human being.



Robots are unable to meet DARPA's Grand Challenge

Desert challenge too tough for robot racers

Robot race ends without a winner

From the article:Lots of people wrote to send me links like these, and the gist of the message was, "See, humans have nothing to fear from robots taking over the workplace -- robots will never be able to drive trucks."

These folks are missing the key feature of the Robotic Nation: incremental improvement.

The first article makes the point this way:As of March 13, robots can now drive 3 times faster and one mile further than they ever have before.

DARPA plans to rerun the Grand Challenge in 18 months, and it plans to double the prize to $2 million. Think about what will happen in those 18 months:So in 18 months, DARPA will run the race again, and lets say the winning contestant goes 14 miles. 18 months after that the winning contestant will go 28 miles. Then 56 miles, then 112 miles, and then finally a robot will complete the course. On that schedule, we have autonomous robots able to drive 150 miles on their own in just 7.5 years.

But the robots won't stop there -- they will keep getting better and better, just as computer chess machines did. In 15 years or so, robots will be driving trucks better than human drivers can. The robots will be safer and more reliable. They won't get lost. They will cause a lot less accidents. They will always follow traffic laws. They will never drive while drowsy or drunk. They will also cost a lot less than human drivers, and they will run 24x7. At that point, more than a million truck drivers will be out of work. The transition to robotic truck drivers probably happens in 2020 or so. See Robotic Nation for details.



Robots begin two-pronged attack on the symphony

Is nothing sacred??? Robots this week started their attack on jobs at the symphony orchestra, with a two-pronged onslaught designed to eliminate humans from the symphony as quickly as possible. [yes, I am being sarcastic -- still, it is a fascinating development]

First there is QRIO, Sony's small humanoid robot. Sony plans to take the lead in the symphony marketplace by going after the conductor's slot. According to this article:Then, in an unexpected move, Toyota launched a trio of robots, one of which has human-analog lips that will allow Toyota to take over the horn section of orchestras, jazz ensembles and marching bands. According to this Toyota press release:Lots of other articles covered this story, including this one, this one and this one. See also this post.

All kidding aside, the point here is simple: there is truly no limit to what robots will be able to do in the near future. Who would have expected a trumpet-playing robot to appear, especially from a car company? It will not be long before robots are taking over millions of jobs -- even jobs that would seem to be sacred, like the ones in the symphony orchestra. See this post and this one for further details.


Robots and the President's Manufacturing Czar

This article is fascinating to me on several different levels: Bush pick bows out after Dem criticism. The article is talking directly about the Robotic Nation we now live in.

From the article:Anthony Raimondo is the CEO of Behlen Manufacturing Co., and the withering attacks came because Behlen is busy opening a factory in China. The goal of the manufacturing czar, of course, is to try to preserve America's manufacturing jobs, two million of which have evaporated since the president took office in 2000.

The first thing you notice in the article is the political problem. If you are picking a new "manufacturing czar", it would make sense to ensure that everything he/she does is "Made in America." Only if you do not understand just how angry Americans are about offshoring would you make a mistake like this.

The second thing you notice is the fact that it will be very hard for the White House to find a manufacturing czar. Anyone with industry experience like Anthony Raimondo -- the CEO of a manufacturing company -- is doing one of two things right now: Or both. The reason is because he has no choice if he wants to stay in business. If all of your competitors are cutting labor costs as fast as possible, you have no choice but to do the same thing. Otherwise you cannot compete on price. If you cannot compete on price, then you go out of business. Maybe there is someone who is manufacturing such a highly branded product, or such a patent-protected product, that his/her company is immune to pricing pressure. But that situation is rare in manufacturing today.

It is the third thing, however, that is most important, and it is this: It is pointless to appoint a manufacturing czar, because there is no way to stop what is happening now. Robots are going to create completely automated factories in the very near future. In 15 or 20 years, there will be zero people in America working in manufacturing jobs. Today there are roughly 15 million Americans working in manufacturing jobs. The math is easy -- every year for the next 15 years, a million or so Americans will lose their manufacturing jobs. It is as simple as that. There is nothing that any president or czar can do to stop it.

What the president should be doing is appointing an employment czar to figure out what those 15 million unemployed people are going to do after they are fired from their manufacturing jobs. Will they end up seeing their salaries and benefits being cut in half when they go work at Wal-Mart? Or will they be permanently unemployed?

Or will we face the facts and change our economy in preparation for the Robotic Nation?



Robots taking jobs

This quote got so many comments, let me post it again by itself. It comes from Robotic Nation:It is something to think about...


Moore's law and hard disks

You may have seen this week that Hitachi announced its new 400 GB hard disk: Hitachi Pushes Hard Drive to 400GB. This drive uses 5 platters and stores data at a density of 61.7 gigabits per square inch. Hard disks have been doubling in capacity for decades at a pace better than Moore's Law, but people write to me constantly to say, "it won't last -- we are about to bump into physical limits and Moore's Law will end."

