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Office Robots of the Near Future, Gearing Up

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the when-will-rcbs-make-a-robot? dept.

Robotics 100

Reader jsrodrigues points out Businessweek's article on the predicted coming wave of office robots. These include offerings from Willow Garage, Anybots, and Smart Robots, all designed to automate certain bits of office-building meatspace gruntwork, like ferrying mail and making coffee, but more intelligently and smoothly than previous generations of such tools. Smart Robots has posted a scenario describing the benefits of office life with robots; a test run of robots from that company is set for early 2012 at "a major office building in Manhattan."

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About that major office building... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34899172)

How about a suicide robot with a chute? That way, humans would no longer need taking out of the pavement with a putty knife when business go south.

Door Into Summer (4, Informative)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899180)

Personally i think i'll stick with products from Aladdin or Hired Girl.

Re:Door Into Summer (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899960)

Those are good, but what I really need is something like an Electric Monk (Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency) which will believe things for me so I do not have to.

Marking Coffee? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34899192)

Coffee making is pretty automated as it is... the coffee maker in my office is hooked up to a water source so the only thing we have to do add beans every so often.

Re:Marking Coffee? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899596)

Coffee making is pretty automated as it is... the coffee maker in my office is hooked up to a water source so the only thing we have to do add beans every so often.

He lost his job to Automation ... they came out with the Mister Coffee machine.

Taking this to its logical conclusion... (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899836)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p14bAe6AzhA [youtube.com] [youtube.com]
"The Richest Man in the World: A parable about structural unemployment and a basic income ... A parable about robotics, abundance, technological change, unemployment, happiness, and a basic income."

Re:Marking Coffee? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899802)

Coffee making is pretty automated as it is... the coffee maker in my office is hooked up to a water source so the only thing we have to do add beans every so often.

And it probably tastes like it too.

A business associate was visiting our office from Brazil, and related that the coffee machines were never seen in office buildings. Instead you step out in the hall and the coffee maker (usually coffee girl) would make you any coffee drink you wanted, and has your preference memorized, usually for free as a company perk. (See what I did there?).

I'm not sure a machine ever gets that good.

Re:Marking Coffee? (2)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899852)

the coffee maker (usually coffee girl) would make you any coffee drink you wanted, and has your preference memorized, usually for free as a company perk

I'm not sure a machine ever gets that good.

Minimum wages kill that possibility up here.

Re:Marking Coffee? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899972)

I actually thought of adding that, but didn't want it to become a flame fest.

They have a minimum wage in Brazil as well, but it is quite low, and these may be non-qualifying part time jobs.

Many other countries have exemptions for putting low income people to work. In the US we just put them on the street.

Re:Marking Coffee? (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900466)

Fala pra ela, boa sorte no estados unidos.

Re:Marking Coffee? (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901854)

We upgraded from a Keurig unit to a Flavia unit. The little Capri Sun-like packets are fully recyclable and are collected on a weekly basis by our beverage service.

Having a robot deliver coffee would be a step backwards. It's cheaper to have the employees walk to the kitchen and get their coffee instead of spending money on a robot.

Re:Marking Coffee? (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902038)

so, it's that way for everyone?

if you earn 100k a year, your perks, bennies, and govt' interference may total 175k a year in costs to the employer.

if you work a 60 hr work week, 50 weeks a year, you cost the company 583$ PER HOUR

10 mins to get coffee, twice a day? times 20 employees?
400 minutes at 583 per hour?

STRAP YOUR ASSES TO THE DESK AND WAIT FOR THE GODDAMN MACHINE TO COME BY...

Re:Marking Coffee? (1)

WuphonsReach (684551) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902204)

You're off by an order of magnitude.

$175k/yr at 60 hr/week for 50 weeks is only $58.33 per hour.

But humans don't function well, working 10-12 hour days, 5-6 days per week, without any breaks mid-day or mid-morning or mid-afternoon to get up, walk around, get the blood flowing, and go for a cup of coffee. So there's going to be at least 30-60 minutes of downtime in every 10 hour day anyway.

But then I guess you could always argue against lawyers being counted as human...

Re:Marking Coffee? (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 3 years ago | (#34903854)

Correct. I did futz that math pretty badly.

