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Google Robotics

Andy Rubin Is Heading a Secret Robotics Project At Google 162

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the smells-like-the-animatrix dept.
sfcrazy writes "The creator of the most sought after 'Android' of the world has been secretly working on creating a robotics division within Google. The search engine giant has acquired over seven robotics companies recently to create the robotics unit which is being headed by none other than Andy Rubin himself. Andy made the disclosure in an interview given to the New York Times." Their initial goal is to automate the woefully manual process of electronics manufacturing.
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Andy Rubin Is Heading a Secret Robotics Project At Google

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  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @12:35PM (#45596331)

    It's not long. And I don't think people will be ready to cope with the change.
    They haven't thought about what a tool which completely replaces a human and which costs less than a human salary means.

    At least a generation of severe disruption and even after that very likely structural unemployment over 25%. You will need to change society in some fundamental ways. Basic income is one possibility.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Civil unrest begins after unemployment % reaches a threshold. I don't know what the threshold is, but it might be lower than 25% in the US.

      Spain and Greece are around 26%-27% unemployment rate and they have had plenty of riots.

      • by oodaloop (1229816)

        Civil unrest begins after unemployment % reaches a threshold. I don't know what the threshold is,

        So civil unrest may happen at some point. That's about as useful as saying there will be civil unrest unless there won't. Thanks a lot.

      • And displacing electronics manufacturing workers will have what effect on US unemployment, again? As opposed to unemployment in, say, Singapore, China, Malaysia, where electronics manufacturing has moved over the last few decades?

    • by Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @12:55PM (#45596615)

      They haven't thought about what a tool which completely replaces a human and which costs less than a human salary means.

      That tool already exists. It's called "junior IT consultant".

      Of course it's still unable to socialize with humans, but we're working on it.

    • by BreakBad (2955249)

      Every time I read articles like this I think of that movie WALL-E (second time I've posted about it today on /.)

      Seriously, what is our long term goal as humans? It's obvious companies are trying to save money, but what kind of investment is that for the human race? When we reach this robotic utopia what then? At what cost? Can't answer these questions, don't care. Fuck it robots are cool.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by BreakBad (2955249)

        And this..

        Jack Handey : "I wish a robot would get elected President. That way, when he came to town, we could all take a shot at him and not feel too bad."

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        in the late 1800's over 90% of the working population was employed in farming. today it's less than 5%. what happened to all these people? why don't we have 90% unemployment? first manufacturing took up the slack. now its office and leisure jobs

        1800's there was no entertainment or leisure industry except for traveling musicians. today we have a huge entertainment industry along with a vacation and leisure industry. money doesn't vanish, it gets invested in new businesses

        • I think you mean the late 1700's. In 1800 90% of US population were farmers. By 1900 farm popultion was under 40%.

          And while I agree with you point, I will acknowledge that transformation can be a bitch for those who undergo it. And I would argue for faster, not slower, transformation.

        • by terryk29 (2756467)

          This is not meant as a dig at the entertainment, artistic, or leisure industries; but is it possible that these economic activities, being arguably optional to our basic maintenance, have up til now depended on a significant economy engaged in more "necessary" activities, like food and manufacturing, with "disposable" income available to spend on the "optional" stuff? Sure, a fair amount of crap food and idiotic manufactured goods can be regarded as unnecessary, but is there a distinction here? For exampl

          • IANAEconomist either, but it's not too hard. If all your basic needs are being met cheaply, and you have money left over, then you spend it on other things. You hire a hairdresser to cut your hair. You hire a gardener to mow your lawn, painter to paint your house. You spend more money on entertainment and tourism ("spring break" holidays didn't exist as a thing for most people, not so long ago.).

            And more things like those get invented, so long as there is enough demand for them. There are new industries th

            • Actually, what the rich folks do in many places is tear down the previous owner's mansion because the bathroom decor is out of style and then rebuild it from the ground up. So add construction work to your list.

            • Lol...

              "You hire a gardener to mow your lawn, painter to paint your house"... both of which will be done by robots within the next 20 years-- better, faster, and cheaper than by humans.

