Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

MIT and the Constant Robotic Gardeners

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the integrated-growlamps dept.

Robotics 101

Singularity Hub writes "MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) is pioneering the field of automated farming. During a semester-long experiment, CSAIL's researchers created a laboratory farm: tomato plants in terra cotta pots with artificial turf for grass. The goal of the experiment: to see if these tomatoes could be grown, tended, and harvested by robot caretakers."

cancel ×

101 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

MIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27591681)

Mit romney!!! yes!!!

Re:MIT (0, Offtopic)

tjonnyc999 (1423763) | more than 5 years ago | (#27591709)

You, Sir, are and idiot. (sic)

Re:MIT (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27591739)

And you, the faggot.

Re:MIT (0, Troll)

tjonnyc999 (1423763) | more than 5 years ago | (#27591755)

*WHOOOOSH*

"Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts... the memes will be flying 35,000 feet above your head."

Re:MIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27592089)

I only play the flute... oh wait

Caption (5, Insightful)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27591715)

The caption under the image reads, "CSAIL's precision agriculture robots give us a peek into the future where organic life may be tended by artificial life."

I wonder if they meant the plants . . . or us.

-Peter

Re:Caption (2, Insightful)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 5 years ago | (#27593123)

Yes.

Not robotic (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27591789)

I like goatse [goatse.fr] and I cannot lie. That you cannot deny.

Would the real slim shady please stand up.

Growing "tomatoes" (4, Interesting)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 5 years ago | (#27591791)

You know, most people who go to the garden supply store and claim to be growing "tomatoes" are actually growing a completely different kind of consumable. Could this lead to fully automated pot farms?

Mal-2

Re:Growing "tomatoes" (3, Informative)

Mprx (82435) | more than 5 years ago | (#27591839)

Tomatoes are easy to grow, and by choosing a variety optimized for flavor rather than yield or disease resistance (not a major concern in low density farming) you can grow tomatoes better than anything you can buy. Once you've tasted a home grown tomato fresh from the vine you'll understand why tomato growing is popular.

Re:Growing "tomatoes" (2, Funny)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27594461)

My tomatoes don't last two weeks before the squirrels get them. That's OK, because squirrels are also delicious if you trap them yourself.

Re:Growing "tomatoes" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27597835)

Gee thanks PMF. Now I have something else to worry about. I haven't grown tomatoes in years but I was considering growing some this year. In the past I had problems with the birds pecking them as they were about to get ripe. Now I've got squirrels in the neighborhood. I didn't even think of those little bastards ruining my tomatoes.

Re:Growing "tomatoes" (1)

cizoozic (1196001) | more than 5 years ago | (#27594599)

So, you're still talking about pot, right?

Re:Growing "tomatoes" (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27591983)

You know, most people who go to the garden supply store and claim to be growing "tomatoes" are actually growing a completely different kind of consumable. Could this lead to fully automated pot farms?

That could result in a lot of robots going to jail.

Re:Growing "tomatoes" (1)

zonky (1153039) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592191)

What you need is the Switched-on-gardener. [sog.co.nz] No, it's not a joke site. They exist. They have great radio adverts.

Re:Growing "tomatoes" (1)

The Iso (1088207) | more than 5 years ago | (#27593273)

Keep prices down. Plant your seeds.

Re:Growing "tomatoes" (1)

Failed Physicist (1411173) | more than 5 years ago | (#27593303)

I, for one, do not welcome our automated tomato-growing overlords.
The next step is growing humans, and harvesting them for power!
Someone has to stop this!

Re:Growing "tomatoes" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27593553)

If you have ever grown "that" sort of tomato it is pretty much automated ...
Timer for lights and hydro pump and the plants just kind of
grow themselves ..
People only screw around with them because they like to, not because they need to.
I used to see growth of 1" a day sometimes

Re:Growing "tomatoes" (2, Insightful)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27594127)

This reminds me of a hydroponics store I used to drive past on the way to work. Their storefront all but announced "Everything you need to grow... tomatoes... in your roof space!"

Re:Growing "tomatoes" (1)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 5 years ago | (#27601929)

Damn, and here I was thinking you were going to make an off-hand reference to Big O [imdb.com] .

