Robots Are Coming For Our Jobs. Just Not All Of Them.

There is a lot to be said for replacing certain kinds of jobs with robots. Most people would agree that replacing physical human labor with automation is a good thing. It’s especially good to automate the dangerous kinds of labor like some facets of factory work. What about automation in fields that require more mental labor, where physical strain isn’t the concern? Is replacing humans really the best course of action? A year ago, a video called Humans Need Not Apply set forth an explanation of how robots will inevitably replace us. But that narrative is a tough sell.

Whether it is even possible depends on the job being automated. It also depends on how far we are able to take technology, and the amount of labor we are willing to offload. Automation has been replacing human workers in assembly and manufacturing industries for years. Even with equipment and upkeep expenses, the tireless nature of robotic workers means dramatically lower overhead for businesses.

Many of the current forms of factory automation are rather dumb. When something goes wrong and their task is compromised, they keep chugging away. That costs time and money. But there are companies out there producing robots that are better on many levels.

May Your Robot Overlords Be Cute and Cuddly

baxter-heroIn 2013, Rethink Robotics started filling orders for a new line called Baxter. They are a class of general purpose robot that can be programmed to do many kinds of manual tasks. Baxter bots have vision, and they can learn how to do a job simply by watching. They don’t need to be programmed in the traditional sense.

Baxter even has a face – a screen that shows different expressions depending on his state. When he’s in the midst of a task, his eyes are cast downward. If something goes wrong, he stops what he’s doing. His cartoon face appears sort of shocked, then sad. He goes into safe mode and waits to be fixed.

If workers in manufacturing industries have anything at all to worry about in the near future, it is robots like Baxter. He’s streets ahead of bigger, dumber automatons for several reasons. Baxter runs Robot Operating System (ROS), which is completely open source and runs on standard PC hardware. Older ‘bots are graceless single purpose behemoths compared to Baxter. He is loaded with sensors and cameras that allow him to safely work side by side with humans, doing pretty much anything that fits his range of motion and tool attachments. In a way, Baxter is a kind of Arduino for companies that want to experiment with automation.

Baxter isn’t perfect, though, not even close. He would probably need several more layers of finesse and some decision-making skills before he could be counted on to assemble Big Macs.

I Need a Price Check on Brawndo

"Self checkout using NCR Fastlane machines" by pin add - Self CheckoutUploaded by SchuminWeb. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons -
Self Checkout by SchuminWeb CC-BY

One form of widespread automation we’re already seeing is the rise of the self-checkout lane. The self-checkouts of today are not fully automated by any means, however. They’re just a regular checkout adapted for self-service. The model is a lot like renting a shopping cart at ALDI; the business pays for the equipment and upkeep and shifts the labor to the consumer. How far can businesses really take this model? If everybody has to use a self-checkout everywhere they go, then we’re worse off than before.

Self-checkouts seem like a good idea because they provide more possible points of exit. They’re supposed to cost the company less money overall. But the situation is not as simple as ‘automation costs less’.

Many stores have installed self-checkouts only to remove them later. They make theft easier, and they have proven to lower overall customer satisfaction. It’s all fun and games until your coupons won’t scan and you can’t find the PLU for kumquats. Every frustration adds time to transactions, which holds everyone up.

Even if businesses replace human cashiers with self-checkouts as far as the eye can see, they still need humans to watch over the transactions. In the fantasy land where every self-checkout functions perfectly all the time and operates at an iOS-for-toddlers level of simplicity, the transactions still need to be monitored.

Besides, plenty of people will always prefer to interact with a human cashier. They will want to buy their milk and toilet paper from the brick and mortar stores no matter how poorly lit and dystopian they may become.

What Color is Your Parachute?

Replacing humans is a really difficult endeavor, even on a small, specific scale. Forget all the complex sensory and collision avoidance advantages of Team Humans. We will likely emulate all of that in due time. The big reasons not to worry are much simpler than that.

Automation saturation is a simple matter of economy. The thing is, robots make far better workers than they do consumers. This is problematic when you consider that most economic models require both workers and consumers. If large groups of people are unemployed, that means large groups of people are spending as little money as possible to survive, and the economy stagnates.

Even if we get to the point where advanced Baxter-bots are showing each other how to do things and down-voting each other on their robotic Stack Exchange, humans will always be necessary at some level. We may be a reckless and hedonistic species, but we’re not going to replace ourselves into extinction. That’s just silly. Someone still has to design robots, train them, fix them, and streamline their processes. Jobs will be created along the way, some we can’t even imagine.

For at least the foreseeable future, only humans care whether automatons improve technologically. Only humans will drive it forward. As long as humans are making the decisions, humans will remain in the equation, for better or worse.

98 thoughts on “Robots Are Coming For Our Jobs. Just Not All Of Them.

  1. Thank you, solid article. As an economist, seeing the lump of labour fallacy used over and over again really grinds my gears. It’s about time that someone put the record straight in the tech community too.

    1. Having dealt with robots and automation and the limitations of said equipment, I am just as cynical as I am about robots suddenly taking over everything as I was about 3D printing taking over every factory out there a few years back.

      The hype vastly exceeds the reality and while it is true that automation is progressing and is getting better and is improving and will take over jobs more and more, the hype about it will bump up stocks and cause people to reconsider the use of robots in applications they would not otherwise but on the whole, robots are not going to magically take millions of jobs overnight unless they could be literally programmed effortlessly and produced out of a Star Trek style replicator with anatomical precision and new technologies that don’t even exist right now.

      Even with “general purpose” robots, the concept that you can just replace a worker with a robot and come out financially ahead is still quite limited for many jobs. Also, some jobs, like fast food order entry, are more visible to the public at large but do not represent the majority of industry.

      That all said, robots are likely to have a bigger role in many facets of many of our jobs as time goes on. But we should also temper the hype and ridiculousness with actual data and information about where things are now and a realistic view of where they will be likely to be in the coming years. Even with things like self driving cars, you simply don’t produce hundreds of millions of them and distribute them to people in a year or two and suddenly nobody drives their own car anymore. The same thing applies for robots. The low hanging fruit gets replaced and then things slow down.

