Rodney Brooks: Why we will rely on robots

Well, Arthur C. Clarke, a famous science fiction
writer from the 1950s, said that, “We overestimate
technology in the short term, and we underestimate it in the long term.” And I think that’s some of the fear
that we see about jobs disappearing from artificial
intelligence and robots. That we’re overestimating
the technology in the short term. But I am worried whether we’re going to get
the technology we need in the long term. Because the demographics are really going
to leave us with lots of jobs that need doing and that we, our society, is going to have to be built
on the shoulders of steel of robots in the future. So I’m scared we won’t have enough robots. But fear of losing jobs to technology
has been around for a long time. Back in 1957, there was a Spencer
Tracy, Katharine Hepburn movie. So you know how it ended up, Spencer Tracy brought a computer,
a mainframe computer of 1957, in to help the librarians. The librarians in the company would do
things like answer for the executives, “What are the names of Santa’s reindeer?” And they would look that up. And this mainframe computer was going
to help them with that job. Well of course a mainframe computer
in 1957 wasn’t much use for that job. The librarians were afraid
their jobs were going to disappear. But that’s not what happened in fact. The number of jobs for librarians
increased for a long time after 1957. It wasn’t until the Internet
came into play, the web came into play and search
engines came into play that the need for librarians went down. And I think everyone from 1957
totally underestimated the level of technology we would all carry
around in our hands and in our pockets today. And we can just ask: “What are the names
of Santa’s reindeer?” and be told instantly — or anything else we want to ask. By the way, the wages
for librarians went up faster than the wages for other jobs in the U.S.
over that same time period, because librarians became
partners of computers. Computers became tools, and they got
more tools that they could use and become more effective
during that time. Same thing happened in offices. Back in the old days,
people used spreadsheets. Spreadsheets were spread sheets of paper, and they calculated by hand. But here was an interesting
thing that came along. With the revolution around 1980 of P.C.’s, the spreadsheet programs were
tuned for office workers, not to replace office workers, but it respected office workers
as being capable of being programmers. So office workers became
programmers of spreadsheets. It increased their capabilities. They no longer had to do
the mundane computations, but they could do something much more. Now today, we’re starting
to see robots in our lives. On the left there
is the PackBot from iRobot. When soldiers came across roadside
bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, instead of putting on a bomb suit
and going out and poking with a stick, as they used to do up until about 2002, they now send the robot out. So the robot takes
over the dangerous jobs. On the right are some TUGs from a company
called Aethon in Pittsburgh. These are in hundreds
of hospitals across the U.S. And they take the dirty
sheets down to the laundry. They take the dirty dishes
back to the kitchen. They bring the medicines
up from the pharmacy. And it frees up the nurses
and the nurse’s aides from doing that mundane work of just
mechanically pushing stuff around to spend more time with patients. In fact, robots have become sort
of ubiquitous in our lives in many ways. But I think when it comes to factory
robots, people are sort of afraid, because factory robots
are dangerous to be around. In order to program them, you have to understand
six-dimensional vectors and quaternions. And ordinary people can’t
interact with them. And I think it’s the sort
of technology that’s gone wrong. It’s displaced the worker
from the technology. And I think we really have
to look at technologies that ordinary workers can interact with. And so I want to tell you today about Baxter,
which we’ve been talking about. And Baxter, I see, as a way
— a first wave of robot that ordinary people can interact
with in an industrial setting. So Baxter is up here. This is Chris Harbert
from Rethink Robotics. We’ve got a conveyor there. And if the lighting isn’t too extreme — Ah, ah! There it is. It’s picked
up the object off the conveyor. It’s going to come bring it
over here and put it down. And then it’ll go back,
reach for another object. The interesting thing is Baxter
has some basic common sense. By the way, what’s going on with the eyes? The eyes are on the screen there. The eyes look ahead where
the robot’s going to move. So a person that’s interacting
with the robot understands where it’s going to reach
and isn’t surprised by its motions. Here Chris took the object
out of its hand, and Baxter didn’t go