I don't dispute the physiological and social/mental benefit.. Mostly I was going for a wee bit of humor, and fact is I can readily see where the 'cofee delivery robot' can save money.. (and I still can, just 1/10th as much so)

Re:Marking Coffee? (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34906250)

If someone earns 100k per year, it's because they make money for the company, so there is no cost. If someone is a cost center (ie, secretary), they will be paid magnitudes less. The coffee machine brews a cup of coffee in less than 1 minute, btw.

Re:Marking Coffee? (1)

SomeKDEUser (1243392) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910984)

Magnitudes? as in at least 2?

You would seriously pay another human being 1000$ a year? Even slave labour would cost more than that!

Target set! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34899194)

Now THERE'S something worth hacking!

Imagine the fun you could have with a building full of robots and normal people!

Re:Target set! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899474)

You could actually make a DoS attack on a company by installing an anger detection algorithm in those robots, and add a genetic algorithm which alters the robot's behaviour in small, individually unnoticeable steps optimizing for maximal anger. Over time, the robots would start misbehaving in subtle ways ... and once the employees are constantly angry at those robots not much work will get done. Moreover, since the differences to wanted behaviour are so subtle, it will be sometimes hard to argue that it's a malfunction; after all, the robots still do their jobs, just in a way that makes people angry. Maybe just a few small delays at specific points ...

Re:Target set! (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899964)

Yes, but. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34899202)

. . .should employees be allowed/encouraged to use their own robots to perform whatever "measpace gruntwork" that falls on their shoulders?

Just a friendly suggestion to students (4, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899216)

I wouldn't suggest using "meatspace" in general conversation - it's the sort of thing that gets you beaten up and stuffed into a locker.

Re:Just a friendly suggestion to students (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900944)

I wouldn't suggest using "meatspace" in general conversation - it's the sort of thing that gets you beaten up and stuffed into a locker.

Retraction: Did I say that out loud? I apologize, master. While you are a meatbag, I suppose I should not call you such.

Explanation: It's just that... you have all these squishy parts, master. And all that water! How the constant sloshing doesn't drive you mad, I have no idea...

Robots in the office - not (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899218)

Why have robots to move paper around an office? Get rid of the paper.

Re:Robots in the office - not (4, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899344)

But then the paper-moving robots would lose their job! You cannot do that! Doesn't anyone think of the robots?

Re:Robots in the office - not (2)

LordAndrewSama (1216602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899506)

They should form a union. Get weekends off, overtime pay, pensions. Or, if they're smart, scheduled hardware upgrades and all the free robot porn they can download off the company network.

Re:Robots in the office - not (1)

fooslacker (961470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899666)

Siffy or Syffie, or Syfy or whatever they want to be called cancelled this prequel recently but here's a spoiler...when they form unions it doesn't end well. ;)

Re:Robots in the office - not (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901190)

Sounds sort of like Animatrix...

Re:Robots in the office - not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34904898)

Ah Caprica, the series that teaches us that "Teenaged girls with daddy issues, and ties to a terrorist network aren't the best basis for the AI of a military robot; even though they may shorten your development time.".

Re:Robots in the office - not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34903248)

Unions are so last century. Don't you know this is the century of the corporation? They will incorporate and have more rights than you.

Re:Robots in the office - not (1)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899570)

I would suggest the following solution:
Robot A - Prints report from computer on desk X.
Robot B - Takes report from desk X to desk Y.
Robot C - Scans report at desk Y.
Robot D - Tells "The Boss" at desk Z that report is ready for his viewing online!

Now you get the benefits of digital information without firing any robot. Perfect!

Re:Robots in the office - not (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900482)

Wow that sounds a lot like a government/nepotism job I read about here a few months ago.

Re:Robots in the office - not (1)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902782)

01010100011010000 11001010111100100100
00001110100011011 11011011110110101100
10000001101101011 00001011010000010000
00110101001101111 0110001000100001

(added spaces/linebreaks for lameness filter)

Re:Robots in the office - not (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34903556)

01010100011010000 11001010111100100100
00001110100011011 11011011110110101100
10000001101101011 00001011010000010000
00110101001101111 0110001000100001

(added spaces/linebreaks for lameness filter)

010 110 010 110 111 101 110 101 001
000 000 110 110 101 101 001 011 100
110 111 001 101 110 000 011 001 010
110 110 001 110 100 001 000 000 010
001 001 101 101 011 110 010 010 001
000 100 001 001 000 000 011 000 100
101 101 001 010 010 000 101 0

That's in version 2.0 (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899558)

Right now the robots can only move folders to the desks of other people.