    2. Yannis, I think the concern is that the workers who are displaced don’t really have anywhere else to go. You can’t really retrain cashiers, hospital orderlies, truck drivers for jobs in sectors that are expanding. Yes, the economic result of the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries was marvelous, but there’s a seemingly endless number of sagas of the misery of the transition. There was a real human cost, which economists don’t care to measure. Yes, today, most of the 3rd world and China are rising up from utter poverty to wealth, but here in the US, poverty is increasing, hunger is increasing, and the middle classes have stagnated for several decades. Japan has stagnated for even longer. In Japan, failure to launch has wiped out a large chunk of an entire generation: 30, 40-year-olds living with their parents, with no discernable employment skills. We need to figure out how to avoid this in the US, before it takes its toll, not afterwards.

      1. Linasv, I completely agree with your argument regarding displaced workers often having no where else to turn. As mentioned by another commenter, “the low hanging fruit is the first to go”, the implication is that low skilled workers will be the first to be replaced, and the least capable of retraining. My concern is that by the time a generation of workers manages to complete retraining, the next lowest fruit is in the process of being automated… Ad infinitum…
        Automation wouldn’t be a concern if workers were the ones making the decisions about what jobs are replaced, unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case. Rather, you have upper management, and corporate executives making decisions based on short-term gain, with long-term consequence…
        I absolutely think that we should be concerned with automation replacing jobs, but more importantly, I think that our leaders, both in business and government, should be far more concerned, and not seeing any sign of that is what worries me.

        Technological growth occurs at an exponential rate. If you consider the implications of how quickly we started asking our cellphones to be our personal assistants, there’s every reason to believe that the next evolution of automation is far closer than most people expect.

    3. Nothing infuriates me more than the walmart self checkout….never had items scan wrong or needed to look up anything, it’s the damned sensor that checks to see if you bagged the item that slows everything to a crawl. WHO CARES where you put it, as long as you scan it. the lag from the “i’m guessing weight check” will stop the scanner until it runs, or until you push the “not bagging item” button.

      1. Besides how bloody awful they are, they take away jobs, so that’s 2 reasons I never use them. It’s always quicker to use a well-practiced human checkout operator. And most of them in my local supermarket are nice and like to chat while you pack, computer doesn’t do that.

      1. Not fearing tomorrow will produce the worst tomorrow…
        The problem: It takes only a few “mad inventors” to extinguish humans completely…
        And I want it!!!
        For you!

        You will be exterminated!!!

  2. Rather than panicking i think we should look at things from a realistic point of view. Robotics will ever take humans completely out of operation. Like this article said in the customer service fields people love that human interaction and unique blend that it creates, a one-track mind machine would destroy that, besides as you concluded the article with it’s the humans that are making the robots not the other way around so we will have the final say and the vast say in any automated decision.

    1. the problem is the people in control of this are some of the most sociopath people in the world. sure robot’s can’t replace every job but they can replace large most jobs and as history shows these people won’t care. they have theirs why should they care about the rest of us.

      and that’s the real problem

      1. 100%

        The rich are still getting richer while the poor get poorer. The gap is increasing.

        Ultimately it’s not work that people need, it’s money. Sure, some lucky people get satisfaction from their job, but they don’t pack biscuits or fry burgers for a living.

        Humanity should be free of stupid toil. Robots should do that. But money should be spread out fairly. In the current system, where psychopaths rise to the top, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Will we all live lives of leisure, while the robots do all the boring work, and a few people fix cars because they enjoy doing it? Or will an army of Trumpbots defend the pleasure domes of the hyper-rich while we stand outside eating recycled faeces?

        1. You are correct. And it will be the latter with the Trumpbots. No matter what happens to productive capacity there will always be those who insist that they need share nothing, and are entitled to take and keep every bit of material good or service they get can get no matter the cost. I have long though that people take two basic approaches to mitigating existential anxiety.
          1 That life is a dog eat dog contest and those who get control of the most live the longest.
          2 That life is social beast and doing good for the group brings its own rewards in reciprocity.

          The first group tend to win control and keep the rest of us grovelling.

  3. This is little more than a modern equivalent to the mechanisation of farming or the wider industrial revolution – people will always fear their jobs being lost but equally it creates jobs and ultimately allows a large chunk of the population to pursue ‘higher’ activities (and, y’know, allow us to get to electronics & making imagining these robots).

    I think the challenge is ensuring that fewer members of the population are not worse than robots so don’t fear the revolution (e.g. with access to education and better training).

    1. I take it you’re under 18 and never held a real job, especially one with responsibility.

      When you’re 35-40 and automated out of a job, no one wants to hire you, after you are retrained. If you’re lucky you end up in a degrading job at Wal-Mart or you become part of the permanently unemployed and you get a bit of welfare to get you by until the next check. It’s a degrading existence for many that were gainfully employed before.

      It’s even worse if you’re a father, you’ve become a deadbeat in front of your kids and they become ashamed of you.

      This happens all the time.

      Pursuing higher activities? What kind of mental flatulence has beset you? Most people aren’t cut out to be engineers or scientists or wasting time using a MCU to light up a LED.

      Extensive automation ensures revolution and societal collapse in time, You cannot disenfranchise the bulk of the population without having serious social and behavioral problems. Take a look at England – the lower classes have rotted since Thatcher privatized and off-shored industry back in the 80’s. All they had to look forward to was a lifetime on the dole. No future, nothing.

      That’s our future in a decade or so. .

      1. I’m not sure what chip is on your shoulder but, no, I’m not under 18 and certainly can’t say “never held a real job, especially with responsibility”.

        “When you’re 35-40 and automated out of a job..”
        Well I am 35-40 and both myself & other members of my family have been pushed out of jobs some from automation.

        “Take a look at England..”
        Any particular bit? Maybe in a ‘northern’ rural village where 80% of the population has lived there for numerous generations? Where there were no aspirations?
        Well I chose to pursue a higher ideal and not wallow in my own self-pity and do as much as I could to improve my circumstance – I’ll never be a CEO, nor be “rich and famous” but one doesn’t have to be. At various points in time, my entire family (myself included) has been on the dole and we’ve retrained in one way yet still worked our ways back into reasonable employment.

        As for “extensive automation ensures revolution and societal collapse in time”, er, we’ve done okay following equally massive upheavals in agriculture and industry (no? don’t remember the class lessons about the industrial revolution that radically changed the landscape of the UK?).

        1. The mistake in your thinking is that “there’s always something else to move into”. No. We’ve pushed people out of farming. We’ve pushed people out of manufacturing. We’re pushing people out of knowledge work. What are you going to do with 7 billion people on a planet when capitalism treats them like a disease that needs to be purged?