IBM has announced a new technique that will help hard disk capacity continue on a Moore's Law track for several years to come: Hot Tip Boosts Disk Capacity. From the article:So today's technology is storing about 60 GB per square inch. IBM has a prototype disk that can store 400 GB per square inch. That would allow the creation of 2.6 terabyte drives. One terabit per square inch would allow the creation of 7 terabyte drives.

Imagine a home computer with a $200 hard disk in it that can store 7 terabytes. If it arrives in 10 years, that would be right on schedule.

The thing about Moore's law is that there are thousands and thousands of scientists and engineers working on advancements every day. And once robots actually start adding to the creativity pool, Moore's law may even accelerate.

See also this post, this post and this one



Robots and the construction industry

As mentioned in Robotic Nation and Robots in 2015, there has been very little automation in the construction industry over the last century. In 1950, guys with circular saws and hammers built houses. Today it is guys with circular saws and nail guns. As a result, labor represents a sizeable portion of the cost of a new home. The industry is ready for automation.

Obviously there will be plenty of things for humanoid robots and specialized robots to do on the construction site. There are so many repetitive, mindless tasks to keep the robots busy: framing, roofing, siding, brick-laying, painting, digging, plumbing, wiring, sheetrock hanging, etc.

In addition, robots will make completely new construction paradigms possible. For example, there is this idea:From the article:Also:The "in one day without using human hands" part sounds amazingly like Terrafoam. In addition, there are references to low-income housing, as well as to the use of mud and straw as a building material. Perhaps all of the displaced workers of the future will be living in mud huts erected by robots? See Manna for a view of this future.

The construction industry employs roughly 6 million people in the United States today. Robots will be able to move in and eliminate millions of construction jobs.

There is something else to consider as well. Normally it is good for automation to lower the price of things. In the housing market, however, falling house prices can create some very uncomfortable problems. If house prices fall and home owners are underwater in their mortgages, they are trapped. Everyone has always assumed that home prices will increase in value from year to year, and the leverage that a mortgage provides works well when prices are rising. But if robots and other technologies cause housing prices to fall 25% to 50%, the leverage of a mortgage works the other way and can bankrupt a family very easily. A large number of defaults could ripple through the economy in unexpected ways. It will be very interesting to see what happens as robots begin a rapid infiltration into the construction industry.


Robots and Convenience Stores

The Really Convenient Store

From the article:If this model works and overhead is 62% lower, then convenience stores can be expected to automate quickly. There are about 130,000 convenience stores in the U.S. If you assume that each one has an average of 4 full-time employees, then as these stores all automate, it pushes 500,000 or so people out of work.

The knee-jerk reaction is for people to think, "There is no way convenience stores will automate. There will always be a person behind the counter." But think back to how quickly credit-card-taking gas pumps have spread. 10 years ago they were rare. Today they are very nearly universal in the U.S.

Read more about it (and see a photos/video) here.


Off-shoring, Jobs and Robots

Rage against off-shoring is very real, by David Kirkpatrick

David Kirkpatrick had written an article about how beneficial off-shoring is for the U.S. economy. In response, he received "the biggest outpouring of letters ever." He states: "I've been given a sudden and bracing education in just how angry Americans are about what's happening with jobs. "

Here is why Americans are so angry: They are scared to death.

Here is why they are so scared. Good, high-paying IT jobs are being taken away from Americans and shipped to India and China right now. The people in India and China who are taking these jobs are making something like $6,000 per year for their labor. There is no way an American can compete with that. $6,000 per year is less than $3 per hour, or about half of the U.S. minimum wage.

So offshoring will eliminate a huge number of IT jobs in the U.S. There is no stopping it, and it will not stop at IT. Accounting, financial analysis, reporting, writing, film making, customer service, billing/payroll, editing, illustration, engineering, design, manufacturing, etc., etc. -- millions of jobs across a wide spectrum of white-collar and blue-collar activities -- can all move off-shore to some degree. And they will.

Off-shoring is not new. It has been happening to factory workers for several decades. However, politicians, white-collar workers and writers like David Kirkpatrick were unaffected. They could smugly say to factory workers, "You may not like it, but this is good for the economy."

It might be good for "the economy", but I have never met the economy, nor its spouse and children. "The economy" does not care about the lives and families of human beings. So millions of factory workers lost decent jobs in factories and ended up in trash jobs at McDonald's and Wal-Mart. Yes, many people got rich and were able to concentrate massive amounts of wealth. The economy did grow. But millions of people are doing worse now, not better. [And, if you think about it, there is no need for that to have happened -- Wal-Mart could pay workers twice what it is paying them now with no downside.] That same unfortunate process is now happening to white-collar workers, and it is terrifying to anyone with a family and a house payment.

