Rethink Robotics Turns Robots Into Better Co-Workers - InformationWeek

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Rethink Robotics Turns Robots Into Better Co-Workers
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Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 1:59:08 PM
Smart way to approach robotics
I love this, instead of focusing on creating machines built for a specific purpose, and as mentioned run into expensive coding issues when that purpose changes, build a robot that can adapt.  I think many folks are worried about how robotics will fit into the new technology that is entering the workforce, and having an approach like this where workers can use it to augment their roles, not replace them, could be a huge benefit. Especially when it seems like they've figured out how to make it easy to repurpose the robot for other tasks, even if they are temporary. 
John Barnes
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John Barnes,
User Rank: Moderator
11/28/2014 | 4:37:50 PM
Re: Smart way to approach robotics
Exactly, Stratustician.  A thought that I didn't find a logical place to work into the article is that this might make the traditional problem of being an apprentice to a skilled craftsman much less onerous (and thus more attractive to young people).  Even today people learning fine woodworking, stonecutting, stained glass, musical instrument building, and other ten-thousand-hour skills often spend a year or two degreasing, sweeping, polishing, cutting out rough blocks, etc. Some of the people "weeded out" by not being able to put up with a year as a broom pilot, box unpacker, or polish rag operator might be too impatient to learn the craft, but how many people just don't find that they are called to an occupation with an "initiation" of years of busywork.  Give that stuff to Baxter -- who costs much less than a successful skilled craftsman's car -- and let the learners learn!
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 10:38:18 PM
Re: Smart way to approach robotics
Baxter sounds like the perfect bordem buster. I don't looking forward to the future where people can spend more time on interesting tasks. I wonder what long term effects that could have on humans. There is value in working through the really boring stuff to get to the interesting bits.
John Barnes
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John Barnes,
User Rank: Moderator
11/28/2014 | 11:02:55 PM
Re: Smart way to approach robotics
Michelle, I think it depends on which kind of boredom we're talking about. Memorizing multiplication tables, playing scales, varying-sentence drills while learning languages all lead somewhere, and if they're done with attention you get done sooner.  But Charlie Bucket's father's job (screwing caps onto toothpaste tubes) emphatically leads nowhere and getting better at it is irrelevant. 

Whether we need completely mindnumbing repetitive tasks for people who can't handle anything else is an interesting question; anyone you ask, "Would you like that job?" seems to say no, though. It may be self-selected (the people who would like it are too dumb to understand the question), but I think there really are jobs too dull for a human being -- and there are provably jobs too dull for a human being to do well.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
12/2/2014 | 5:09:35 AM
Re: Smart way to approach robotics
Michelle, 

I have a totally opposed vision and expections to the one you have. :) I can't wait to the time when people can spend more time on interesting tasks to make the most of their time on this life leaving all the boring, repetitive tasks at all levels to robots. 

Life is too short to spend too much time performing tasks than even necessary they are not really rewarding. It's just stuff that has to be done. 

Robots like Baxter, and many other AIs, can work together with humans and help by doing the boring and repetitive stuff, which I doubt anyone enjoys.

Workers who perform repetitive tasks in production lines do it because they didn't have the chance to get a better education to get a better job, or maybe not getting a better education was their choice.

Online education is going to help there bringing more affordable, or free education closer to those who want to get further in life.

I can't imagine that someone would say they love to screw caps onto toothpaste tubes eight hours a day. How can that affect the brain? After a while it's practically impossible to focus and you naturally slow down. 

Robots can go on and on at the same speed. And the workers who did the boring stuff before can be in charge of the robots' maintenance, programming, etc. 

"There is value in working through the really boring stuff to get to the interesting bits."

What could be the best example of that? 