          Just because it hasn’t crashed yet, doesn’t mean it can’t.

          1. This view is extremely misinformed.

            One harvester may put 5 farmers out of work, but it will increase production efficiency (quite massively in this case). Yields go up, prices go down. The farm has more profits to invest in itself. This means it can throw more money at supporting industries. Those industries can now afford to expand… meaning, perhaps, more jobs.

            Prices on crop going down will be seen by the end-consumer in the form of lower prices at the store, meaning more money to throw at other things. Luxury items, clothes, cars etc.

            Prices on crop going down has a positive effect on industries that purchase that crop. Less expensive raw material means more money to expand. This can mean more jobs, or it can mean more equipment.

            The ENTIRETY of human progress comes down to this mechanic. Increasing production efficiency always leads to more available assets. The question is never: “SHOULD this awesome tech that increases efficiency be used.” It is “HOW shall we use this awesome tech, and HOW do we take advantage of its benefits.”

          2. Maher, I’m not at all misinformed. You are foolish to believe that system is sustainable. You’re participating in magical thinking. Who is going to buy those cheaper goods when they are not working? Where are those people going to go when there is no industry that needs them? You don’t have to wipe out everything, just enough to cause unrest and the whole thing collapses.

        2. Used to be, in the past, and Britain specifically, though it applies to many other countries, that you didn’t have to be clever, or ambitious. As long as you were willing, you could work in a factory or the like, turn up, do your graft, and come home knowing your family was looked after. And you could be proud of that.

          As long as you did your part, you could be sure of being in employment nearly all your life. And we had unions, and employment law, that meant your job was secure.

          The 80s destroyed that. Thatcher and Reagan and Bullshit-o-nomics. In the name of making the labour market “flexible”, job security was destroyed. Year by year, employee’s rights have been removed. You can now be let go for no reason, with no compensation, or even notice. Jobs have been sold abroad, where there are fewer human rights and people will work for just enough to subsist on.

          Now we have zero-hour contracts, and employees at places like Burger King having to clock off when the place isn’t busy, and sit around, unpaid, waiting for customers. It’s abusive. But nobody can complain or they’ll be back in the job queue. And unemployed people are forced into “back to work” programs that are simply full-time work, without pay. You can’t turn the programme down, or they stop your benefit money. There’s a case in Britain of a woman who was sacked from a shop (Poundland) to be replaced by an unpaid “back to work” worker. Unemployed, she found herself claiming benefits, and ended up on a “work” scheme herself. Doing her old job. Only for no wage, just her government-paid benefits.

          A scheme supposed to increase employment is causing companies to sack workers and replace them with freebies.

          Good exchange rates with China have encouraged our wise investing class to destroy our own manufacturing capacity, to give the work and money to a Communist dictatorship. The Chinese have been investing in dollars for years, to keep their exchange rate low, and artificially prolong this state of affairs. There’s a surprise coming when the totalitarian communists decide to make use of all that equity.

          TL;DR Robots good, employers / govt = assholes.

          There’s a book called “The Psychopath Test” where, among other things, an expert psychiatrist really thinks most of these problems are caused by psychopaths. Their ruthlessness gets them into positions of power, and not having a conscience or empathy like humans, they’re free to cause havoc. And there’s nothing that can stop them.

    2. The comparison to farming or the industrial revolution don’t really work. The economy is split into sectors.
      -1st sector being resource extraction. Farming, mining, forestry, that type of thing.
      -2nd sector is resource conversion, or, manufacturing. Taking the resources gathered by the people working in the 1st sector and then turn it into a product. Think people working in factories.
      – 3rd sector is service work. The people selling the manufactured products. The people using them to sell their services. Like garden workers, barbers, chefs, teachers, anything.

      In the distant past, when there was worries about automation destroying jobs, the automation wasn’t taking out jobs throughout entire sectors of the economy. Later, when automation started taking out entire sectors, there were always higher sectors for people to start working in. This is no longer true.

      Now is the only time in history where we are automating jobs and there is no where else to go. It is the first time we are automating service and knowledge work.

      This doesn’t mean there will be a disaster. But it does mean we can’t look to history to instruct us here. And it does look like a disaster is coming, if we do nothing about it.

      1. Actually in much of the West, it’s the 0th sector, or maybe the 4th, or who knows, “financial services”. From something useful, if potentially exploitative, as simple money lending, up to parasitism like arbitrage, and the money generated by computers squeezing salami out of the markets in microsecond increments.

        The simple idea of lending a business money, then getting a nice reward after the business grows, is a good thing. It’s just all the endless crocks of shit the parasite classes create around this.

        Also having the US Government pay companies to outsource jobs to China and the like doesn’t seem too great for the average worker. I wonder how that bit of legislation got in, in a democracy that follows the will of the people? Perhaps the people were sick of financial security and employment.

  4. In a former job, I built and tested Self Checkout lanes.
    A customer (i.e. grocery store chain) told us that Self Checkout lanes (in their experience) were more “honest” (overall) than cashiers.

  5. Sure, human leaders will be necessary. But if you replace 10 humans plus a boss with 10 robots and a boss, surely you’re not saying that those 10 people are not going to be impacted? The boss is still in the loop, but you’ve got 10 people job hunting. That’s already happening with self checkout lines – there are people around if there is a problem, but those people are overseeing 4 or more lanes, not one.

    The argument that “we won’t automate ourselves into extinction” assumes some top-down decision making that doesn’t really exist. It’s going to a be a lot of independant parallel decisions where suddenly, the automation is just a little bit better than a human (driving) or almost as good and a whole lot cheaper. So one at a time, those jobs go away.

    It doesn’t have to be perfect – it just has to be fractionally better, or much cheaper than a human. At that point, the business case swings towards “automate it.”

    1. Exactly, it seems like the argument is : “Businesses do what’s right for people and have the necessary prescience to avoid making bad decisions.”

      I dunno if I have that level of faith in capitalistic enterprises. The world would be a much better place if economic security and the welfare of the populous was the central concern.

      Every job can be automated because humans are machines. The only thing we have going for us, allegedly, is consciousness and that has no real benefit in any job. We just happen to be conscious while doing it.

      Pretty much any job that’s a human run state-machine is going to be automated in the coming decades.