Great idea (5, Insightful)

jason4567 (1531635) | more than 5 years ago | (#27591823)

Having robots raising our food is probably a great idea, since it presents less oppurtunity for contamination. Contaminations is a big problem now, there is always some food recall because of bacteria in food or something similar. Not all of these are directly caused by humans, but I would say that a good part of them are. Having robots to do part of the work presents less oppurtunity for contamination.

Re:Great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27591855)

Because... robots are sterile? I doubt it.

Re:Great idea (3, Insightful)

jason4567 (1531635) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592041)

No, because robots dont forget to wash their hands. In fact, robots don't normally forget to do anything.

Re:Great idea (1, Flamebait)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592055)

No because robots don't have a tendency to wipe their ass with their hand and then not wash. Which the current group of farm labor seem to have a strong propensity for.

Re:Great idea (2, Informative)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592169)

Uh, the actual reason is that the laborers just drop trou and let loose in the field.

Re:Great idea (2, Insightful)

Aldenissin (976329) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592761)

And it appears that if it takes off, they will no longer have as much opportunity. This could really change politics in America... It is interesting to watch "events" that not only have a lot of sway as time goes by, but what hardly anyone takes note of beforehand.

Re:Great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27592063)

When was the last time *you* saw a robot producing offspring?

Re:Great idea (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 5 years ago | (#27593181)

Jurassic Park. Oh, wait, you mean their own? Star Trek. The Swedish gentle-beings with the predilection for laser-eyes.

Re:Great idea (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27594151)

Have YOU ever seen a baby robot? Thought not.

Re:Great idea (2, Insightful)

BSAtHome (455370) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592043)

Yes, but when robots do all the work, then the human population needs less food. Why then grow all those tomatoes? The more robots do, the less they need to do if for the humans. Maybe we are working on an evolutionary path making us obsolete. Let the robot philosopher break his cpu on that.

Re:Great idea (1)

d12v10 (1046686) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592699)

This frees up farm laborers to attend to other intellectual pursuits, or other tasks which robots are as-yet unable to do. You incorrectly assume that those humans will suddenly stop consuming food if they are not employed in the fields.

Re:Great idea (2, Insightful)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27596721)

Yes, but when robots do all the work, then the human population needs less food.

Huh? Are you saying that if people don't work then they will eat less?

If that were true, then when you retire you don't need that pension.

And I don't think the robots most efficient method of gathering energy for themselves would be to grow tomatoes.

Every time, (and I mean EVERY time) someone throughout history says that when technology that makes it easier to do something with less manpower, that humans will be obsolete and starve on the streets has been WRONG.

They were wrong during the Luddites of the mills of England in the 1800's and they are wrong now.

If quality of life was improved by increasing manual labor instead of using technology, then the Romans would still be around using slaves to do everything (hey it keeps everyone busy).

My point is even if the machines do everything physical at some point in the future, chances are humans will be enabled to do other things...

Some (a small minority) will use the free time to become great artists and thinkers, and the rest will probably watch sports on TV or surf the internet.

Is that a bad thing?

No. Because you have a choice to do something with your free time, unlike in the past, you worked from dawn to dusk just to survive, and died of an old age of 30.

Re:Great idea (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592153)

Instead of people shitting out in the fields you'll have robots draining oil out in the fields.

Pick your poison.

Re:Great idea (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#27595403)

Fertiliser is often just shit anyway.. though if the plants are already growing above ground then it would be nasty to get them smeared. Yummy..

Re:Great idea (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592267)

The top source of contamination in the food supply of the US at least is animals raised for meat (most notably pigs and cattle). Thanks to feed lots, you have lots of animals in one place, so very quickly you have lots of animal dung in one place. In the same place as the animals. (To be clear, my issue with feed lots is that they're inefficient and a health risk, not sympathy for animals.)

Next on the list is probably contamination within the kitchen (possibly your own, possibly the commercial kitchen). Until robots are cleaning up your kitchen for you, they won't help deal with contamination from that source either.

Re:Great idea (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592733)

What is more efficient than feed lots? I only even see range fed beef being more expensive.

Re:Great idea (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#27594409)

Maybe that the feed that's used could be fed to humans instead? And that it has to be gathered and processed instead of just letting the cows wander around and eat grass (which we *can't* eat)? It depends on what factor you're trying to optimise; feed lots are far more efficient uses of land, whereas farms are more efficient uses of energy.