At the same time, the leading edge of the robotic revolution is just starting to hit the American economy. Robots are going to rip out tens of millions of McJobs within a decade or two. Simply look at the dozens of entries in this blog to see just how profound an effect robots will have on America's employment landscape within the next 20 years or so.

To put it succinctly: The American people are about to watch tens of millions of American jobs evaporate because of the twin forces of off-shoring and robots. Americans are beginning to understand what that means. And it is terrifying.

The Robotic Nation Article puts it this way:What, exactly, are we going to do to solve the problem? See Robotic Nation and Manna for possibilities.



Robots and the elderly #2

A robot may help improve your senior homelife

From the article: For further details see:



Robots and the elderly

Wakamaru Bot at Your Service

From the article:Specs:"In-home health care" has been described by many as one of the big, new job categories. It is supposed to take off in the U.S. as the population ages, and this new job category is supposed to absorb many of the people displaced from other industries by robots.

Obviously this won't be the case if much of the home health care work can be handled by robots too. Technology like Wakamaru would allow one person sitting at a control screen to monitor hundreds of patients simultaneously in their homes. And Wakamaru is going to get better and better and better over time. 20 years from now, Wakamaru will be able to start IVs, administer drugs, etc.

See Robotic Nation for details.



Robots in Japan

Japan Seeks Robotic Help in Caring for the Aged

The article describes several robotic trends that can be seen in Japan today:From the article:One thing you can be sure of: You will be able to buy the robotic bath tub from a robotic manufacturer for $1,000 in just a couple of years. It will have a big effect on the number of human nurses employed in Japan.



Quote of the week - Human exoskeletons

UC Berkeley researchers developing robotic exoskeleton that can enhance human strength and endurance

From the article:

Video is available on this page. It looks pretty boring until you realize that the guy is carrying 170 pounds.

The quote of the week is this: It is the same with chess computers -- they were predicted in the 1950s, but they were not able to beat the best human players until about 50 years later.

The reason why things like exoskeletons and chess computers are finally arriving is because Moore's Law has now given us the CPU power we need to fully implement these ideas.

Now think about some of the other computerized technologies that everyone was predicting in the 1950s: video phones, artificial intelligence, computers that understand and respond to speech, cars that drive themselves, etc. And yes, robots were predicted in the 1950s as well. As discussed in Robotic Nation, Moore's Law is this same force that is going to give us all of these long-predicted technologies -- including intelligent, completely autonomous robots -- in just two or three decades. Video phones using VoIP on the desktop or using 3G in our cell phones will be here before 2010. Most airlines and many call centers (e.g. pharmacies, phone companies) have systems that understand simple human language and respond. In March 2004 the first race involving completely autonomous self-driving cars will take place. And so on.

These new technologies, and especially the new robots, will replace human workers in much of the labor force. In the process, robots will completely change our economy. See Robotic Nation for details.


Latest job numbers show the effect of robots and automation

You may recall back in February headlines like these:

White House sees about 2.6M new U.S. jobs in 2004

From the article:Then the number of new jobs was upgraded, and you saw headlines like these a short time later:

White House: 3.8 million new jobs

From the article:Now, just a month later, we see the reality of the situation: Payrolls disappoint again, up just 21,000 in Feb. From the article:Instead of 320,000 new jobs in February, as predicted by the White House, we got 21,000.

Peripheral articles like these are also starting to show up: The problem we are facing is simple: if a corporation can create a factory that is completely automatic, it does not need to hire anyone. The economy grows, but jobs do not. If a corporation can build a computer system that answers most of the simple calls in a call center, it can lay off thousands of call center employees. If a corporation can buy trucks that drive themselves, it can fire all of its truck drivers. And so on. There is no correlation between "growth" and "jobs" if there are robots to do a lot of the work.

If, at the same time, the economy is not creating many new jobs for unemployed factory workers, phone operators and truck drivers, then you can get lots of unemployment. Note also that we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg right now -- these trends will accelerate rapidly over the next 5 to 10 years. See Robotic Nation and the other entries in this blog for details.

What are we going to do about this looming and very large unemployment problem?

One possible solution is to recognize that once advanced robots can do nearly all the work, then human beings do not need jobs anymore. We should redesign the economy so that people do not have to work if they do not want to (or cannot find a job). In other words, we design the economy so that people have money to spend whether they work or not. The article Robotic Freedom talks about this solution in detail.

The key idea in Robotic Freedom is the creation of a central account. Money flows into this account from a variety of sources, and everyone in America gets a monthly check representing an equal share of the money in the account (in the same way that the Alaska Permanent Fund has been paying every Alaskan resident hundreds of dollars per year for over the last 20 years).