      1. Well.. Just think of the positives of this.. Those businesses will no longer be hiring illegals at slave wages.. and with all this extra profit the company is going to have from not having to pay the wages of employees, they can afford to pump even more bribe.. er I mean lobbying.. money into congress and political representatives to make the illegal things the corporations what to do, legal :D

    2. If a job can be automated it will. The solution, I think, is not bemoan the devaluation of menial labor done by humans which is, basically, an unstoppable force but, instead, increase the access and lower the barriers to robot ownership. For the cost of owning and maintaining the family car one could own a robot or, possibly, a share in several robots or some such thing.

      In that way, instead of trading one’s menial labor for money you simply trade your robot’s menial labor for money (which, I think, is not a bad trade). So I think the solution is to figure out ways to make owning a robot akin to owning a car (i.e. something that basically every worker is already doing). This seems a lot more doable than demanding certain menial tasks be reserved for human labor or, even more futile, demanding higher wages for the human performance of menial tasks such a latte preparation and burger flipping.

      Fast food restaurants (and other similar service providers) are basically vending machines with a few human parts. As the cost of the human goes up the number of human parts will go down. Period. No legislative or regulatory scheme will change that. On the other hand, there is a good chance that we can come up with ways to make it possible for displaced human labor to own the means of their displacement.

      1. That’s an interesting idea. I do wonder how the private bot ownership would be able to compete with company fleet ownership, since the cost of acquisition and maintenance per bot drops with volume (presumably).

        1. One possibility would simply be to invest in the stock market via index funds. In that way, productivity gains from automation flow directly to the fund owners. So, in one sense, there is already a well established mechanism to own ‘shares’ in the productive output of various economic organizations. But this is not the only possible solution.

          Another might be for trade unions to invest heavily in automation specific to the industries they represent and flow that revenue back to its membership.

          Yet another might be some combination of the above combined with the performance of some other kind of work that has not yet been automated or the performance or artisanal/custom work.

          Consider that a college education now runs to nearly $200,000. Perhaps that capital might be better spent on stock shares or robot shares. After all, if you are not spending your days on labor you can read the classics in your spare time. Possibly for free.

          That’s just off the top of my head. I think it’s an area that clever people out to exploring and thinking out. Whatever its disadvantages it will probably work better than hoping we can somehow force employers to stick with human labor beyond its cost-effectiveness.

          1. It occurs to me that replacing federal student loans with federal-loans-to-buy-robots might be an economic winner. Unless folks foolishly spend the federal robot loan on low-productivity art history robots. :)

          2. Honestly, the gains in productivity should be used to provide a guaranteed minimum income for everyone. The lazy handout argument won’t work when half the work force is unemployed.

          3. “Honestly, the gains in productivity should be used to provide a guaranteed minimum income for everyone. ”

            I suppose but no one has thought of a reasonably good mechanism for that kind of re-distribution. So we’d have to come up with some political solution and I’m not overly optimistic that even if we could conceive such a system that it has much chance of actually being put into practice.

            But like smartphones, automobiles, burritos, pizza, and personal computers there is a reasonably good chance that we can provide a large number of people with the opportunity to own — in some fashion — their own robots and subsequently derive the economic benefit that comes from their productivity.

            There are economic models and means available to achieve that much right now without the need of any political action in particular (assuming we even knew what to do). With a bit more creative input from clever people we can probably think of more. I can be optimistic about that. But when it comes to waiting around for politicians to improve my life…

          4. Lol you start with a wildly inflated figure and end with a proposal for amateurs to invest on margin Hmm yeah I dont think you should post ideas on the fly anymore.

          5. Academic year 2012 – 2013 is the last year that has statistics available for cost of college education in the United States:

            “For the 2012–13 academic year, annual current dollar prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated to be $15,022 at public institutions, $39,173 at private nonprofit institutions, and $23,158 at private for-profit institutions. Between 2002–03 and 2012–13, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 39 percent, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 27 percent, after adjustment for inflation. The price for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at private for-profit institutions decreased 7 percent between 2002–03 and 2012–13, after adjustment for inflation. ”


            So obviously it makes more sense to major in engineering at a state school than, say, Dartmouth which I’m fairly certain charges above average rates for tuition, room, and board. But even the average private school is going to run ~$160,000 where a state school will run about half of that. These numbers assume graduation in four years but graduating in five or six is becoming more common.


            Grain of salt and all that because its hard to compute that number because of part time students, students taking semesters off, and the like. But the basic point I wanted to make is that college is expensive even at the low end (~$80,000) and can easily run to $200,000 at certain high-end schools (for which you are permitted to borrow money in order to attend). No one thinks twice about a person borrowing $200,000 to major in comparative literature at Brown. Generally, that’s regarded as a sound investment though I think it’s one that the borrower may wish to re-think.

            My point is if we, as a society are willing to encourage that sort of purchase on margin, we may as well consider other on margin purchases. So back to the basic point, if instead of spending $80,000 on a much more sensibly priced state college education that same $80,000 was invested in index funds and held for 30 years. Most people can expect about a 5% return according to this simulation:


            In other words, most of the folks who do that will net about $600,000 from that investment.


            But I don’t, in fact, recommend that people borrow money to buy index funds. On the other hand, if you have saved up to go to school and you have the cash on hand then it’s worth considering. The risk isn’t zero but it’s not huge either. Especially considering that fact that one could get a job that doesn’t require a degree and continue to invest over that same period. On average that person will probably do okay robots or no.

            That said, what I am advocating is some creative thinking about how we can help displaced workers own the means of their displacement. In other words, if a robot can take your job the smart thing to do might be to figure out how to own a robot. The stock market is one mechanism for doing that but see my other posts for other ideas.

            In addition, I’m fairly certain that regulatory schemes intended to force the use of human labor where robot labor is better, cheaper, faster will ultimately fail. As they have in the past:


          6. There is an error in my above post. I used a calculation ( 80000*(1.07)^30 ) which provides the value of a 7% return on a principal investment of $80,000 over 30 years. I meant to show the value of a 5% return on the same principle over the same period ( 80000*(1.05)^30 ). The correct result is ~$345,000 not ~$600,000.

          7. Hey Clement – interesting ideas. Certain industries (trucking, construction) already rely heavily on 3rd-party equipment leasing, so robot leasing is a no-brainer. However, the majority of people don’t actively participate in the stock market, and that’s not likely to change.

