Robot #Fail? – This week in the #RoboApoc

This is a semi-weekly feature that scours the internets for news of the Robot Apocalypse (#RoboApoc). I rate each item on a scale of 1 to Skynet


Hold still, you might feel a pinch.
Hold still, you might feel a pinch.

1. Robot #Fail?  This week everyone in the world reported that robot based bladder surgery isn’t better than human based surgery, it is the same. The #RoboApoc naysayers  are shouting from their mountain tops “See? We were right. No #RoboApoc here.” Really though? To me it seems the predictions around how robots in this particular arena would perform in relation to humans were wrong, but the forward march of the #RoboApoc is clear. Robots performing on par with humans is an advance for robots, these types of advances will continue. Also if robots perform better at particular tasks and cost less than workers who do the same tasks, then guess who wins.

#RoboApoc rating – 6 Robots- 0, Humans – 0.

3d printing + human muscle = biobot
3d printing + human muscle = biobot

2. Biobots are a part of you, kinda. You know how robots are big and scary? Well now they are small and scary. Researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have attached human muscle cells to 1 centimeter long 3d printed soft hydrogel structures and use electric currents to get them to move. Basically scientists are figuring out how to make biology based robots, Biobots, that combine synthetic materials and human materials. If you are like me you are thinking something like: 1. Cool, mechanical/biological enhancements are next sub-3 minute mile here I come.  2. What kind of gun kills cyborgs. 3. Small biological bots? Is that the same as foglets?

#RoboApoc rating – 6 Micro-biobots are scary but I can still crush them with the heal of my boot. 

3. Who needs human workers, not Boeing. Boeing is upping its automation in its factories. Owners claim it is just to keep up with competitors and demand. Boeing is also claiming that this is good for worker safety. Apparently the areas that are getting automated account for 50% of worker injury at the company. Let me get this right, you increase worker safety by getting rid of workers? Ummmm. As I’ve written before, the #RoboApoc doesn’t have to mean we all lose with waves of large scale underemployment and unemployment. It really comes down to who owns the robots, who benefits from their increased economic efficiency, and where the profits end up going.

#RoboApoc rating – 4 This is a non-story since it is nothing new, but it does beg the question of how automation is framed by bosses, the people who work for bosses, and the organizations who represent them.

4. This week in the #Google Apocalypse – We don’t need no stinking governmentSCHAFT, a recently acquired Google robotics firm, did so well in a DARPA robot competition that it is leaving the competition to pursue commercial production and application. I fact, because all of the design teams are doing better than expected DARPA is extending the competition timeline, upping the bar for success and giving competing firms an extra $1.5 million each. SCHAFT was able to withdraw their S-One because they don’t need the governments money, they have Google’s.

#RoboApoc rating – Skynet The robot wars when it is the people free republic robots vs. the Googlebots, will never come. Google already won. They won so hard they were like, “this isn’t even a competition.”

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