              I agree on the concentration being a short to mid term issue. It's less significant when all but the rare stuff (beachfront property- genuine rare art/memorabilia- prime ski resort property) becomes inexpensive. For example- non-rare food (i.e. not including Kobe Beef) is going to become increasingly inexpensive going forwa

        • by Cigarra (652458)
          What makes you think humans can forever "move on" to more complex tasks once machines start doing their job? Farming and manufacturing is one thing, but what if computers completely replace white collar work? What if the displaced workforce don't find anything else to do, not in one nor in three generations? What will we have them? A 1% owning elite and a 99% pariah caste?
      • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @01:46PM (#45597319)

        Seriously, what is our long term goal as humans?

        Oh, I don't know -- maybe not having to spend half our waking hours, for over half our lives, doing something that we'd rather not be doing, except that we'll be homeless and starving otherwise?

        Sure, there are some of us lucky enough to get paid for doing what we'd choose to do anyway. There are even a lot of us who would make terribly unwise choices about what to do with our time if we didn't have to work for a living. But if we have a grand refactoring that separates "earning a living" from "having a career", I'm not sure it's necessarily a catastrophe.

        • by HiThere (15173)

          Who's going to pay you to do what you want? Well, some people will be able to manage. Some artists. A few programmers (perhaps). But most people couldn't FIND anyone to pay them to do what they want to do. If they could, they'd be doing something else.

          Additionally, while there are some people who really like to garden, they *wouldn't* like to work on a modern farm. And they don't want to do it full time. Analogize this out... I WANT to program computers. But not all the time. And I want to work on

    • by benlad (1368001)
      A "tool which completely replaces a human" would mean we wouldn't *need* jobs. Structural unemployment of 100%! You sound quite negative, but I think it sounds like a utopia.
      • You'd have to restructure the economy, because when nobody has jobs, then nobody has money with which to buy things.
        • by Dr Max (1696200)

          Wrong. You have a few people with all the money; that they can give back and forth to eachother and come up with whatever value they want. All while using their robot armies to do whatever they feel like.

      • Not so much. I think the concept is marvey (I retired at 51 and I've loved it. Tho a bit much minecraft perhaps.)

        It's the way our capitalist, "workers are good- unemployed is bad. rich is good- not rich is bad." is going to handle the transition.

        Capitalism is based on exchanging your time for their time at varying exchange rates.

        What do you do when your time is of no value to anyone?

    • It's not long. And I don't think people will be ready to cope with the change.
      They haven't thought about what a tool which completely replaces a human and which costs less than a human salary means.

      Didn't we have the same problem when those newfangled automated spinning and weaving machines replaced handwork? Or is the singularity just around the corner? I guess it must be, since it's always been just around the corner.

      Ok, maybe I'm being overly sarcastic, but this does seem like a "sky is falling" issue. I don't think we know what will happen. Predictions are hard to make - especially about the future.

      • by Catbeller (118204) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @01:39PM (#45597235) Homepage

        The sky did fall. The protestors of the 1800's were correct. The people displaced by technology in the 1800s fell into poverty and early death, and England, for instance, was home to immense poverty and despair. We don't want to remember, which is not the same thing as not-happened. We choose to remember the happy industrialist and middle-class lifestyles which came from impoverishing the workers, not the majority of miserable people they created by re-distributing the wealth from the majority of the working people to their own class.

        thing to remember is that the people who were protesting their replacement by machines weren't really asking for history to be rolled back - they wanted to be *cut in on the profits* created by removing them from the books. They wanted some income redistribution. They lost. Since they didn't run university history courses, as industrialists did, they have been expunged from our collective memory and rendered into silly people who didn't want to stop making horse collars by hand.

        The price of all this will be misery, violence, hunger and early death for hundreds of millions of people, eventually, if history repeats. Looks like "yes". And no one will want to take notice, other than intense coverage of the violence in the "bad" neighborhoods.

        • by scamper_22 (1073470) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @02:51PM (#45598197)

          While I agree, I think you overstate what they wanted.

