Good Robot, Bad Robot

Here we have examples of three robots. One that helps people who cannot walk to move vertically, one that washes dishes (a smaller dishwasher basically), and the third a walk-out checkout such as Amazon is about to foist on airports everywhere.

The fourth example in this video is a hobbit house, which if we are considering houses to be stationary robots we live in I guess is a robot. Bit of a stretch.

Good or bad robots?

I think the first example is the epitome of what robots should be. People helpers. Awesome robot.

The second one is a dishwasher. Saves water and cutting yourself washing dishes. Good Robot.

I will argue that the third one, “robot project to replace everyone working at Walmart etc with a robot”, which could remove a whole lot of people from employment, is not only not good, but is terribly wasteful.

Inacted everywhere, RFID on every consumer good is a massive cost and loss of job opportunities for very little convenience, and we should be very wary of accepting this as a social norm. Likewise, computer vision and AI systems will be massively costly to maintain, and the cost will get passed on to consumers even as jobs are lost.

I could have all my groceries delivered by helicopter every day, but it would be a terrible, dangerous idea if everyone did it.

In the same way, if places like airports replace people to checkout and wait tables it’s only acceptable because speed is service when you are late for a plane. We will even pay a premium for it.

There is a difference between a gas station on the highway and a corner non-franchise restaurant. One is about speed of checkout, the other is about something more. And always should be.

But unless we are late for a plane, we need to start slowing down. Paying attention to each other. Being human.

Fight the confusion that robots should be loved. That things should be loved.

We have a long way to go as a species, there is much to do. Say hi to your waiter, to your cab driver, to those jobs on the front lines of the robot threat. And when the law comes to protect them, support that law.

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