and try to put it down; it went back and realized
it had to get another one. It’s got a little bit of basic common
sense, goes and picks the objects. And Baxter’s safe to interact with. You wouldn’t want to do this
with a current industrial robot. But with Baxter it doesn’t hurt. It feels the force, understands
that Chris is there and doesn’t push through him and hurt him. But I think the most interesting thing
about Baxter is the user interface. And so Chris is going to come
and grab the other arm now. And when he grabs an arm, it goes
into zero-force gravity-compensated mode and graphics come up on the screen. You can see some icons on the left of the screen
there for what was about its right arm. He’s going to put something in its hand,
he’s going to bring it over here, press a button and let go
of that thing in the hand. And the robot figures out, ah, he must
mean I want to put stuff down. It puts a little icon there. He comes over here, and he gets
the fingers to grasp together, and the robot infers, ah, you
want an object for me to pick up. That puts the green icon there. He’s going to map out an area of where
the robot should pick up the object from. It just moves it around, and the robot
figures out that was an area search. He didn’t have to select that from a menu. And now he’s going to go off and train
the visual appearance of that object while we continue talking. So as we continue here, I want to tell you about what this
is like in factories. These robots we’re shipping every day. They go to factories around the country. This is Mildred. Mildred’s a factory worker in Connecticut. She’s worked on the line
for over 20 years. One hour after she saw her
first industrial robot, she had programmed it to do
some tasks in the factory. She decided she really liked robots. And it was doing the simple repetitive
tasks that she had had to do beforehand. Now she’s got the robot doing it. When we first went out to talk
to people in factories about how we could get robots
to interact with them better, one of the questions we asked them was, “Do you want your children
to work in a factory?” The universal answer was “No, I want
a better job than that for my children.” And as a result of that,
Mildred is very typical of today’s factory workers in the U.S. They’re older, and they’re
getting older and older. There aren’t many young people
coming into factory work. And as their tasks become
more onerous on them, we need to give them tools
that they can collaborate with, so that they can be part of the solution, so that they can continue to work
and we can continue to produce in the U.S. And so our vision is that Mildred
who’s the line worker becomes Mildred the robot trainer. She lifts her game, like the office workers of the 1980s
lifted their game of what they could do. We’re not giving them tools that they have to go
and study for years and years in order to use. They’re tools that they can just learn
how to operate in a few minutes. There’s two great forces
that are both volitional but inevitable. That’s climate change and demographics. Demographics is really
going to change our world. This is the percentage
of adults who are working age. And it’s gone down slightly
over the last 40 years. But over the next 40 years, it’s going
to change dramatically, even in China. The percentage of adults who are working
age drops dramatically. And turned up the other way, the people
who are retirement age goes up very, very fast, as the baby boomers get to retirement age. That means there will be more people
with fewer social security dollars competing for services. But more than that, as we get
older we get more frail and we can’t do all the tasks
we used to do. If we look at the statistics
on the ages of caregivers, before our eyes those caregivers
are getting older and older. That’s happening statistically right now. And as the number of people who are older,
above retirement age and getting older, as they increase, there will be less people
to take care of them. And I think we’re really going
to have to have robots to help us. And I don’t mean robots
in terms of companions. I mean robots doing the things
that we normally do for ourselves but get harder as we get older. Getting the groceries in from the car,
up the stairs, into the kitchen. Or even, as we get very much older, driving our cars to go visit people. And I think robotics gives people a chance
to have dignity as they get older by having control of the robotic solution. So they don’t have to rely on people
that are getting scarcer to help them. And so I really think that we’re
going to be spending more time with robots like Baxter and working with robots like Baxter
in our daily lives. And that we will — Here, Baxter, it’s good. And that we will all come to rely
on robots over the next 40 years as part of our everyday lives. Thanks very much. (Applause)