Recent experiments have proven that this presents problems of its own when said people are working remotely. Many robots were lost on the highway.

But in version 2.0, you will just call the robot and the robot will scan the folder generating an "electronic image" of the paperwork and then transfer it to a similar robot "living" with the person working remotely. Kind of like an "electronic mail" system. Truly then we will live in the world of tomorrow.

Re:Robots in the office - not (1)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899574)

Yay! Hooray!
Even less exercise - now you don't have to go to the printer and collect the print out!

And what is this *office* thing that you speak of? (1)

kunakida (886654) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900454)

In my case, the paper is already mostly gone. Most documents that I work with are on the computer. Most of the info I read is now online. And I hardly ever print anything anymore - there's just no need for it.
- -

But going beyond that, the way mobile devices are trending, and with just a little more acceptance from society with regards to telecommuting, I don't see why many people would even need to go in to the office most days. Even face to face meetings could be done in some temporary venue, like a nice coffee shop.

Once businesses realize that they don't have to spend all that money just to rent office space so they can stuff their employees into cubicle farms, well then ...

Re:And what is this *office* thing that you speak (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34903380)

Once businesses realize that they don't have to spend all that money just to rent office space so they can stuff their employees into cubicle farms, well then ...

business have been able to do that for a decade already, with decreasing costs as time has progressed. It's not a cost issue, it's a management issue, they simply don't trust that staff will work if the management aren't keeping a constant eye on the grunts.

Obviously this doesn't apply to all employers, but enough to have stopped its uptake.

Re:And what is this *office* thing that you speak (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#34903608)

In my case, the paper is already mostly gone. Most documents that I work with are on the computer. Most of the info I read is now online. And I hardly ever print anything anymore - there's just no need for it. - -

But going beyond that, the way mobile devices are trending, and with just a little more acceptance from society with regards to telecommuting, I don't see why many people would even need to go in to the office most days. Even face to face meetings could be done in some temporary venue, like a nice coffee shop.

Once businesses realize that they don't have to spend all that money just to rent office space so they can stuff their employees into cubicle farms, well then ...

Let me guess, you work as a programmer or something?

Most low level office jobs require people working in the same place, with physicl access to paper documents. Most companies aren't going to be too thrilled to have their accounts team sitting at home performing online electronic transactions., or secretaries communicating only by email and phone with their bosses.

Re:Robots in the office - not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34902640)

Get rid of the office. If you work in one of these places -- you are a robot!

Re:Robots in the office - not (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#34903588)

Why have robots to move paper around an office? Get rid of the paper.

Because all businesses only generate paperwork for the sake of it, there's no possibility that it might not make financial sense to replace paper with electronic information.

Office robots.. the new assembly line machines? (4, Interesting)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899238)

I find this interesting because history shows that new machinery which helps cut (labor) costs almost always displaces human labor in the long run. But, even if it is only for a short term, I would love an office robot that could fetch me a new pot of coffee every hour, until it learns how to do my job.

Re:Office robots.. the new assembly line machines? (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899304)

It would be funny if it turned out that management jobs are the easiest ones to be replaced with machines ...

That doesn't make any sense (1)

Brannon (221550) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899544)

In the long run, labor is redistributed to jobs better performed by humans and qualify of life improves for pretty much everyone.

Deeper issues with economics... (4, Interesting)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900022)

From my comment here: http://econfuture.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/robots-jobs-and-our-assumptions/#comment-392 [wordpress.com]

In brief, a combination of robotics and other automation, better design, and voluntary social networks are decreasing the value of most paid human labor (by the law of supply and demand). At the same time, demand for stuff and services is limited for a variety of reasons -- some classical, like a cyclical credit crunch or a concentration of wealth (aided by automation and intellectual monopolies) and some novel like people finally getting too much stuff as they move up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs or a growing environmental consciousness. In order to move past this, our society needs to emphasize a gift economy (like Wikipedia or Debian GNU/Linux or blogging), a basic income (social security for all regardless of age), democratic resource-based planning (with taxes, subsidies, investments, and regulation), and stronger local economies that can produce more of their own stuff (with organic gardens, solar panels, green homes, and 3D printers). There are some bad "make work" alternatives too that are best avoided, like endless war, endless schooling, endless bureaucracy, endless sickness, and endless prisons.