            In a nutshell, capitalism is a system for converting free or cheap resources into products and wealth. Historically, the big bursts of economic growth have come from finding something new to exploit:
            – a new continent with land to conquer, new and novel products, cheap or slave labour
            – improved trade, to create new markets
            – technological advances, which create new products (electricity, the auto), reduce the cost of production (assembly line, robotics), and even occasionally create whole new industries (IT, the inter-webs)

            problem is… we’re starting to run out of the easy stuff. Many resources are not infinite or sustainable, there are fewer new lands or markets to exploit. The low-hanging fruit has mostly been picked. One commentator has pointed out that the majority of corporate profitability in the last 40 or so years has come through efficiency – reducing costs.

            Cracks are starting to show. You can’t have a vibrant consumer economy if the consumer loses the ability to earn disposable income. Most recently, our free ride on outsourcing everything to China may be coming to an end

            Taken together, it’s clear to me that the world economy has to shift from a ‘limitless growth’ model to a managed sustainable model. If meaningful work isn’t available for everyone, then there’s two possible scenarios for the average person:
            1 – everyone is entitled to a basic income, sufficient to live a decent life. For those who choose (and most would), additional income would come from working at a job or on a project. Health care and education are free. Much could be achieved through volunteering
            – or –
            2 – as opportunities for meaningful, decent-paying work continue to dwindle, more people are forced into insecure, low-paying menial service jobs. Anyone could theoretically ‘better’ themselves but barriers to entry continue to make that less likely, and the top jobs and wealth will stay with a small elite.

            To get back to your idea of everyone owning a stake in the system… i think that by virtue of being a citizen of a country, we already do. Industry flourishes and prospers within the protection of the country, and therefore every citizen should benefit from economic activity. If this benefit isn’t in the form of full employment, then it will have to be provided in another way.

          8. “Because people who work as cashiers are (a) savvy investors, and (b) have money saved up, ready to invest? I’m pretty sure the answer is ‘no’ to both points.”

            I think you are right which is why I would recommend that any inexperienced ( and even an experienced ) investor choose index funds rather than picking individual stocks or other securities. And you are also correct that a cashier at a supermarket probably does not have much in savings that can be invested.

            On the other hand, some cashiers belong to trade unions and trade unions collect dues and have pension funds. So a forward-looking trade union might choose to invest in ways that benefit their displaced members. That’s one possible scenario.

            There may be other ways for the displaced cashier to form a pool of capital with which to buy robots outright, own shares of robots for hire, or invest broadly in the overall market. I’m not saying I absolutely know the answer. All I’m saying is that given this particular problem these are the sorts of things I’d try first.

          9. Hey Ken –

            I think gauranteed basic incomes, though appealing, are political and practical non-starters. First the practical, I doubt that the taxing power of any government can generate enough revenue to fund the idea at anything like the level of income required to lead a decent life. More so when you add in healthcare and education costs. I’ve never seen a reasonably detailed explanation of how this can be set up. There seems to be a general insistence that it can be done by increasing taxation on ‘the rich’ or ‘the 1%’ but I’ve never seen a mathmatically sound proposal for implementation.

            Second the practical, let’s assume there actually is a sound scheme by which we can fund something like a guaranteed basic income. It will require taxation and that requires political action. There is no precedent that I know where a free electorate has voted to make themselves materially less well-off. I suppose there is a largish segment of the electorate at the bottom income percentiles that would be improved materially but, at least in the United States, most of the population already does better than the ‘guaranteed basic income’if we assume the income is sufficient to raise one above the poverty line but not much above that line. In addition, a fairly substantial part of the population — mostly in the middle income percentiles — is philosphically opposed to the idea whatever it’s practical benefits might be (maybe that changes at some point but that point is not now). And keep in mind there is already quite a bit of entitlement spending, such as social security, that already has a politically immovable grasp on the public treasury. Politically it would be difficult to achieve at best.

            I don’t like to count on new discoveries that somehow bail us out of current difficulties which is why I’m not arguing that we will probably discover something we haven’t even imagined yet that will moot this whole conversation. That said, there probably will be new things that change the game in ways we don’t anticipate now. A few of the might be: asteroid mining for minerals, new energy storage schemes, a shift to hydrogen based power, political developments, new products, new industries, and so on. I don’t know, specifically, what those things might be but saying there won’t be any seems just as unlikely as saying they will certainly save us from ourselves.

            Meantime, I keep coming back to the idea that robots are just a proxy for human labor. If the employment prospects for robots look good then it seems reasonable to conclude that owning robots might be a better solution than retraining displaced workers or devising improbable welfare schemes. This is true even if displaced workers simply returned to some sort of agrarian free-hold model of existence. Robots could be employed around the free-hold farm to precisley plant, weed, irrigate, and harvest crops providing for a basic subsistence while the free-holder devotes his/her energies to pursuits more rewarding than menial labor.

      2. Okay you throw 2/3rds of the population out of work – because that is what most work is – menial labor. Even coding isn’t much above that anymore.

        Since there is no work for them anymore – they are now permanent wards of the state. Many will hate robots and rightfully smash them and their creators if given the chance.

        Robots are cute devices as stupid playthings, but when they take your job and everything else – they are the enemy. They will not own them, they will not waste money on such silly devices, instead they’ll wreck them and sell the parts for extra spending money.

        That’s the problem when you live in a antiseptic ivory tower and look down at people as set of cogs to be shaped and altered

        1. Okay but what if — for example — a trade union that clearly saw the writing on the wall made a different choice and spent the dues it collects amassing a pool of robot labor that it could then hire out? What if the revenue that that robot labor pool generates simply serves as a proxy for the actual physical labor of the union members? Wouldn’t that be an improvement for those union members?

          In what way is this view from the ‘antiseptic ivory tower’ looking down on ‘people as a set of cogs to be shaped and altered’?

          1. We’re already shipping jobs overseas, there is nothing that would require a corp to use this union-supported-robot-leasing. They would just buy their own robots in some slum hole part of the world with no regulations.

          2. Maybe but what makes you think robot labor is subject to the same locational pressures from low cost regions as human labor?

            The nice thing about robots is that they don’t have mortgages and their kids don’t need braces. A trade union owned robot labor pool doesn’t need to earn a living wage with each single robot it just needs to earn it as an overall return. It’s possible in such a scenario that the robot-to-human ratio is many-to-one instead of one-to-one.