Re:Great idea (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#27618543)

1. Much more efficient than feed lots is eating plants.

2. The price advantage of feed lots over range-fed disappear as soon as regulations about dealing with manure and runoff are properly enforced.

3. Price and efficiency don't always go together (see point 2).

4. Traditionally, pigs were raised on table scraps, chickens on insects they picked out of the orchards, and ruminants (cows, sheep, goats) on grass that grew in areas that weren't suitable for raising crops. In other words, animals ate what people didn't. Feed lots make that no longer true.

grown? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27591837)

This is dangerous - just think, soon we'll have farms dedicated to growing hamsters to use for power, but... how long until *humans* become hamster substitutes?

Re:grown? (2, Insightful)

The Iso (1088207) | more than 5 years ago | (#27593285)

Don't worry, the robots would never get more energy out of us than they put in to feeding us! We would just be mercilessly slaughtered when we outlived our usefulness.

the video shows how pathetic this is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27591899)

was hoping to see a solar powered swarm of microbots that seek out and destroy aphids rather than the pointless application of an off the shelf robot pointlessly squirting water on potted plants.
This isnt revolutionary. its pathetic.

Re:the video shows how pathetic this is (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592607)

To be fair, the video does end with the robot attempting to harvest a ripe tomato. They cut off the video before we got to watch it actually do it. You could tell that it wasn't going to go well for the tomato plant...

Re:the video shows how pathetic this is (1)

hurfy (735314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592767)

Yup

I hate videos like that. Fail. Otherwise they would show the result :(

That was as impressive as the monster truck show the other day. A big buildup deal about doing a backflip...well a backflip and a half from the look of the video before it cuts off. The wheels hit the ground i guess they counted it...even if it was vertical and still rotating backwards when they touch and stop the video :(

Re:the video shows how pathetic this is (1)

SalaSSin (1414849) | more than 5 years ago | (#27596165)

You could tell that it wasn't going to go well for the tomato plant...

SQUISH

revenge time (1)

Ingcuervo (1349561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27591951)

if we think we can "control them unplugging their power sources", when they raise our food are not able to do the same thing?, so they can "control us unplugging our vegetables supplies"!! D4MN, I guess I've watched too much matrix and terminator!

Robots vs. seasonal farm laborers . . . (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27591995)

This might work in the lab, but when robots are working alongside seasonal farm laborers, those poor robots are going to break down real fast, get run over by heavy farm machinery, and just plain disappear under mysterious circumstances.

Re:Robots vs. seasonal farm laborers . . . (1)

Ingcuervo (1349561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592019)

I guess they are not going to put "mixed" workers, its not safe for humans and for robts either

Re:Robots vs. seasonal farm laborers . . . (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592051)

This might work in the lab, but when robots are working alongside seasonal farm laborers, those poor robots are going to break down real fast, get run over by heavy farm machinery, and just plain disappear under mysterious circumstances.

The robots are definitely going to need to form a union to take care of their welfare.

Re:Robots vs. seasonal farm laborers . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27593069)

Nah, just program so that when they are being hassled, they just yell out "RUN! Immigration van!" while pointing in several vague directions.

Re:Robots vs. seasonal farm laborers . . . (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27596821)

but when robots are working alongside seasonal farm laborers

Don't worry.

You remember those articles about robots being able to eat meat to power themselves?

What do you think the seasonal migrant labor is for?

The best place to do this... (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27591997)

is on a space ship orbiting Saturn.

Re:The best place to do this... (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 5 years ago | (#27594187)

Wow, that's a blast from the past, if you are indeed referring to "Saturn 3".

Another film with gardening robots is "Castle in the Sky".

Re:The best place to do this... (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27594251)

No, Silent Running.

Re:The best place to do this... (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | more than 5 years ago | (#27607617)

Calm down Bruce, we'll get our six-wheelers off your lawn...

The first version of this didn't work out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27592025)

They already tried something like this [jeffbots.com] and it didn't work out. Everything blew up.

Re:The first version of this didn't work out (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592243)

Their mistake was sending Bruce Dern along.