          People aren't that complicated. They aren't really interested in getting a cut of the profits. They aren't particularly interested in income distribution.

          What people want is to be OK. It really doesn't get any simpler than that. And people who used to be OK and then were suddenly not OK being displaced by a machine... are going to protest.

          And there's nothing wrong with that. I find the language we have to use today absolutely silly. As if you need to have a moral reason to just want to be OK. We feel the need to demonize profits and say its only fair workers get a cut of the profits. And what about the person who ever had a good job to begin with? And they suddenly not deserving of the cut of profits?

          Let's be honest about it. People want to be OK.
          And when you have something disruptive, the society had better make sure there are ways to be OK.

          Maybe it's income redistribution.
          Maybe it's government creating jobs for people.
          Maybe it's getting out of government so the cost of living goes down.
          Maybe it's organizing work sharing programs so more the actual work is spread out.
          Maybe it's training people for new work. ...

          Whatever it is... but people just want to be OK... and that's a good enough moral reason to do something. You don't need anything else beyond that. You are a person and you want to live a comfortable life.

        • by WhatHump (951645)

          Combine this with the impact of climate change on the global food supply, and I fear we are heading into a very dark period. I fear for the world my children will have to live in.

          • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Age_Ahead [wikipedia.org]
            "Dark Age Ahead is a 2004 book by Jane Jacobs describing what she sees as the decay of five key "pillars" in North America: community and family, higher education, science and technology, taxes and government responsive to citizen's needs, and self-policing by the learned professions.[1]:p24
            She argues that this decay threatens to create a dark age unless the trends are reversed. Jacobs characterizes a dark age as a "mass amnesia" where even the memory of what was l

        • This is the first time I or anyone else on the planet Earth heard the Luddites described as "just wanting an angle". They were uneducated people opposed to Progress - you know, the kind that today we call Progressives. Out with the old, in with the new! Fuck conservatives and Luddites alike - after all, Luddites are just extreme conservatives.
          • by HiThere (15173)

            Nope. If it's the first time you heard, it's because you weren't paying attention.

            Mind you, they didn't really have an organized program, and different self-appointed(?) spokesmen said different things. But what they all wanted is that they continue to have a livlihood. Most of them would have been happy to have been retrained into machine operators and repairment...but they weren't given that option (and realistically, there weren't enough openings in those jobs).

            Please note that this happened at about

          • by pnutjam (523990)
            Not sure if your a troll, woefully ignorant (maybe because of your age?), or just a happy consumer of lies. Figure it out and let me know, thanks!
        • by miroku000 (2791465) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @06:12PM (#45601787)

          The sky did fall. The protestors of the 1800's were correct. The people displaced by technology in the 1800s fell into poverty and early death, and England, for instance, was home to immense poverty and despair.

          Do you have any sources for that claim? From wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_unemployment [wikipedia.org] "The Luddite events of 1811 were the beginning of humankind's analysis of whether it is possible for technological unemployment to be other than temporary and confined to particular industries and firms. Contrary to the Luddites' fears, technological advancement did not ruin Britain's economy or systemically lower standards of living throughout the following decades of the 19th century. In fact, during the 19th and 20th centuries, the opposite happened, as technology helped Britain to become much less impoverished than before. For this reason, some economists think that the general Luddite premise is fundamentally flawed, and thus they apply the term Luddite fallacy to it."

          • by HiThere (15173)

            The economic wellfare of a country is not the same as the economic welfare of the people who are poor (or used to be poor, but are now dead). So Britain benefiting economically from the events neither proves nor implies that the Luddites were wrong in their fears. I would like particular sources that it did not "systematically lower standards of living", as that is not what I believe to be true. If you mean that it didn't lower the mean standard of living...well, that's what you expect if you take the lo

            • I would like particular sources that it did not "systematically lower standards of living"

              See here. [econlib.org]. Even the pessimists think that there was only a very slight decline in the standard of living in the earlier stages of the industrial revolution, while the optimists think there was a moderate increase. Even more telling is the following from that source:

              The standard-of-living debate today is not about whether the industrial revolution made people better off, but about when. The pessimists claim no marked improvement in standards of living until the 1840s or 1850s. Most optimists, by contrast, believe that living standards were rising by the 1810s or 1820s, or even earlier.