            In addition, we already have some experience with the geographical trends associated with automation. The United States may be shipping some jobs overseas but many more are simply automated in place. U.S. manufacturing output has never been higher. It’s just we don’t use that much human labor to achieve that output.

            See: Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing by Vaclav Smil

      3. A) I believe you’ve just rederived communism. Workers having shares of the means of production. Not that that is a bad thing per se, but….
        B) Wouldn’t having progressive taxation be simpler? Rather than come up with some scheme to insure that everyone has ownership of machinery, just tax those that do and give the taxes to those that don’t. same outcome, less overhead.

        1. I don’t think progressive taxation will work for several reasons. The government can only tax to a point and after that point behaviors start to change. This often takes the form of tax evasion, migration, or refusal of marginal opportunities. In addition, taxation and redistribution is inefficient and, often, corrupt. Finally, there is only so much money available to be taxed in the first place. In the United States, at least, it is not of sufficiently large size to cover our current government spending much less the introduction of a new plan to compensate displaced workers.

          Communism is a far more comprehensive total theory of life within the state. My idea, in so far as it goes, doesn’t have much in common with communism save for ownership of the means of production bit. Note here that I propose individual ownership rather than state ownership. In communism the state is thought to hold the proxy for the workers.

          Also, I make no assumption that there is any such thing as an immutable class called ‘workers’ as Marx did. Furthermore, the whole idea relies chiefly on the free association of individuals and market and financial structures that are alien to communism. But yes, in the end, I think if robot labor is in demand then owning robot labor is probably a good plan.

          1. The biggest flaw in your plan of owning robots is that if ownership of robots for hire is at all profitable, then it will be done almost exclusively by corporations that have the means to maintain, update and manage robot ‘fleets’ far more efficiently (and the political leverage to tilt the regulatory environment their way), and the investment opportunity for the average person won’t be any better or safer than in the current economic climate.

            Getting back to the idea of a basic personal income… besides being the foundation of the better future for humanity that our parents and their leaders promised us (I’ve given up on having a jetpack), it’s an idea that more economists have come to acknowledge as the most efficient way to provide for all the population, in the face of a permanantly reduced demand for labour. A base income is much more efficient and cost-effective than the current patchwork of social / medical aid and supplement programs in the US.

            Ask the GOP, they already think (incorrectly) that only 47% of the population are carrying the rest. :-)

          2. Hi Ken-

            I suppose some companies would have an advantage and maybe even a preference for maintaining their own robot fleets. The counter-evidence to that would be the obvious preference that many companies have for outsourcing or offshoring certain types of labor. Meaning, a company properly focused in its products and profitability ought not care who owns the robots so long as the robots come at the right price.

            That said, it may require more organizational and logistical acumen than, say, a displaced assembler might possess to launch such an enterprise. Here is were groups like trade unions would come in, I suppose. They do have the organizational and logistical abilities to manage and hire out those robot fleets. Or, at least, they could if they chose to.

            But this is just the comments section of a Hackaday blog, so this isn’t anything close to a complete plan and is basically just me musing about what sorts of things might be possible. I think you are right that there are difficulties and I certainly don’t expect any of this to just work right way. Mass displacement of workers seems like a fairly intractable problem and I think the usual economic prescriptions (retraining, raise taxes, cut taxes, more regulations, less regulations, etc) aren’t up to the challenge.

            In addition, as governments become more resource constrained I think they will be hard-pressed to carry out their existing functions and meet their existing entitlement obligations never mind introducing new ones. So in that sense, we may be truly on our own and ought to be looking at community structures that can enact something akin to the ideas I’m speculating about. Labor unions are the most obvious ones, of course, but we might also see the revival of mutual aid societies like the Grange that form or re-form to do what government cannot.

            You seem very fond of the guaranteed basic income idea and I’ll admit it’s a pleasant idea. There are several practical objections to it that I outlined elsewhere but I really think the greatest obstacle is to it is math. The U.S. government cannot meet its current obligations without borrowing and none of its entitlement programs is fiscally and actuarially sound. Meantime, there is effectively zero political will to deal with that problem much less wind it down and subsequently ramp up a new entitlement plan. But waving all that aside, there simply isn’t enough money to found, taxed, collected, and redistributed.

            Lastly, I think another area that ought to be explored is how to keep the enabling technologies for robots free and open-source. The more locked down robots become by restrictive licensing and intellectual property law the harder it will be for these pools of robot labor to be retained by individuals and used in the manner I’ve describe above and elsewhere.

    3. “The argument that “we won’t automate ourselves into extinction” assumes some top-down decision making that doesn’t really exist.”

      The “free market” will do nothing to protect the job market – in fact its bias is to minimize those employed for as long as the product doesn’t become undesirable because of it.

      Long term I can only think of solutions involving forcing companys to cap working hours per-person to ensure more people are employed overall. The more someone is paid (per hour) the tighter the cap on the hours they are allowed to work.
      I am sure there’s a million exceptions and problems with that idea, of course. But some method to “spread out” labour needs to be come up with, rather then the current blind assumption that jobs will always match the populations need for them.

      1. “Long term I can only think of solutions involving forcing companys to cap working hours per-person to ensure more people are employed overall. ”

        That worked out very poorly for U.S. merchant mariners and longshoreman.

          1. Probably the two most complete books on the topic are:

            The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson


            The Abandoned Ocean: A History of United States Maritime Policy by Andrew Gibson

            You can find them at your favorite online book retailer or possibly a library.

          2. @Jason

            You are welcome. Enjoy! ‘The Box’ is in particular is a fascinating read but there is a fair bit of overlap between the two books. For a more readable look into the job-sharing schemes of the seafarer’s unions I’d also recommend ‘Looking for a Ship’ by John McPhee. That one may be out-of-print but it’s a quick read and a really interesting look into the life of a merchant seaman.

            One last recommendation if you are interested in any of the above: ‘Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing’ by Vaclav Smil.

      2. “Long term I can only think of solutions involving forcing companys to cap working hours per-person to ensure more people are employed overall. The more someone is paid (per hour) the tighter the cap on the hours they are allowed to work.”

        That reminds me of two different scenarios…

        1. The Ray Bradbury movie, The Illustrated Man, veldt segment.
        The husband/father is forced to work only 6 months a year because of international law that allows less developed peoples to “catch up”.