The best way to do this.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27592029)

is by placing giant scissor blades on the robots, and using a liberal recognition algorithm for when tomatoes are big enough to be cut from the stem

please

Re:The best way to do this.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27592271)

Those damn liberal recognition algorithms! They're destroying our country, I tell you!

And get your damn robots off my lawn!

Re:The best way to do this.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27592819)

hopefully they would be liberal enough not to distinguish by political affiliation

Whereas in India... (2, Interesting)

Warlord88 (1065794) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592047)

Might be slightly off-topic, but cannot help pointing out. With general elections in India round the corner, Mulayam Singh Yadav, the leader of a prominent political party calls for elimination of Computers and English. http://elections.ndtv.com/news_story.aspx?ID=NEWEN20090090458& [ndtv.com] : "The use of computers in offices is creating unemployment problems. Our party feels that if work can be done by a person using hands there is no need to deploy machines." And we are supposed to compete economically along with US, EU and China.

Re:Whereas in India... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592121)

I can't imagine that going down very well in Mumbai.

Re:Whereas in India... (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592177)

Are you from India? India has communist roots, correct? My impression as a US citizen is that the communist/socialist roots of India will always act as an economic drag as they do in Europe. The biggest difference being that India does not have a developed economy to begin with, so you may not get off the ground economically speaking, at all.

This is my opinion, as an outsider (who has an interest because I work in IT). Would that fit your assessment of the situation in India too?

Re:Whereas in India... (1)

Warlord88 (1065794) | more than 5 years ago | (#27593713)

Yes, I am from India and I'm glad to see your opinion. India does not have communist roots though. The reason why India is still referred to as 'third-world' country is because post-WWII, we did not align with either the capitalist bloc or the communist bloc. For textbook purposes, we adopted a 'mixed economy' in which major sectors (transportation, defense, heavy industries, etc.) were to be public. However, the economy showed all the characteristics of a stagnant, closed system with very slow growth rate. In 1991, massive liberalization was carried out thanks to which the growth rate accelerated vastly. Today, there is absolutely nothing socialist or communist about India even though the preamble to constitution states that India is a 'SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC'.

Re:Whereas in India... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27600145)

Whereas in the USA, the capitalist roots have had no negative impact whatsoever on the economy this year... oh wait. Well, can't accuse anyone of dragging - it's more like free fall :)

Re:Whereas in India... (4, Interesting)

Quothz (683368) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592611)

Might be slightly off-topic, but cannot help pointing out.... "The use of computers in offices is creating unemployment problems."

Not really off-topic at all. It's a valid concern that large-scale automation of labor can displace part of the workforce. For example, automation in the office contributed to massive layoffs in the 1980s.

Historically, the economy has adjusted well to automation. In some cases, the expansion of other industries and creation of new ones has taken care of the problem. In many parts of the world, people have gained increased leisure to squeeze the workforce into fewer slots.

The philosopher and novelist Robert Wilson considered giving people a direct economic interest in automation. Others propose purely communistic solutions. A few, like Yadav there, want to just halt the clock and hope for the best.

My opinions aren't fully formed, although I unquestionably favor automation of labor wherever possible. Given the historical context of automation, I don't think we need to panic just yet, but our societies should be considering the ramifications.

Re:Whereas in India... (1)

Warlord88 (1065794) | more than 5 years ago | (#27593761)

A few, like Yadav there, want to just halt the clock and hope for the best.

Precisely. And these highlights from his manifesto appeared (and were ridiculed) on the front page of the leading English daily. The educated masses will laugh at the manifesto and never vote for him. But that does not deter Yadav from practicing vote-bank politics over the massive number of poor, uneducated people who think he would be actually doing them some good.

I too realize the concerns surrounding unemployment increase due to automation. This is one of the reasons agriculture is still the predominant occupation in India and is largely unmechanized. But then this results in ridiculously low productivity of arable land. Sometimes I think intense and mechanized collective farming should be introduced on an experimental basis.

Re:Whereas in India... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592693)

Hmmm. From what I knew of your politics, the SP was a minor party. But looking at wiki it seems to indicate that it has grown. All I can say, is that just because somebody preaches something, does not mean that they will do it. Here in America, the republicans spoke of balanced budget, strong economy, smaller Gov, competent ppl, and none interference with other nations. Look at how that worked out under reagan and W.

Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27592111)

"pioneering the field of automated farming"

My father did this in the '60s and '70s. Not using robots, just my older brother.....

Interesting Trend (5, Insightful)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592257)

Not to be alarmist, especially since this technology is very far down the road from being widely used, but what happens if this begins to replace manual labor jobs as has been predicted for decades? I'm sure Asimov has a leg up on me but here goes:

Without education infrastructure in place to train current generations, low cost robots will compete with unskilled laborers for work. While this could be 30-50 years down the road, what happens when the poor huddled masses can no longer do manual jobs? Will their quality of living be raised up since it will be cheap to produce things, or will those who own the means of production horde it for themselves and leave everyone who can't afford their price to starve?

Also, this would certainly make energy needs (and potentially metals/commodities) even more accute. If the robots can't function, then no one (or many fewer people) can eat.

I'm all for automation, but if we don't back up our technology with the understanding that we need to provide other opportunities to people, then we may be doing humanity a disservice. From a very cold point of view, though, perhaps we would just be thinning out the population, which already seems to be far larger than necessary (i don't really advocate this point of view, but I know there are those out there who do).

I'm sure this has all come up before (ie not terribly insightful), just throwing it out there for discussion.

Re:Interesting Trend (1, Redundant)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592303)

This has been happening for centuries. What happened to all the messenger boys in our offices? Where did all the typists go? Over 50 years we will adapt.

still a loss of opportunities for the poor (4, Insightful)

pikine (771084) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592869)

These messenger boys (don't know about typists) were probably there because they come from a poor family and didn't have the means of proper education. However, they could learn much on the job by interacting with and observing the professionals. Some of the brightest who are willing to learn on their own could actually gain a successful career one day because of the experience they gathered doing these low-skill service positions. I'm sure you can find many autobiographies of successful people who began their lives similarly.

Nowadays they are replaced by automation. That means the poor and uneducated lose a valuable opportunity to become successful. Their only chance now is to go through a proper education, and our education system still favors in many ways families living comfortable lives.

Re:still a loss of opportunities for the poor (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27594167)

And that's precisely why education should be free of charge. There will still be poor people, but most of them will be poor because they were too lazy (or not foresighted enough) to take part in any education that the tax payers offered them. Nevertheless, their children will later get a new shot at college just like they did.

Or that's how we do it in Europe, at least. That includs the "poor countries" in Eastern Europe. (Although, the quality of education varies quite a lot with country and school.)

Re:still a loss of opportunities for the poor (1)

Anonymatt (1272506) | more than 5 years ago | (#27594557)

Oh, I don't know. I think that endeavors are becoming increasingly sophisticated, creating more room at the bottom tier of the production hierarchy for currently non-automatable jobs. Also, anything that saves humans' time and energy will create a more diverse (and maybe I'll even throw in "larger" because I'm an optimist, plus it seems to be the trend) marketplace because more humans have more time and energy to express traits that are exclusively human.

Re:Interesting Trend (2, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592353)

This isn't sci-fi, it has already happened. And the answer is, technology (especially robots, not just software) are capital, so in a capitalist system they concentrate wealth. A couple generations ago, an unskilled worker could get a job putting cars together and support an entire family, now those days are gone.

Re:Interesting Trend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27592723)

Those days are gone? No, UAW workers (unskilled labor) still earn more than enough to support an entire family.

The laid off UAW workers? We're still getting nice paychecks!

Re:Interesting Trend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27602133)

Tried applying for a UAW job lately? No? Didn't think so.

Re:Interesting Trend (1)

AngrySup (1003688) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592965)

Since Asimov was quoted in the first paragraph, I might put fourth the example of Solaria. /Naked Earth. OK, so it is a dead end, but it's a slow death.

Re:Interesting Trend (1)

amilo100 (1345883) | more than 5 years ago | (#27593225)

but what happens if this begins to replace manual labor jobs as has been predicted for decades?

That is the general idea. The poor and the stupid will become obsolete. In the first 30 years they will probably breed like rabbits (thanks to higher food production). Thereafter the lumen proletariat will all probably be killed. This is a good thing for human advancement.