              In other words, the disagreements between economic historians cover only a small range. No one believes that those evil machines turned the average Briton from a happy prosperous person into a poverty stricken wretch. They'd been poverty stricke

              • by HiThere (15173)

                I've now read that article, and to me it implies NOTHING about the lives of factory workers prior to, at minimum 1790, and more plausibly 1800. That's plenty of time to kill off a generation of people who used to have a source of income.

                Also it talks largely in terms of averages. When the low extreme is 0 already, the mean is highly sensitive to outliers in the higher extreme, and relatively not much affected by an increase in the number of people moving to the lower extreme. Now they COULD have meant me

        • The sky did fall. The protestors of the 1800's were correct. The people displaced by technology in the 1800s fell into poverty and early death, and England, for instance, was home to immense poverty and despair.

          You're repeating a common myth about the First Industrial Revolution. Here is a description [econlib.org] of the actual changes in standard of living of most Britons (bottom 65%) during that era. There is some debate, but even the pessimists talk about only a very small decline in standard of living. There is much evidence for the optimists view that there was a modest increase. No economic historian thinks that there was the sort of dramatic decline you describe.

    • by xtal (49134) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @01:26PM (#45597051) Homepage

      It's called a guaranteed minimum income.

      The writing is on the wall, and creative endeavors that humans enjoy will dominate more of society. Isn't that what we all want? To do what we want?

      The concept is from the right, it's been around for a long time, and it's a fairly straightforward implementation. If a society is rich enough that the production costs approach zero, then ..

      Of course, it smells a lot like the dreaded socialism monster. Or worse.. red pink communism!

      There's no rocket science here. It will happen eventually, as the poor people get to vote. Either with ballots, or otherwise.

      • I like to think positively about it, like you do but recent trends seem to show voting rights as fickle and easily removed, while more violent solutions face the reality of militarized drones.

        If one characterizes the "war on terror" as an intercontinental class struggle(and I'm not saying that's the most informative characterization, just a useful one), another, far less pleasant, possible future appears.

      • by HiThere (15173)

        I think the negative income tax is a better approach. If done properly, at every step the more you earn, the more you keep, so you don't get into the perverse incentives of the current system. (I.e., you don't want special privileges to be a part of the tax law. Income is all the money you take in, no matter what it's source. No loopholes. KISS.)

        Lamentably, I think the chance of this happening is very small. Perhaps a guaranteed minimum income has a better chance.

        • I think the negative income tax is a better approach. ... Lamentably, I think the chance of this happening is very small.

          Lament no more - we already have it. It's called the Earned Income Tax Credit. Perhaps we should expand it, but we do already have it. It was actually the brain child of Milton Friedman, and was promoted by the right wing as superior to welfare (a sentiment you apparently agree with).

          • by HiThere (15173)

            That's not the same thing at all. I'm not even sure that it's related.

            The negative income tax could be implemented by having the tax be a simple:
            tax = income * rate + intercept

            By adjusting the intercept so that the tax is negative whenever the income is below some value. The relationship of this to the "Earned Income Tax Credit" is not obvious. Do note that this is not a special bonus to low income workers, or some other subset of citizens.

        • by Wildclaw (15718)

          Yup. Too many people confuse minimum income with basic income/negative income tax.The latter two are what economists generally recommend because of incentives and easy of management.

          Basic income and negative income tax are nearly economically equivalent (with different tax scales). But basic income is probably the better solution of the two. The problem with the negative income tax is that taxing happens on a yearly basis, while income works better on a monthly basis (and even that is overestimating the jud

          • by HiThere (15173)

            The implementation is clearly more straightforwards, and the argument about the distribution being monthly rather than yearly is good. I do, however, find that it feels more like a kludge. (OTOH, given the current tax law, that's not much of an argument.)