        2. My high school Economics teacher (this was during the 1970’s) told of a local dentist who volutarily restricted his income to 6 months a year, because more than that put him into a 50% + tax bracket and he’d make less per year.

        1. I hope your high school Economics teacher then explained how tax brackets actually work, and that the 50%+ tax bracket only applied to the income earned over the threshold, so the dentist couldn’t possibly make less as a result of taxes if he had worked more. The dentist’s return per unit of labor when working past six months does go down, but that’s just a lower rate of returns instead of making less.

    1. It is offering them to its human boss, to make him go away so the robot can get some work done.

      “The factory of the future will have two employees, a man and a dog. It will be the man’s job to feed the dog, and the dog’s job to keep the man from pushing any of the buttons.”

  6. Self checkout lanes are ridiculous. I don’t work a 12 hour shift to go to Walmart and play cashier. Help the economy, bite the bullet and hire a person.

    That said, my wife is very anti-social and prefers them to a cashier, just so she doesn’t have to deal with a person.

    I work in a production environment with Fanuc robots. They have a LONG way to go before they will replace a human. I spend more time correcting robot issues than any other issue. Of course half of that is poor planning on the engineering teams part and poor programming on IT’s…..

    1. “my wife is very anti-social and prefers them to a cashier”

      Where I’m from it’s the cashier’s who are anti-social. The more self-checkout, the better, IMHO.

  7. Robots wont replace everything but will replace increasingly more jobs. And thats robots in a broad sense – not just physical.
    Merely “more and more” is already bad news for our current economic structures.
    Economic forces encourage not “less labor spread out more” but rather “the same labor, done by fewer and everyone else out of work”.

    We are a crazy species that has set up a system were efficiency increases pay of disproportionately to benefit fewer and fewer people rather then the population as a whole. In any sensible system “less jobs” should be seen as a great thing, not a bad thing.

    I’m not saying theres any easy answers, but I think on the whole people are either blind to the problem – or blame the inventions themselves rather the the economic structures at play.

  8. It’s a tragedy of commons situation. The labor pool and consumer base in most industries are one and the same. In other words if no one has a job, no one can afford to buy groceries. But it’s always in the interest of any one given company to automate it’s registers and save on labor costs to get ahead of the competition. even though once everyone does it there goes your customer base.

    One solution would be to limit ownership of robots and other labor automation machines to individuals and heavily regulate how they are hired out. That way if a company wants to use a check out register they must hire it from a person who gets that income. The person is then free to go about and do whatever they like with their time. The machine is working on their behalf. This is closer to the vision of how computers and robots would free us up so we didn’t have to work than the version where we are all thrown aside and living in poverty. Of course company owners who have all the political and economic power will never allow this even though it’s in their best interest because they’re busy trying to gain advantage over everyone else.

  9. That Baxter robot is an absolute joke. A basic thirty second industrial engineering calculation proves that you could pay someone minimum wage for cheaper than that robot when considering how slow it is. In order to generate the speed and precision needed to displace humans, you need considerably more engineering, not to mention machine guarding which easily quadruples the installed cost….

    1. Are you sure about that?
      a baxter robot costs 25000 (not buying in bulk), which is about 1.6 times minimum annual wage.
      except robots can work 24 hours a day
      7 days a week
      that 25k also includes a one year warranty
      Sure, there will be maintenance costs, but no health insurance, problems with employee motivation, or really any need for middle management.
      Electricity is peanuts
      and one guard (payed the aforementioned minimum wage) could easily manage an area of 100 robots
      Obviously baxter isnt perfect. But humans aren’t either, and you can’t improve humans with firmware updates.

        1. How to rob a robot guarded facility:

          Make pain noises
          ID badge that has 1-5% viewing angle.
          Screaming “please don’t hurt me”
          As slow, slow, SLOW as possible pull the ID badge out.
          Continue making pain noises as other bots will be dropping from catwalks.
          As various scans are made on your person for metal or large packages,
          Hopefully the other members of your team quietly arrive in time.

          Hopefully to remove/Taser/emp bot guards.
          However squad/controller humans haven’t arrived yet.

          Best move fast one’s extraction would be less then 2 minutes.

          If you can’t create IR and UV hologram decoys one would be F’d in the A.

  10. I think the part that most people miss in Humans Needs Not Apply are the 2 economic lessons that are not shocking and the author showed were more important.

    1. The part to fear was not new technology, but when last years technology became really cheap and can be combined with others to eliminate whole industries,so causing a net reduction in employment.

    It was interesting they showed the IPhone, which killed most of the low end camera, basic phone (Nokia), video camera markets, plus hit PCs, TV, books, etc. So the new technology while creating some jobs serious killed many other industries with significantly more jobs, so a net loss.

    2. It’s not about all jobs being eliminated, but a lot at one time with no easy alternative causing serious economic problems.

    I work in automotive, 11 years ago DARPA had the first grand challenge for self driving cars and it was hilarious and super expensive… Now cars can drive coast to coast, for a modest increase in price 10k per…. in 5 years it will be a standard feature. Also this year the first self driving big rig came out.

    The big point was as driving jobs with humans ( one of the biggest employment sectors) are removed for multiple cost and safety reasons, millions will be unemployed and it will happen quickly. This large scale jolt to the economy will be bad because as the author pointed out it will pull a large amount of consumers off the market which is the largest part of the US economy.

    So the world will not end and the sky will not fall, it will just cause major economic and political issues that if we were smart should try to prepare for at this time. Knowing how the system works I doubt we will do much until we see hyper wage/wealth stratification.

    As people make fun of baxter and the Darpa competition this year, just think back 11 years and cars… No one is laughing now about autonomous cars which are realty. In 10 years no one will be laughing when Baxter 10.0 who can do everything in a factory or the new rescue bot replaces your local EMTs.

    1. Autonomous cars are still a fantasy, as for self driving … those features are just one insurance pay out away from being disabled. The industry can’t even put a car radio in safely.

  11. The self-checkout is a good point. Between vending machines and Self-Checkouts, we have the ability to make life either much more convienent… or much more fustrating. Ever get a snack food item stuck in a vending machine and have to abandon it? Or get two because the previous person abandoned it? Ever go to a self-checkout line and see that every unit is in use, but people are taking like 60 items to the checkout instead of the intended 12 or less?