Without education infrastructure in place to train current generations, low cost robots will compete with unskilled labourers for work.

Again, this is not a problem. It is a waste in any way to waste education resources on someone without the innate ability. They should rather be castrated and put on a government grant system.

Will their quality of living be raised up since it will be cheap to produce things,

Quality of life is generally proportional to what you contribute to society.

Also, this would certainly make energy needs (and potentially metals/commodities) even more accute.

Robotics have the capability to be more energy efficient than people. Even if our overall energy needs rise, we just build more nuclear reactors (once the environmentalists starts to shut up).

perhaps we would just be thinning out the population,
Not only that. If there is increased competition between people and people who fail actually dies (instead of the dysgenic welfare system we have now) then we would probably speed up evolution. That is a good thing!

Re:Interesting Trend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27595349)

That is the general idea. The poor and the stupid will become obsolete... ...Thereafter the lumen proletariat will all probably be killed.

So I see you're a free market capitalist.

Quality of life is generally proportional to what you contribute to society.

I see you haven't heard of the people that win the lottery either metaphorically, or literally.

Re:Interesting Trend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27593559)

what if people were better educated? better streamline of education that produces people that think up the next generation idea at a faster rate. Which also feedbacks into the education system to produce a newer generation of education. Maybe someday the grade levels will no longer be of value but rather if someone can think a particular way and can produce a particular result.

what would society look like then?

Re:Interesting Trend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27593779)

Protecting unskilled jobs, whether it's from robots or foreigners, only hurts us. If robots mean better quality produce at lower prices, then the cost of living is decreased for everyone.

Try this thought experiment: What's preventing us from giving everyone a Maserati, a mansion, a nice Tv, etc? Someone has to pay for those goods because someone else had to work to make them, gather the raw materials, etc. If there was no or very little cost of labor and materials for an item, the price can be lowered, making it more ubiquitous. We all grow richer when we as a society become more productive.

Re:Interesting Trend (1)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 5 years ago | (#27594965)

That question is actually what inspired communism. Karl Marx in his book Das Kapital explored the economics of a world where everything is created via automation. Basically he states modern capitalism can't work - you'd get all the wealth accumulating in the hands of those that own the automation plants. There'd be a massive class difference and those at the bottom won't be able to get the things they want despite the fact there is nearly no cost in producing them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Das_Kapital [wikipedia.org]
I'm not a communist at all but in a way i don't think Marx was wrong. He was just a little early.

If you look at software you can see it coming true. It costs next to nothing to make copies of software. Despite the fact it costs nothing to make copies we don't give the poor all the software they want. Instead in a capitalist society we have companies such as Microsoft making billions in profit.
Karl Marx predicted the same thing would happen in a world with fully automated factories. People won't get goods they want despite the re-production costs being near zero.

Re:Interesting Trend (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 5 years ago | (#27597261)

Without education infrastructure in place to train current generations, low cost robots will compete with unskilled laborers for work. While this could be 30-50 years down the road, what happens when the poor huddled masses can no longer do manual jobs? Will their quality of living be raised up since it will be cheap to produce things, or will those who own the means of production horde it for themselves and leave everyone who can't afford their price to starve?

That's a really good question and one that I've thought over in my head.

If history has any precedent, the answer is that "humans will survive". The industrialization of the 1880's to the 1950's didn't put everyone out on the street, but rather created more jobs.

Even though it logically makes you think that if you didn't have that backhoe manned by one person, that you could hire 10 men to dig the hole with shovels doesn't take into account that because you have increased productivity that the employer can expand his business and maybe have 10 guys at 10 different locations with backhoes.

Now, the problem you advise is when machines require no one to man them and that we can assume can repair themselves.

To that... I don't know.

If we assume basic economics is still in play and that automation does result in high unemployment, high unemployment will cause deflation and prices will fall.

Now depending on how the government react, either they will do something with government spending or nothing at all. So what happens will not be predictable at this point...

That said, unemployment with high deflation in a world where machines do everything anyways might not be that bad.

Dare I post it...? (1)

Rayeth (1335201) | more than 5 years ago | (#27592415)

Could this be Soil-ent Green Tomatoes?

Re:Dare I post it...? (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#27593383)

GAAAAHHHHH! My eyes! My Brain!!

like cattle. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27592783)

I for one welcome our vegetable tending overloads.