    • by Catbeller (118204) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @01:30PM (#45597087) Homepage

      More prisons, more Randism, more upper class loathing of the "lazy", less food assistance, less of any financial assistance, removal of affordable housing, drastic anti-loitering laws, and finally really nasty anti-rioting weapons and roundup tactics against agitators.

      I'm not describing the dystopic future - I'm describing the reaction right now. And the anti-poor crackdown will only intensify. The riots will be christened "terrorism" and all those lovely laws we've created since 2001 will finally find their real use.

      • Those laws already found their use. What's more problematic is all the weapons and tactics that have been devised as a means of prosecuting a guerrilla war from the evil empire side.

    • by invid (163714)

      Give everyone a robot. That robot can go earn a living for them.

      Disclaimer: this is a joke. Please don't tell me how this is not practical.

    • Basic income is one way.
      Work Sharing is another.

      I personally favor work sharing because there's going to be a very long period where human work will need to be done.
      You won't motivate people to do work if you're handing out enough money for people to do nothing and live a decent life.

      Sure, we can all imagine doing interesting or fulfilling work for free or when other people are getting free money. Maybe a university professor, family doctor, researcher...

      But would you want to be a doctor working the midnigh

    • "very likely structural unemployment over 25%"? Currently what is the percent of manufacturing employees? With robotics, it will tend to approach Zero. We may be seeing a raise in hiring for Think Tanks?
      • I think we are already past the saturation point for eduation.

        People spend more on education but are seeing smaller returns.

        Get a degree and you may end up $90k in unforgivable debt and also no job.

        When my generation was graduating, a degree was a sure thing.

    • It's not long. And I don't think people will be ready to cope with the change. They haven't thought about what a tool which completely replaces a human and which costs less than a human salary means.

      You mean like computers? One computer can do the math that it used to take large groups of manual labor to accomplish. So, now we have tech industry that employs far more people than the ones it replaced. And railroads put a lot of wagon drivers out of work. And yet, I'm sure the shipping industry spends billions of dollars per year. Historically speaking, replacing human labor with something more efficient has happened quite a lot.

      Should we dig ditches using tea spoons? Because after all, using a s

      • Yes, but not in the way you are thinking.

        Computers are replacing (not augmenting) humans in huge numbers very rapidly over the last 10 years. At my last company, they were laying off thousands through automation and planned to eliminate roughly 35,000 jobs over the next decade (reducing the multi billion dollar company from 75,000 staff to 40,000 very rapidly).

        Robotics just cuts out people who have an IQ of 100 or less and depended on being able to see and manipulate things with their hands getting them wo

  • Secret? (Score:4, Funny)

    by scuzzlebutt (517123) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @12:38PM (#45596383)
    I guess it's not so secret anymore...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Electronics manufacturing uses tons of robotics and has for quite some time. I assume that was meant to be assembly? But even that isn't accurate either.

  • That is why the project manager made the disclosure to NYT. That is how you keep things secret. If you really want people to know about it, he would have tweeted it.
  • by waspleg (316038) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @12:48PM (#45596521) Journal

    have an allergy to anything that resembles socialism even if that's what they really want and don't know it (speaking as an American here). I just read an article somewhere yesterday that both Applebees and Chili's restaurant chains are replacing all of their waiters with a tablet based systems.

    When there is no work for anyone left and we're all under total 24/7/365 surveillance then what? I can't have Amazon delivering packages to my non-existent residence since robots took our jobs ;) (I'm in IT but it's not like we're immune; no one is).

    • by waspleg (316038) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @01:02PM (#45596691) Journal

      (arguably it was never really successful. I'll reference Bill Hicks for that)

              "Now I'm no bleeding heart, okay? But, when you're walking
              down the streets of New York City and you're stepping over
              a guy on the sidewalk who, I don't know, might be dead...
              does it ever occur to you to think 'Wow, maybe our system
              doesn't work?' Does that thought ever bubble up out of you?"

      • So this will be an improvement: we'll have robots to cart the dead people off the streets, so we won't have to step over them.