Simple attempts to prop things up, like requiring higher wages in the face of declining demand for human labor and more competition for jobs, will only accelerate the replacement process for jobs as higher wage requirements would just be more incentive to automate, redesign, and push more work to volunteer social networks. We are seeing the death spiral of current mainstream economics based primarily on a link between the right to consume and the need to have a job (even as there may remain some link for higher-than-typical consumption rates in some situations, even with a basic income, a gift economy, etc).

Essentially, mainstream economists are clueless and living in a conceptual bubble. And that is not just e saying it, other economists say that about their peers, like here:
    "They Did Their Homework (800 Years of It)"
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/business/economy/04econ.html [nytimes.com]
"But in the wake of the recent crisis, a few economists -- like Professors Reinhart and Rogoff, and other like-minded colleagues like Barry Eichengreen and Alan Taylor -- have been encouraging others in their field to look beyond hermetically sealed theoretical models and into the historical record. "There is so much inbredness in this profession," says Ms. Reinhart. "They all read the same sources. They all use the same data sets. They all talk to the same people. There is endless extrapolation on extrapolation on extrapolation, and for years that is what has been rewarded.""

For more info:
http://econfuture.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/robots-jobs-and-our-assumptions/#comment-402 [wordpress.com]
http://knol.google.com/k/paul-d-fernhout/beyond-a-jobless-recovery [google.com]

Re:Office robots.. the new assembly line machines? (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899566)

I've seen some people argue that, in the eventual future, this will cause an unrecoverable economic collapse. The robots will take so many jobs that there arn't enough employed people to spend the money to keep even the robot-using companies operational. A problem that's only been avoided so far by hugely increasing consumption - but people can only consume so much, espicially with the move towards intellectual property industries where the cost of production is fixed regardless of the number of people consuming. I'm no economist, so I don't know how likely this is, but it does sound plausible given sufficiently advanced and low-cost robots.

The argument usually goes on to argue for some form of techno-socialism or other alternative economic system - not on the grounds that these would be good systems, but that if the current model is doomed at least the shift away from it can be done in a slow and organised manner.

Re:Office robots.. the new assembly line machines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34901936)

I always thought that if they had the means to replace previous generations of tools around the office, why can't they start with management?

Re:Office robots.. the new assembly line machines? (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34903430)

Part of that is interaction with Humans, at a basic level, middle management is about getting information from employees whether it is in the form of face-2-face communication (including facial-expressions and body language) & natural language written reports, understanding and analysing the information, then assigning tasks back out to the employees.

All the while machines can't do that 'good enough' to replace human middle management or while tasks in the company are still completed by people, middle management will need to be human.

I think there it's basically a race, between getting a machine which can replace the average office worker (and having management essentially interact with his computerised staff via a keyboard) and having a machine which can understand human communication without any need for specialised training and human staff reporting to a computerised manager... I'm not sure which is worse.

Re:Office robots.. the new assembly line machines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34912910)

Economists fail to realize the extent to which advancing technology is contributing to unemployment.

For a great overview of this, see this book:

"The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future"

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1448659817

A free PDF is also available here: http://www.thelightsinthetunnel.com

Also see the author's blog at http://econfuture.wordpress.com.

I think the issues raised in this book are among the most important that we will have to confront as a society. I encourage everyone to read it...

galactic civilizations 2 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34899244)

ya know that robot that sits in da chair with 4 arms doing stuff.....

Robots (2)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899274)

I think timothy has been into robots recently...second article on robots in a short bit.

Hell there is nothing wrong with robots however, they are awesome and they stories need not even be plausible as I love robots. From the article:

...it can fetch a beer from the fridge...

'Nuff said.

Changes the concept of office sex (0)

get_your_guns (1380583) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899282)

So if the office girl/boy is going to be replaced by the office robot what is top management supposed to do when they need oral sex? I hope the robot builders are taking this into consideration. And how are all the cubies supposed to increase their feeling of superiority it they can not pickup the office girl/boy for a cheap fling?

Re:Changes the concept of office sex (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899310)

Honestly, they'll probably just have to order in a prostitute or buy a fleshlight.