-Susan

 
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 5:00:37 PM
Re: Smart way to approach robotics
Robotics along with 3D printing and drones are developing at a fast pace. These technologies have the potential to change production and take it to a new level. The change might be gradual but the impact could be as beneficial as the industrial revolution -- an increase in the total number of jobs and quality of life. And in the future, BYOD might become bring-your-own-robot.
Nemos
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Nemos,
User Rank: Strategist
11/28/2014 | 6:50:44 PM
Re: Smart way to approach robotics
"l to change production and take it to a new level"

Indeed, but the question should be in which level ? and before that we have to answer what "we"(the workers approach) are going to do ?
John Barnes
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John Barnes,
User Rank: Moderator
11/28/2014 | 11:06:09 PM
Re: Smart way to approach robotics
Well, just to begin with, collaborative robotics + 3D printing = custom fit everything for everybody, e.g. tools made for your exact hand and grip (I would bet that would come in sports equipment first), toys shaped to a child's interests/skills/development needs, etc.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
12/2/2014 | 2:35:31 AM
Re: Smart way to approach robotics
Brian,

"Robotics along with 3D printing and drones are developing at a fast pace."

Yes. And don't forget IoT in that mix. Put them all together and you get a massive change in production manufacturing, something that will change manufacturing as we know it. 

But only manufacturing, you can use the mix in many other industries, including healthcare. It's fascinating. Also, yes, BYOR might be coming along at some point, too. 

Now, life extension research needs to hurry up in finding ways to extend life to at least 200 conserving good mental and physical capabilities. 

-Susan
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 5:07:50 PM
Re: Smart way to approach robotics
"I think many folks are worried about how robotics will fit into the new technology that is entering the workforce, and having an approach like this where workers can use it to augment their roles, not replace them, could be a huge benefit."

@Stratustician: I agree. This approach will change the attitude that people have towards robots. In most industrial applications robots are usually feared because if they become succesful in performing the jobs that humans do, the human workers may be replaced. This approach of involving the robots to only assist the humans will cerrtainly improve the future of robotics.
John Barnes
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John Barnes,
User Rank: Moderator
11/28/2014 | 11:10:22 PM
Re: Smart way to approach robotics
This approach of involving the robots to only assist the humans will cerrtainly improve the future of robotics

Tzubair, even Rethink freely admits that Baxter will probably take away jobs at the very lowest skill levels. The argument is just that those were not just entry level jobs, but "enter and never go any further" jobs, where workers were dead-ended the first day of work, and that by doing those jobs better than a person can, Baxter creates more work for peoplewho must use judgment and brains. It's a very attractive argument and at least in some of the early adopters it seems to be working out -- but whether it's true or not, and for how many people, and how much, all remains to be seen.
Nemos
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Nemos,
User Rank: Strategist
11/28/2014 | 6:46:48 PM
I feel like a
To be honest while reading the article I felt a bit like a dumb person. I believe the comparison between robots and humans is out of question and creates a very strange feeling at the same time.
John Barnes
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John Barnes,
User Rank: Moderator
11/28/2014 | 11:22:41 PM
Re: I feel like a
Nemos,  the possibility of the tool is there whether we use it or not.  Part of the problem is that as we advance further in capability, the "employee" side of the job (making a living wage, feeling useful, having a place in the economy) and the "producer" side of the job (adding value to the collective work, achieving the common purpose, having a claim on the employer) are rapidly decoupling and are almost unrelated to each other. Traditionally their tight coupling was how people were induced to do jobs they did not want to do, and to move from jobs where they were not good to jobs where they were. As the coupling gets looser, those connections break down, and it's less and less clear why people should work at a bottom-rung job or seek a higher one.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
12/1/2014 | 10:02:10 AM
Re: I feel like a
<  Part of the problem is that as we advance further in capability, the "employee" side of the job (making a living wage, feeling useful, having a place in the economy) and the "producer" side of the job (adding value to the collective work, achieving the common purpose, having a claim on the employer) are rapidly decoupling>

@JohnBarnes that reminds of my days as a labor studies student. Back then the decoupling was blamed on the shift to factory work engineered for mass production in which one doesn't have the satisfaction the craftsman had in seeing somethinf from start to finish. Certainly, the union mentality, from what I've seen of it assumes there is not connection within work itself and strives to fill the void by convincing workers the union will provide that.


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