        The first mistake is assuming that we have "a system", something designed from the ground up or at least tweaked by people with a complete and accurate picture of the situation. Not even communist China or the USSR had that. Secondly, many of our attempts to fix "the system" have failed spectacularly, and not because of ill will or sabotage from those with vested interests.
        • we'll have robots to cart the dead people off the streets

          But what if they're getting better? What happens if they want to go for a walk?

      • by swillden (191260)

        (arguably it was never really successful. I'll reference Bill Hicks for that)

        "Now I'm no bleeding heart, okay? But, when you're walking down the streets of New York City and you're stepping over a guy on the sidewalk who, I don't know, might be dead... does it ever occur to you to think 'Wow, maybe our system doesn't work?' Does that thought ever bubble up out of you?"

        The guy on the sidewalk will be there regardless of the economic system, because with few exceptions the homeless aren't homeless because of economic reasons. Nearly all of them are where they are because of various forms of mental illness, and the fix for that isn't dumping capitalism, it's reinstating the system of state hospitals to care for the mentally ill, treating them to the degree we know how, and just keeping them reasonably comfortable where we don't. Of course, we need the hospitals to be much,

        • by Garridan (597129)

          With respect to people whose jobs are automated away, IMO the right level of socialism isn't to give them a basic living stipend, but instead to help retrain.

          Okay, you seem fairly aware of the issues surrounding mental health and poverty... but you're missing a fairly crucial piece of the puzzle. A large number of people are working at the limit of their abilities. I have a friend who works in a 'special education' program. She stays in contact with most of her students throughout their lives. Many of her students never advance beyond a 5 year-old mental capacity.

          Many of our janitors, kitchen staff, assembly line workers, etc. are doing as much as they pos

        • Raising children well can take about as much time as most adults can put into it. Our US society is currently suffering for too much parental time put into work and then other distractions. and not enough time spent with kids. The same goes for the effort reuired to maintain social relations with freidns and neighbors. That is historically way most human adults spent most of their time -- raising kids and being social. For reference on a hunter/gatherer lifestyle:
          http://www.primitivism.com/original-affluent [primitivism.com]

      • The problem is you're stepping over the guy without checking to see if he needs help. If you see a guy who looks like he might be dying, why would you not at least look at him? People not helping others is the problem with society, hoping the 'system' will fix it.

        When you have people without compassion, it doesn't matter what kind of system you have, it's not going to work.
    • Or maybe they'll find other ways to make money, like they did since tractors replaced 90% of the people in farmwork? It's not like the robot revolution will happen overnight......

      If you're going to claim that capitalism will fail because machines will replace jobs, they are going to have to explain why this time is different than the last many times machines replaced jobs.......
    • Wow, looking that up, on Applebees and Chili's: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/the-beginning-of-the-end-of-waiters-and-waitresses/ [outsidethebeltway.com]
      http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/12/02/applebees-tablets-table-top-devices-restaurant-technology/3698561/ [usatoday.com]

      I think people overestimate the "human touch" need in service (like mentioned as a reason everything won't be automated in other posts). While it is true humans need other humans to be human, and physical human touch is important, interactions with "stranger

  • I was working in industrial automation in that area 20 years ago. Primarily the circuit board industry, although we did build a custom truck bumper chrome plating line for a company in Oklahoma.

  • I often imagine a crablike or bigdog-like machine that can roam within a perimeter, Roomba style, but outdoors, in possibly poor weather, gathering or flagging anything unnatural, for the purpose of gathering litter from roadsides, around buildings, etc. A beach version would have some sand-sifting capability.

  • by Catbeller (118204) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @01:05PM (#45596717) Homepage

    Woefully for whom? The last few manufacturing jobs in the industry and the people who work them are woeful?

    Where the hell is anyone going to get a job other than cleaning rich people's toilets? Hell, there's probably a robot for that.

    Shantytowns are illegal most everywhere, so people can't even squat in the mud and eat trash in peace when they lose their livelihoods. Should we just suggest 90% of the planet's human population just get it over with and off itself?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Where the hell is anyone going to get a job other than cleaning rich people's toilets? Hell, there's probably a robot for that.