It is interesting that Bill Gates and Microsoft floated an idea this week that could provide money for the central account. This article describes the Microsoft proposal: Charge Consumers Pennys for Spam E-mail. The basic idea is simple: when people send email, they will pay a fee to do so. Such an approach, it is hoped, will cut down significantly on spammers. The email postage fee could be one stream of money flowing into the central account.

We need to do something. Robots will eliminate at least half of the jobs in America over the next three decades or so. It is unclear that the economy will create replacement jobs for many of the jobs that are lost. The Concentration of Wealth is growing rapidly. The time to be thinking about and implementing solutions is now.



Employee tracking

The book Manna discusses a future in America where every employee is constantly monitored and micro-managed by computer. The article Can't Hide Your Prying Eyes discusses the steps now being taken to head in that direction. From the article:AndSee Manna for a description of where this trend eventually takes us.



Small Humanoid Robots

Several companies are in the process of launching small humanoid robots. Sony has been showing QRIO at trade shows. It is the most capable of them, but QRIO is not yet for sale. The two newest robots are more like sophisticated toys. However, they do show that inexpensive humanoid platforms are emerging. They also show that the computer power needed for balance and navigation is getting less expensive and more capable.

The Robosapien robot comes from a toy company called Wow Wee:

According to Wow Wee's Web site, the robot will retail for $99 and can do the following:There is video that demonstrates the robot on this page.

The second robot comes from ZMP and is called Nuvo:

Nuvo is more expensive -- several thousand dollars -- but is fitted with a digital camera that can send images to a PC or a cell phone. You can also control it from a cell phone (in Japan at least) so you can instruct the robot to move to a certain point in your home and you will be able to see what it sees. Nuvo understands voice commands and can pick itself up if it falls down. Videos are available if you click on the photos at the bottom of this page.

These robots are both about 15 inches (40 cm) tall. Once they double in size and get a bit more capable, they will be about the size and shape of a human todddler. I own two 33-inch toddlers, and can tell you that a toddler is able to move anywhere in a human household -- up and down stairs, in and out of rooms, on and off furniture, etc. If you accidentally leave a door open to the outside world, they are off like a shot. Both of my children can move chairs to countertops, climb the chairs and get up on the counter. In fact, they will climb anything. They can open cabinets. They can get their tricycles out of the garage and ride them. They can turn lights on and off. They can get toys out and, with prodding, will put toys away. They understand simple voice commands like, "Get down off of that!", "Put that down!", "Absolutely not!" and "Don't you dare throw that!", although they do not always obey and often say, "No!" I imagine that we will be able to purchase inexpensive robots with that level of capability (perhaps without the climbing nor the disobedience) within 10 years or so.



Police and robots

Police robot hands officers advantage in touchy situations

As with soldiers and firefighters, there are many dangerous situations where robots can help police officers. The article describes a situation that recently unfolded in Oregon where an armed assailant had already killed one person and was firing on officers from a duplex.

According to the article:This would appear to be a description of the Andros F6-A:

Andros F6-A

The robot cost about $120,000. According to the article:It is interesting to note that this robot is armed, with both shotgun shells and tear gas.

It is easy to imagine all sorts of robots handling security in the near future. They can patrol airports, schools, university and corporate campuses, subway systems, shopping malls, government facilities, stadiums and arenas, terrorist targets (power plants, nuclear installations, major bridges), etc., etc. -- at the perimeter, near the facility and inside the facility. They probably won't look like the Andros F6-A of course and they will be far more agile -- many will be humanoid, while others will be high-speed vehicles.

I am able to speak about robots at many colleges, museums and conferences. When people think about the potential unemployment robots might cause, someone inevitably asks, "well, if unemployment reaches 10% or 20% because of robots, why won't the people simply revolt and destroy the robots?" The simple answer to that question is, "People won't be able to touch the robots." Robotic security forces will be protecting the robots, and these security forces will be impenetrable.

We really need to think about this as a society before the robots arrive. Robots have the power to create what is essentially heaven on earth for every human being on the planet. Alternatively, robots have the power to imprison most of the people on the planet. We can choose either path, but only if we think about it ahead of time. The book Manna describes both possibilities. The paper Robotic Freedom talks about another possibility. We really do need to be thinking about and discussing the future, because robotic security forces and military forces will begin surrounding us within a decade.



Robots in the Army

This article describes the Army's current plans for robots on the battlefield:For a soldier on the battlefield, everything is dangerous. There are bullets, bombs and shrapnel whizzing through the air. Most everything happening on the battlefield is also dirty. Therefore, as mentioned in previous posts, Meyer's statement is a way of saying that in the near future there will be no humans on the battlefield. See this post and this one for further details.

The article continues:Note that all three of these robots are armed with things like machine guns, antitank weapons and grenade launchers. Intelligent robots will be actively seeking, targeting and killing human beings as early as 2010.

See also this, this and this.

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