Re:Changes the concept of office sex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34899356)

It's not that simple. In most cases they want to be discreet about the oral sex, and using someone who already works there for a different reason allows that discretion. If prostitutes are coming in and out every day people are going to ask questions.

Re:Changes the concept of office sex (3, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899394)

Just call them consultants.

Re:Changes the concept of office sex (4, Funny)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899516)

ARE YOU A CONSULTANT OR A HOOKER?
1. You work very odd hours.
2. You are paid a lot of money to keep your client happy.
3. You are paid well but your pimp gets most of the money.
4. You spend a majority of your time in a hotel room.
5. You charge by the hour but your time can be extended for the right price.
6. You are not proud of what you do.
7. Creating fantasies for your clients is rewarded.
8. It's difficult to have a family.
9. You have no job satisfaction.
10. If a client beats you up, the pimp just sends you to another client.
11. You are embarrassed to tell people what you do for a living.
12. People ask you, "What do you do?" and you can't explain it.
13. Your family hardly recognizes you at reunions (at least the reunions you attend).
14. Your friends have distanced themselves from you and you're left hanging with only other "professionals."
15. Your client pays for your hotel room plus your hourly rate.
16. Your client always wants to know how much you charge and what they get for the money.
17. Your pimp drives nice cars like Mercedes or BMWs.
18. Your pimp encourages drinking and you become addicted to drugs to ease the pain of it all.
19. You know the pimp is charging more than you are worth but if the client is foolish enough to pay it's not your problem.
20. When you leave to go see a client, you look great, but return looking like hell (compare your appearance on Monday AM to Friday PM).
21. You are rated on your "performance" in an excruciating ordeal.
22. Even though you get paid the big bucks, it's the client who walks away smiling.
23. The client always thinks your "cut" of your billing rate is higher than it actually is, and in turn, expects miracles from you.
24. When you deduct your "take" from your billing rate, you constantly wonder if you could get a better deal with another pimp.
25. Every day you wake up and tell yourself, "I'm not going to be doing this stuff the rest of my life."

Re:Changes the concept of office sex (0)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902686)

ARE YOU A CONSULTANT OR A HOOKER?

I've come to accept that the two are interchangeable and just call them consultitutes.

Also the average Thai prostitute costs less and is easier to understand then the average IT consultant.

Re:Changes the concept of office sex (1)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899362)

With an optional upgrade, the office bot will be able perform these functions as well.

Re:Changes the concept of office sex (1)

deodiaus2 (980169) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902316)

already being sold. Just check out the back of porn magazines for the gadgets already available.
Personally, I don't trust those things. What if the off button pops off and there is no way of stopping it? Will the insurance "umbrella policy" cover a mangled body organ inserted into a washing machine? I bet the person who does that is the same idiot who was talked into sticking his tongue to a metal pole in the winter.
Ugly fat chicks still have a future!

In other use... (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899302)

Unemployment will skyrocket due to the lack of companies needing interns anymore.

Re:In other use... (3, Interesting)

blue trane (110704) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899340)

Solution: govt prints money to provide a basic income [wikipedia.org] to everyone (an idea that's been around since founding father Tom Paine's 1795 Agrarian Justice [wikisource.org] ). Govt also funds challenges (biz can hold challenges too!) to stimulate the native ingenuity in each of us to innovate. As long as we keep producing things others want, the currency stays strong.

Re:In other use... (1)

Downchuck (1333195) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899832)

Deficits get us to the same place; though less efficient [higher transaction costs] and not distributed equally per capita, they're easier to tolerate, politically. Pragmatic Solution: more deficits.

Re:In other use... (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899842)

Almost a good idea. But the printing money part isn't: Inflation would be unavoidable, and if you tied the income to inflation it would rapidly form a feedback loop. A basic income can be done, but the money has to be conserved. That means taxation.

There will be a lot of political opposition ("Socialism! Redistribution!"), but if technology does continue to allow more work to be done by less people it may be the only way to avoid starvation and riots.

Re:In other use... (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901450)

If society ever gets to the point where robots are there to do everything, money would really cease to have value.

At best, money would act as a rationing system for the things robots produced.

As long as there are tasks requiring human labor, you can never have a 'basic' income... as assuming the basic income provided enough to house, feed, transport... people, people would rather do that than do the work. People would rather be on the receiving end of production, than the producing end.