    Personally I prefer the self-checkout, but it’s so much slower if you try to use it during peak hours. The best time to use it is about 1-2pm when people haven’t come home from their jobs yet. Any time after 4pm to 7pm and the self-checkout is slower than the regular checkout. And some stores make you bag your own groceries, thus slowing all checkouts.

    So how can Robots improve this? Well first of all, do away with UPC codes and have cameras actually able to identify all products visually and by weight. The robots need better dexterity so they don’t crush things like juice boxes and egg cartons. Like for the forseeable future I don’t see a “self-checkout” robot happening. Rather a shift to a “robot” that scans everything on the conveyor belt (and the large items in the basket/buggy) and saves the checkout clerk the tennis-elbow/carpel-tunnel injuries by reducing their job to handling just the items the robot can’t identify.

    In regards to Baxter… I think what will happen is that we will see these kinds of robots replace humans in some job fields where the jobs have been getting more dangerous (think gas stations and convenience stores) and allow the human to lock customers inside if they try to leave without paying.

  12. 50 years ago If the federal minimum wage happens, expect to see seriously renewed interest in such systems, possibly with even fewer humans involved.

    A few years ago I saw a video of a 6 axis robot arm wielding a long spatula, transferring some type of bread or pastry product from one conveyor to another and at the same time flipping it. The robot replaced a human without needing to reconfigure the conveyor system or building a dedicated transfer/flip device that could only do that one task. Less one human that needs a paycheck, breaks and insurance, plus one robot that works 24/7 and only needs some electricity.

    Robots handling delicate stuff? Enter SWITL!

  13. Automation just increases the tension between neo-liberalism and peak everything.

    Per CAPITA consumption can not keep rising indefinitely (peak everything) yet per WORKER productivity can. Rock, meet hard place (the answer is obviously redistributionism, but TPTB have very successfully turned that into a dirty word, even in commie Europe … even in Piketty’s mind for that matter).

  14. AI and robotics are very slowly developing, almost stagnant fields. Even today robots can barely walk in the forest, after decades of research. The main problem for robots long term is the scarcity of energy and rare earth minerals. With todays extremely slow progress, the earth will run short of cheap energy and minerals long before abundant, solid AI is in place.

  15. Redistributionism only works if all countries make it a law… and not even then. Creating more jobs in the private sector is a solution, but not easy. Creating more jobs in private sector and not creating rich entrepreneurs (political suicide in socialist europe) is almost impossible.

    1. We have redistribution in the form of welfare. But there is this great pretence that it’s all a temporary distortion and if we just have give all these low educated labour skills the market will take care of it … it won’t of course and welfare is destructive to social mores.

      We need full employment or society will tear itself apart.

      1. It already is.. Look what happens when (even Americans on American Streets) get together to protest or speak out against something.. Men with assault rifles and clubs in black body armor with storm trooper helmets on, show up and start beating and tear gassing people until they no longer can stand the pain or are shot and killed… Now just imagine millions of people in a crowd, starving, unemployed, thrown out of their houses by bankers who are all still warm and cozy in theirs.. Just picture what that’s going to be like..

  16. Top 10% has no need for 7+ billion people fucking up their planet. So, all this “If large groups of people are unemployed, that means large groups of people are spending as little money as possible to survive, and the economy stagnates.” becomes irrelevant.

    1. And at that point.. there is no reason for the majory of the unemployeed, population to continue to exist. Why not just do away with them and free up the land for what the robot owners want to do with it.

  17. Well.. If you think about it.. We’re all still pretty safe until Police and Military start getting replaced with robots. When the general population gets replaced, and are unemployed and starving and homeless, they will need Police and Military that ill not be sympathetic and will follow orders and shoot on sight when the million+men riots start.. Are flesh and blood police and military going to do that when they know odds are their own family and friends are in that crowd? Doubtful.. Police and military will need to be replaced first.

  18. Firefighters will be a likely and welcome automated humanoid who can actually go right into a fire and even hold up staircases and walls and get people out of a burning building without any risks.

  19. I’ve been advocating to older humans there are jobs that CAN’T be done easily by bots.
    +Electricians (sure a bot can diagnose a faulty wiring system; but can they, crack/drill drywall, remove and replace cable and leave the least amount of mess? Nope)
    +Plumbers (Down into the crawlspaces, looking for leaks, replace bad water lines, augment existing systems to be adaptable and NOT get shorted out while doing it?)
    +Low Voltage Specialists/AKA install/manage/upgrade alarm systems (Humans are EMP proof ergo installation and protection of high end and high value humans would prefer to say “If you don’t do this right I’ll erase your family”)
    +Sanitation Workers in water systems (Human bots can’t swim so it’s up to humans to equip the gear to dive into a cess pool and unclog the system)
    + Surrogate Motherhood (nuff said, Darwin fail, best attribute isn’t speed, stamina, strength, intelligence, wisdom or charisma. It’s Money.)

    -Sex workers/performers (Nope, a quick browse one freeones will show you how big the pool of cheap and glutinous pleasure is for sale, Sasha and Stoya bots coming soon enough.)
    -Artists (Nope, We have the Algo that can ident the most probable top 40, one step forward it bots write the music your passion is as valuable as a liberal art)
    -Camera men / Directors (Nope, If you watched Al1ce, you’d know that again creators have no value)

    F’ it, that are the 3 main things that we in the US are good are exporting.and we can bot them in the next 20 years or les.

    And don’t forget, we can perform “remote surgery telesurgery concept ” in real-time. Your surgeon will be from a 3rd world country with no debt or baggage.

    The upside is that your personal bot can weld/solder/tweak and wire the code for your Pi v3 or Arudino and run all the tests to make what you want just by explaining your concept and let it crunch the idea, scour the net for code and build it for you before you even get out of bed.

    1. -comment poster (the algorithm for most comments is simple and can be done by a 2 minute script, and in fact you have to wonder how much comments do come from such sources).

      1. @Whatnot – I guess the thing that would really mess with people is someone to write a malware running on their own computer to do an auto reply and troll post. Kinda like an anti-“HER”.

        I guess there is an upside. In an effort prevent all of mankind being wiped, bot’s won’t be able to modify or fix themselves.

        So, we could also add
        +On-site Robot Technician

        We are still a couple of generations (maybe 100-200 years?) away from worrying about praising our robot overlords. What will really fuck with people would be the organ replacement then at what point would a human cease to be human. But it will be a while before we drift off into tvtrope land. Praise TechnoCrom!

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