      I hope so. Can we finally get rid of the "people aren't real people unless they work themselves to death" mentality and just accept the fact that you don't need 7 billion people to allow 7 billion people to live comfortably?

    • That's an interesting idea you have there. Since the planet's maximum capability of humans is about 500 million, and we're at 7 billion and growing, what would be your solution? I like your "just get over it" solution. How can we make this work?
      • That's an interesting idea you have there. Since the planet's maximum capability of humans is about 500 million, and we're at 7 billion and growing, what would be your solution? I like your "just get over it" solution. How can we make this work?

        Do you have a source for that claim? Because it seems to contradict the point that we have survived for several thousand years with quite a larger population than 500 million

  • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @01:17PM (#45596911)

    Self-driving cars, now robotics more generally? Maybe this sort of exploration is the right thing to do when you've got so much cash. It sure as hell beats those companies that have stopped investing in R&D, but considering how disparate this stuff is from search engines and whatnot, it does strike me as being a bit of a dilettante.

    • by Traze (1167415)
      I don't think it is an aside from Google's only real business model: Advertising. You get cars with billboards of cheap text books, or robots that have loudspeakers shouting about the great properties of this new diet pill.
    • If it helps getting one of he worlds biggest advertisement firms more frequently into the news, it might be worth it even for no other reason.

  • by imunfair (877689) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @01:25PM (#45597027) Homepage

    I feel like the editorial comment in the summary is woefully inaccurate. I remember reading an article (probably on Slashdot) a year or two ago about the Apple outsourcing - and someone in electronics manufacturing in the US was talking about how they could do it with robots for the same price as China. The speculation was that they decided to go with China instead because they can make design changes (tell workers to do things differently) in a matter of hours - robot assembly lines aren't quite as flexible.

    You also have high level automation in places like the Amazon warehouses, so unless they're just talking about driving down costs I suspect it's far more innovative. Robotic delivery systems to go along with self-driving cars delivering your packages, stuff like that. "manufacturing and logistics markets" has a very broad meaning.

  • by braindrainbahrain (874202) on Wednesday December 04, 2013 @01:30PM (#45597095)

    Exactly what part of electronics manufacturing needs to be automated? The cheap prices and mass production of electronics we currently enjoy is partly due to widespread use of pick-and-place machines [wikipedia.org] and wave soldering machines [wikipedia.org]. I'm sure there are some manual steps in the assembly, but that is only the last 10 - 20% of the labor involved in manufacturing. The bulk of it has been automated for decades.

  • which is the reason that everyone knows about that they have one ...

  • I hope that the automation systems they'll also consider is waste management and disposal. Sure everything can go into an incinerator if you'd like, but disassembling old electronics en-masse would be more suitable than mechanical/chemical separations if we'll still need the eight 9's of purity we want in the next generation of electronics. The ethics of robots harvesting old robots may need to be considered though when robots' rights start coming into play....
  • The first link in the summary to muktware is 90% ads, with a cheesy Photoshopped headline image and a blurb shorter than the Slashdot summary. That link should be removed.

    Even better: Add that site to a blacklist so that Slashdot never links to it again. This is just a blogger trying to make money by getting hits from Slashdot.

  • Now we are proper fucked.

  • Manufacturing jobs are easy to replace. Just watch Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs and you will see there are plenty of jobs left that can't be replaced until robots with human form factor and agility are available. That day will come, but its still decades off.

    It will truly get ugly for the current economy when robots can mine ore, smelt it, run factories that build robots, and assign them tasts.

  • Most of the technology needed to automate electronics manufacturing has been available for years, if not decades. See "The Macintosh Factory" [youtube.com], showing Apple's factory in Fremont over 20 years ago. Robot assembly, mobile robots, very few people doing direct labor. Products were designed for cheap automated assembly. The Macintosh II family was noted for that - everything, including the power supply, was inserted into the case with a simple straight-down move. Everything snapped together. No wiring harnesse

  • Have you not noticed how similar to Android this guy's name is? Our future (and possibly time-travelling) robot overlords are mocking us in plain sight. All Hail Them!

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