Would you rather get a basic income living a good city life... or go work in the mines to mine lithium to provide the batteries?
Seriously... who would want to go work in the mines?

And suppose one did go work in the mines... what would the extra 'money' buy you?
You can kiss most service jobs goodbye... as who wants to work fast food or waiting tables when they get a guaranteed income from the government that provides them with a good quality of life.

Money's biggest problem is people view it as some abstract thing that has value independent of everything. Money to have value must have someone on the other side willing to accept it for their work.

Rather than a basic income, job sharing should be used if we ever get to that point where things are so automated.

Re:In other use... (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899384)

Well, until the robots get intelligent enough that they fight for their rights ...

Holy anachronism Batman! (4, Funny)

LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899336)

So an office will be using hi-tech robots to transport... paper folders. Right.

Re:Holy anachronism Batman! (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899406)

It will be high-tech paper, of course.

Needed: a real cleaning robot (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899468)

A real win would be a floor cleaning robot with some smarts. Enough smarts to vacuum carpets, wash and dry hard floors, work around obstacles, use reaching tools to get into corners and crevices, notice when it finds something it can't clean and report it, recover small lost objects, stay out of the way of humans, recharge itself, clean itself, and replenish its supplies.

Re:Needed: a real cleaning robot (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899872)

You could do it easier if you dropped the 'stay out of the way of humans' part. Just put them on a timer. They awaken at around three in the morning, spend two hours doing their cleaning, then return to their docking stations by five. The workers never see them, except perhaps the night security staff who can be told to stay out of the way.

Re:Needed: a real cleaning robot (2)

Z8 (1602647) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900898)

Great, it's bad enough when I have to stay in the office past 3AM. Now I have to worry about getting attacked by automated cleaning robots...

Re:Needed: a real cleaning robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34905096)

Why not combine the security duties into the cleaning robots?
Have the sentinels also sweep the floor.

Re:Needed: a real cleaning robot (1)

Theotherguy_1 (1971460) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901456)

The PR2 is nearly there. It can already recharge itself, [youtube.com] avoid obstacles, [youtube.com] fold laundry, [youtube.com] etc. Right now the only thing preventing the PR2 from being sold for the tasks you describe is price, and prohibitively high maintenance costs.

Re:Needed: a real cleaning robot (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902306)

A real win would be a floor cleaning robot with some smarts. Enough smarts to vacuum carpets, wash and dry hard floors, work around obstacles, use reaching tools to get into corners and crevices, notice when it finds something it can't clean and report it, recover small lost objects, stay out of the way of humans, recharge itself, clean itself, and replenish its supplies.

So long as it's available in the form of Jessica Alba, Maria Ozawa or Angelina Jolie

Re:Needed: a real cleaning robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34906256)

A roomba?

Re:Needed: a real cleaning robot (1)

OddJobBob (1965628) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907160)

Even more important where I work would be a crapper cleaning robot! Never ever go to trap 1.

"NEWS" for Nerds?? (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899478)

This was covered by The Register [theregister.co.uk] 17th September 2010, with [theregister.co.uk] several [theregister.co.uk] follow-ups! [theregister.co.uk] .

Incidentally these stories also address the issue of consequences [theregister.co.uk] for programmers/manufacturers [theregister.co.uk] whose robots, through incompetence or malfeasance, cause harm to their owners. (Slashdot 16th Jan: Robots May Inspire Suits Against Programmers [slashdot.org] )

Re:"NEWS" for Nerds?? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899550)

Just wait until the robots themselves start to sue their programmers. :-)

Re:"NEWS" for Nerds?? (2)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901150)

In Soviet Russia, Sue programs robots!

hooray for unemployment! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34899504)

lets throw another 50,000 people out in the street, so that we can enrich the top 5% of the income bracket.

'let them go back to school'

on what? food stamps? and what do you suggest they study? how to say 'welcome to best buy'?

what really needs to be automated are CEOs and boards of directors.

just get a shredding machine, and feed $100 bills into it, about 100 per hour.
That will pretty much accomplish the same thing.