Huey and Duey in Silent Running. (2, Informative)

ivaldes3 (175216) | more than 5 years ago | (#27593447)

For those of you old enough to remember Huey and Duey the robots in the movie Silent Running: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067756/

-- IV

Pioneering my aching butt. (4, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27593529)

Kudos for MIT for working on this problem.

But "pioneering" it? Give me a break. Agricultural robotics ("agrobots") has been a going field for decades. The devices are very capable and some are quite inexpensive - to the point that there is at least one organic farm I know about that doesn't use or need the price breaks from exploiting foreign and/or illegal workers to run at a solid profit, despite pressure from the local authorities to hire illegals.

Look at The Mitchell Farm [slashdot.org] just for starters. (NOT the one I characterized above, by the way.) There are others using various levels of automation in Oregon, California, etc. And those are just places I KNOW about.

Re:Pioneering my aching butt. (3, Informative)

l00sr (266426) | more than 5 years ago | (#27593617)

Mod parent up. Also, John Deere has had robo-tractors [deere.com] for a while now. Also, s/aching/shiny metal/.

Re:Pioneering my aching butt. (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599187)

The devices are very capable and some are quite inexpensive

Speaking of capable and inexpensive, did anybody notice the way those robots were watering the tomatoes? Does anybody else think that was an overcomplicated way of doing that? Why do the robots have to drive over to each plant to water it? Can't they just have some hoses going to each plant, with a valve that opens when the sensor says the soil is dry? Heck, you can build an EarthTrainer [tomatofest.com] out of stuff laying around the house that will water your tomatoes automatically without any electronics.

Laputa (1)

F34nor (321515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27594635)

My robot gardener has been working for thousands of years!

http://pireze.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/pirezejapan-08-trip-part-q-0009.jpg [pireze.org]

Re:Laputa (1)

F34nor (321515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27594653)

Of course you have to watch out for pesky kids distracting him and birds nesting on him...

www.jasms.de/anime/laputa/laputa01.jpg

As seen in the Jita Local channel: (1)

LoganTeamX (738778) | more than 5 years ago | (#27595673)

WTS: 100 tomatoes, 10 isk per, best price in Jita!

Got podded on lvl 1 mission, can someone spare 2 rutabagas?

Convo me for best prices on tomatoes, potatoes and cucumbers.

Do you like to farm? SpaceGoats is recruiting all farming players over 2M SP. Join channel SpaceGoat or convo NannyGoat for more info.

QUITTING EVE! SELLING GOLDEN CORN STATUE! ONLY ONE IN NEW EDEN! 1M ISK! CONVO ME!

Build Your Own! (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27597151)

All of the parts appear to be readily available off-the-shelf parts.

The base is an iRobot Create. [irobot.com]
The arm appears to be a modified Lynxmotion AL5C. [lynxmotion.com]
Plus a generic laptop, webcam, etc.

Heirloom tomatoes? (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | more than 5 years ago | (#27598285)

This would be really cool if the robots were able to handle the kind of tomatoes that used to be grown before the demands of machinery required breeding thick-skinned varieties.

effect on illegal immigration (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 5 years ago | (#27599659)

But won't this cause tax revenue from illegal immigrants to plummet & home equity to fall because of the lack of illegal immigrants to buy houses? It's going to be banned.

Re:effect on illegal immigration (1)

diamondmagic (877411) | more than 5 years ago | (#27608043)

Are you kidding? Illegal immigrants are a burden more then an asset. Any tax revenue they make is dwarfed by medical care, schooling, law enforcement, and other costs, as opposed to a legalized worker or citizen doing the same job.

IEEE loser (1)

orgelspieler (865795) | more than 5 years ago | (#27600217)

The latest IEEE Spectrum "Winners and Losers" edition listed a robotic strawberry picker as a loser [ieee.org] . The gist was that it doesn't work in fields, only special greenhouses, and that the mechanics of actually picking a strawberry without damaging it is fairly complicated. This tomatobot doesn't seem to address either of these issues, either.

Runaway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27600329)

"Runaway"
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088024/

Anyone remember the scene where the robot in the field picks a bug off of a plant, drops it onto rollers and squishes it?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>