Robots are already outsourcing humans, but some robotics experts are predicting that 2045 will be the time when the last human worker receives his or her walking papers. It’s an undeniable trend, as robots are set to move from the assembly line to the delivery and fulfillment areas with autonomous vehicles, and perhaps even a full-scale drone delivery system like that proposed by Amazon.
The fact that Google would be interested in the growing robot economy should come as no surprise, as we have seen their sustained commitment to concepts like augmented reality (Google Glass), despite the early over-reach that has sparked privacy concerns. And, indeed, they are announcing a major investment that entails a long-term plan for integrating robots into the future of their company, despite this being described as a “moonshot.”
As a sign of just how serious Google is, tech site 33rd Square phrased Google’s plans for new acquisitions as “swallowing up robotics companies” … the seven that are seen as key to putting Google at the forefront of future development:
Over the last half-year, Google has quietly bought up seven technology companies in an effort to create a new generation of robots. The engineer heading the effort is Andy Rubin, the man who built Google’s Android software into the world’s dominant force in smartphones.
It is suspected that the company’s robotics aims are in manufacturing — like electronics assembly, which is now largely manual — and competing with companies like Amazon in retailing, according to Markoff’s sources.
The companies Google has acquired are Schaft, a small team of Japanese roboticists who recently left Tokyo University to develop a humanoid robot for commercialization and for competition in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, and Industrial Perception, a U.S. start-up that has developed computer vision systems and robot arms for loading and unloading trucks. (emphasis added)
The key area clearly is humanoid robots which continue to evolve. The other companies being acquired are specializing in enhancing the “humanity” of robots:
Also bought out were Meka Robotics and Redwood Robotics, makers of humanoid robots and robot arms in San Francisco, and Bot & Dolly, a maker of robotic camera systems that were recently used to create special effects in the movie “Gravity.” A related firm, Autofuss, which focuses on advertising and design, and Holomni, a small design firm that makes powered caster wheels, were also acquired.
The seven companies are capable of creating technologies needed to build a mobile, dexterous robot. Mr. Rubin told the New York Times he was also pursuing additional acquisitions. (emphasis added)
And in case anyone thinks that the idea of a humanoid robot is to serve purely as a human helper or even companion (or lover), the following quote indirectly targets the real issue – eliminating the human workforce:
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“The opportunity is massive,” said Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at the M.I.T. Center for Digital Business tells Markoff. “There are still people who walk around in factories and pick things up in distribution centers and work in the back rooms of grocery stores.”
Yes, imagine that: people actually working …
However, built into this trend is a strange dichotomy between theory and what would actually happen if all goes according to plan. Google’s self-driving vehicles coupled with all of the elements of humanoid robots apparently anticipates a time when the consumer still has money to spend despite having been almost completely outsourced to robots. Furthermore, the unemployed are meant to understand the benefits of being fully integrated into the consumer data matrix from Internet browse to in-home assistance in order to facilitate purchases. This might seem fanciful, but here is one scenario offered from Extreme Tech:
A robot represents the ultimate physical incarnation of Google’s until-now-digital mandate: find, retrieve, predict, assist. Doing these jobs in your browser necessarily brings Google into contact with rich and detailed information about how you live your life — which is of course Google’s only incentive to offer those services in the first place. Right now, Google can see what breakfast cereal you search for online or mention on social media; a Google robot could simply observe which box you grab off the shelf, or remember which it bought for you on its last trip to the grocery store. An in-home listener could correlate your online statements with your private actions or word choices — do open Democrats mention war more or less often than open Republicans, and in which contexts? More importantly: which campaign would pay more for the privilege of knowing, or to block their competitors from knowing the same data?
These might seem like conspiracy theories or doomsday scenarios, but this is simply Google’s business; from rolling out new super-phones to laying down new lines of fiber optic cable, it has always seen hardware as the tiresome but necessary vehicle for its true service: data. (Source)
How a rapidly diminishing workforce could possibly remain a sustainable consumer base is yet to be fully detailed. One thing is for certain, though: Google has to be working on it.
For some insight into what is coming and how to maintain some humanity and usefulness within an economy set to drastically transform over the next 10 years, please watch this key documentary:
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