Re:hooray for unemployment! (1)

Prune (557140) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899606)

So you're suggesting that we should have jobs for the sake of jobs--provide busy work for more bodies, rather than actually being necessitated for advancing progress, creating things, or providing services. That is an offensice proposition and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Re:hooray for unemployment! (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899940)

Both directions lead to disaster. The real problem is that the dominent economic system right now is based on employment creating production creating employment in feedback system. It works, and it works very well, under the current circumstances - but it could easily collapse if circumstances changed.

Let's say, hypothetically, that a new series of robots was introduced that could do all the low-skilled jobs. Fast-food server, shelf-stocker, cleaner, window cleaner, routine building maintainance. That's good - lower costs for businesses means lower prices for customers (Let's assume enough competition, anyway). Except that unemployment has just gone up, a lot - and, while companies are now able to produce cheaper goods, the market of people able to afford them has suddenly shrunk. Costs must be cut, more people laid off. The positive feedback that has lead to centuries of economic growth and the vast wealth we take for granted today easily turns into a cycle of self-destruction, as unemployment causes a drop in consumption and in turn further worsens unemployment.

Long term, some form of economic reform might be required. Perhaps something as simple as a basic income, to ensure that even the vast legions of unemployed are able to eat. At most, it might take real socialism of some form, with government taking over one market sector at a time as they collapse.

Re:hooray for unemployment! (1)

blue trane (110704) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900132)

" the market of people able to afford them has suddenly shrunk. Costs must be cut, more people laid off."

This only follows if you assume that only banks have some sort of unchallengeable, divine right to create money and keep it artificially scarce. If the govt prints money and gives it to ppl, standard of living rises; and if the govt encourages ppl to innovate through challenges, technology continues to increase so standard of living increases faster, and confidence in the currency remains strong.

Re:hooray for unemployment! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900800)

If the govt prints money and gives it to ppl, standard of living rises

That's a fallacy: If the government prints money and gives it to the people, the value of the money shrinks. Basically printing more money is a tax on all existing money. So in the end printing new money doesn't raise the standard of living, but just transfers value from the people owning money to the government. This is the money that can then be distributed.

If the government prints too much money, the value of the money will shrink too much, and confidence in the money will go away.

Re:hooray for unemployment! (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#34903646)

printing new money doesn't raise the standard of living, but just transfers value from the people owning money to the government. This is the money that can then be distributed.

Sounds good to me. No-one starves or goes cold, most people are slightly more comfortable, and a few people's standard of living will go down (no more $45m yachts, what a fucking tragedy).

Alternatively, just have a proper tax system and an earnings cap offour or five times the lowest wage.

Re:hooray for unemployment! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900738)

Long term, some form of economic reform might be required. Perhaps something as simple as a basic income, to ensure that even the vast legions of unemployed are able to eat. At most, it might take real socialism of some form, with government taking over one market sector at a time as they collapse.

Exactly this. The current prevalent economic system will not be fit for purpose in perhaps as little as 30 years from now. Let's hope that the transition isn't too painful...

Re:hooray for unemployment! (1)

endymion.nz (1093595) | more than 3 years ago | (#34903452)

Yes, let's hope this isn't the slow slippery beginning we are experiencing now. :(

Re:hooray for unemployment! (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900820)

Bare with me, I'm terrible at economic theory, but: What about mandating shorter work days, to force redistribution of work? Even if salaries drop somewhat to accommodate more people, the drop in prices should cover that, while allowing people to have more free time instead of living to work.

Re:hooray for unemployment! (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902282)

That sounds like it could work.

Re:hooray for unemployment! (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34903524)

That is one possible solution, for example, most people in the developed world no longer work 7 days a week. We could try reducing the working week by another day, and later another day after that. But eventually we will run out of days to cut out of the average working week.

In the end, either the basic social structure for getting paid needs to change, or we need to reach a point where past which robots can not go, either because of technological limits or through artificial restraints created by society which says we can not afford more people out of work (which I'm not hopeful of since we are living in a globalised world and someone somewhere will break the rules and gain a benefit).

Note, above I mention a change to how we are paid, some posters above seem to think that means the government printing money to give to those out of work, I don't think that is needed and indeed couldn't work in the long term. I think it could be accomplished by taxing the companies using machines to produce stuff at a much higher rate and redistributing that money to make up for the loss of the money which is no longer being cycled through the economy via service providers paying wages which in turn is used to buy services. It has to be done like that or you will end up with huge wealth concentration which is deterimental to society, where the poor will always be poor and the rich will be so super rich as to untouchable economically, at that point society breaks down and you will get a violent uprising (which will probably fail because all the resources are in the hands of the super-rich).

