Posts Tagged 'Boston Dynamics'

People are expensive. If you’re an employer in this late capitalist stage of Western society, you have to consider your overheads. For the conscientious there are pensions and healthcare, even before you get into the basics of heating buildings, IT support, toilet facilities, refreshments…

Thankfully, hard-nosed profiteers and shoppers at ASDA can take heart. Parent company, and long-term resistor to workers’ rights, Walmart, are trialling robot cleaners in some of their larger US stores. Just think of all the money they’ll save downsizing their global janitorial staff. Savings that will allow them to work even greater margins on their sweat shop manufactured clothing ranges. Savings that shoppers will experience via more bargain deals and a fuller shopping cart.

It’s just one troubling factor in the growing roboticism of our world, and while we here at Drozbot advocate that technology isn’t inherently evil, the repercussions of its application really should be highlighted and questioned.

In the UK, Channel 4 is doing just that with a series of programmes dedicated to the “Rise of the Robots”. From automated cars to the increasing sophistication of sex and psychoanalytic bots, the five shows – and subsequent discussions on forums and social media – should go some way to broadening the discussion.

Sci-Fi still has its role to play too within the blurring lines of fact and fiction. While we like to laugh at just how crude and vulnerable robots remain, short films like Slaughterbots and Rise seem less and less far fetched. Especially when you look at yet another landmark video from Boston Dynamics – albeit one reassuringly underpinned with its own out-take.

Be in no doubt, the robots aren’t coming, they’re already here in the guise of automated factories, toilets, gene sequencers, toys… What we need to be concerned with is where they’re going and what the destination will mean for their weak and transient creators.

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Thanks to the rotational ambiguities of our planet, we’ve gained a final day in February to get this post out into the wild. It comes, however, with the realisation that it’s been a while since we checked in on the robotics side of things, and this needs to be addressed. Fortunately, Boston Dynamics have just released another of their anthropomorphic videos showing them tormenting their mechanised creations.

A while ago we ran a story about this supposed abuse alongside a, tongue in cheek, concern that these videos would warrant the displeasure of our robot overlords at some nebulous point in the future. Thankfully, it seems we’re not alone in this fretting and the Internet has risen to the call for clemency via a stack of parodies – our favourite of which resides above.

Beneath the supposed abuse and calls for a cessation of robot cruelty, there’s a deeper shift in cultural perception at work in our collective responses. Consider Georgia Institute of Technology’s recent experiment that resulted in 26 out of 30 participants following a misguided robot rather than taking the clearly signposted emergency exit during a simulated fire. Perhaps, despite previous research we’re starting to trust that machines know better.

In cinema, robots have also shifted from perpetrator to potential victim. While there’s always room for Professor Kettlewell’s creations, Terminators and Sentinals, the stories of late – see Ex Machina and Automata – have blurred the boundary between human and machine, resulting in morally ambiguous tales.

Automation of our houses, cars and places of work is well underway and we’re becoming increasingly accepting of this because each shift promises us more of that most precious of modern commodities… Time. Who knows where the upcoming leaps will take us in just the four short years until the next 29th of February? Although we’re predicting that job losses will be an inevitable bi-product of this transition.

Hopefully Drozbot will still be around to see if we’re right. If not, that can only mean our robot masters are far from merciful.

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