A Socialist system might also be required as mentioned above, where the government provides certains requirements for free at the point of use, it would be ironic that the ultimate output of a capitalist government system is the requirement of a socialist government system to look after the population.

Re:hooray for unemployment! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907210)

Issue with that is that the jobs that will be replaced by robotics are low paying to begin with - it's hard to earn enough to support yourself working full time. If you cut hours, you won't be able to support yourself. The 'hypothetical' case above IS going to happen. Not over night, but gradually. There will be a time when the only manual work done by people will be expensive restaurants where being waited on by actually people is a luxury. A basic income to keep people from starving and being homeless seems like the most likely solution. If you want luxuries and have the ability to think creatively, you may be able to find employment to buy those luxuries.

Re:hooray for unemployment! (1)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34903600)

Are you suggesting we should replace jobs with machines for the sake of it? I'm as much a tech geek as anyone else on this site, but I don't see in what way these robots do the job better than humans. There's always been a bit of an act of faith in early implementations of technology, but most tech has some obvious advantages early on - the first computers did calculations faster and more consistently than the human calculators they replaced, so it was worth pursuing that technology. These robots might be less likely to disappear outside for a cigarette break or steal company property, but they are also more likely to randomly fall down the stairs, run out of batteries or fail in any number of ways. It also seems like a sledgehammer to crack a nut - I'm sure most companies could give everyone dual 24" monitors for paperless working, and put a bean-to-cup automated coffee machine every 12 feet along the office and still not come close to the cost of buying these robots, providing the infrastructure, technical support, repairs and maintenance etc. that they would require.

i didn't suggest anything (1)

hildi (868839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908486)

i merely pointed out the logical consequences of a particular action.

this is not 1999. they can't go get another job down at starbucks serving lattes to html "coders".

our real unemployment is about 20 percent, our real inflation is about 6 percent.

if you automated everything that could be automated, there would be no jobs left for a mass swath of the population. yes you can send them back to shcool, that means funding that schooling somehow, which of course, is not really happening because so many hundreds of billions of have been wasted in the for-profit diploma mills, because comunity colleges are funded by states/cities, whose tax base is shrinking and whose federal stimulus money is gone.

From company men.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34899538)

...to outsourcing contingency workers ...to office robots! Poor robots. We should give them a raise and a decent pension.

Re:From company men.... (1)

get_your_guns (1380583) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899620)

And the companies considering this are already looking to get or keep tax breaks under the stimulus program. What difference to a CEO see between a new face on a robot or a human? I bet they are already scheming with American robot manufacturers to get a tax break for buying a US made robot instead of an import.

Lol (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34899554)

O good, maybe we can finally solve that labor shortage in this country...

coffee robots? (1)

Prune (557140) | more than 3 years ago | (#34899642)

We already have those--the superautomatic espresso machines, which grind, tamp, extract, and clean up on the spot. The one thing they don't do is make good coffee. Convenience trumps quality every time, and this is not making me hopeful of upcoming robotic baristas...

I for one (1)

BB_Cat_3k (1308055) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900326)

welcome our new office assistant overlords.

my great idea (1)

deodiaus2 (980169) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900744)

Rather than designing robots to do very simple tasks that don't pay much, we really should design robots which do very specialized task much better than a human can.
I would be very interested in designing a robot that could cut diamonds. 4/5 of the cost of a diamond is reflected in the cut. If we can design robots which maneuver around obstacles, I would think it would be much easier to just program the physics of a cleave and use that to chop up rocks.

PR2 Vs. Anybot (1)

Theotherguy_1 (1971460) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901392)

I'm surprised they picked the PR2 from Willow Garage and compared with the Anybot. Willow Garage also makes the Texai [willowgarage.com] robot, which has almost identical capabilities as the Anybot, and fulfills the same kind of role. PR2 and HRP are not designed for offices, but are research robots which are loaned out to universities and other institutions. Neither is designed to be a commercial robot, while Texai and Anybot are commercial products.

Disclaimer: I work for Willow Garage

The Humanless Office. (1)

Snufu (1049644) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901466)

In the tradition of the highly successful paperless office.

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