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100 thoughts on “Rodney Brooks: Why we will rely on robots

  1. exactly, ts a weird thought to think that but as you said in 40 years, probably earlier, this will happen and it will ruin the world. I personally would love to see robot football, but it wont be as good as real football. It should be different in the next few generations of people.

  2. THATS whats coming our way! The robots will take the dull, boring, repetitive jobs and help old or handicapped live their lives more freely.

  3. My school has had robot football for quite a few years now. But the robots are of course not human-like. And no, it won't ever threaten the real deal.

  4. Compare the market of sports today with 400 years ago. It kinda increased a few million percent at least, and science around work out has exploded. I wouldn't worry too much. Acually, it probably won't get any worse than it is today.

  5. I wouldn't worry too much about robots. I would worry about the peoples education levels. There will be more jobs, but you will need another course to make the job.

  6. He who wrote "The 10% solution for a healthy life"? About eating 10% fat will make you healthy?

    I don't doubt you become healthy from eating like he suggests. But you could very well be healthy ignoring all his tips too.

    So I'm sure he is a good futuristic and all, but I'm sure I could ignore him and still live healthy if ya know what i mean. 😉

  7. Again, it amazes me that so many intelligent and informed people don't see this coming… it is like they assume the status quo is the only possible configuration for a society and they doggedly argue for a globally suicidal mind set.

  8. Explain to me what you think the problem is? Is it human nature? Human nature is a lot of things. Money/Market Econs have us solving problems so that the few profit. RBE solves problems because they are problems (no profits to consider). What better way to achieve status then by participating in a problem solving activity. What better way to achieve social status then to learn and contribute? RBE is technological evolution up and away from money. Technology is nature's new evolutionary format.

  9. OK let's simplify. The problem is and always will allocation of resources. You said "Two people argue over how a resource should be used… one needs it to solve a major species level problem, the other needs it for vanity and social status." How exactly do you decide that one is using it for vanity and the other is helping humanity?

  10. Cool, which algorithms exactly? Yeah, that's what I thought.

    There are a million different things that could be wrong with the machine to be fixed – how would it identify what is wrong? Once the problem is identified, it needs to intelligently formulate an approach to fixing it. A robot mechanic would hence need comparable observational and logic skills to humans. A robot that builds another robot is comparatively easy, it's one set of fixed instructions, no intelligence required.

  11. Even given the ability to self-assess every conceivable problem (which is not possible), you're still trivialising the problem hugely. What about problems with the self-assessment sensors/modules? Will the mechanic robot be able to completely disassemble all other types of robots? How will these robots create an efficient ouroboros? We still can't even 3D-print circuit boards and lots of different components yet. Human repairmen/mechanics will not be replaced for a long, long time.

  12. no worries. in 15 years, the world will look different than today.
    in house robots are around the corner.

  13. Lololol you have a nice idea there. Too bad it doesn't work in the real world. In the real world, if businesses can pay you what every they wanted, 95% of the job market would be so shit you could barely live off of it. And the other 5% of the job market are the people in charge of you making all the money.

  14. It will mainly be used to show us humans how superior the robots are to us so that we will claim no rights. The time is jet not here – when they show this skills but in the end they will when there is no retreat any more (robots as smart as me). Like 100 humans against WATSON in JEPARDY – Watson wins. In the end they are not looking for money they want power over us – and as long as they have powe they will have all that they need.

  15. Well imagine the superbowle winning team against some humanoid robots each year gets beaten 46-3 and the numbers increasing.

  16. Or a couple of hundreds of small flying robots that hide and charge during the daytime and then starts fires during the nighttime. And off course they have sensors so if someone approach them they fly away. It would probably be a lot of damage before they where caught, hope they do not learn how to print themself in a 3D-printer before.

  17. We are chemical based beings – robots will be electrical and even further maybe quantum state So they will be a lot superior to us in intellect and eventually even physically superior. So stop the development of them right now when we still can.

  18. But if they were (40 years from now, doubling in capacity each year) do you still think they will be no real deal. I suppose you are not that old right now so you will still be trying to find work then. It is more your future than main that are on stake here.

  19. In my nation something like 1/15 of the population is without work. I cant see what good the robots will do to them unemployed.

  20. while they're at it, they can also clean up some of the human trash around. it'll help alleviate the recent epidemic of people claiming a fictitious, innate 'right' to a job, income and comfortable lifestyle, expecting an already over-burdened govn't to be the sponsors.

  21. if the majority of the world earns $1 a day, they wouldn't be able to afford a lot of the products their employers are selling. Not everything will be picture perfect, but a genuinely 'free' economy can work – things tend to balance themselves out. the down side is that there will be occasional brutal periods when the market is adjusting to new equilibriums – occurrences whose prevention is a central reason govn't policy/intervention exists. pro's and con's exist for any paradigm

  22. Take a look at the TED talk called "Robots Will Steal Your Job, but That's OK": youtuve . com / watch?v=kYIfeZcXA9U

  23. It is not ok that Robots steal my job. As long as it is powerty in the world, they want us to think that we are safe, and that there is a new better future. But it is not. Of course robots will have some great benefits fore the future. But we are not talking about the kind of robots we will have in 15 years but the ones that will come after that in like 40 years. Moores law states they will be as powerful as the ones we have today. We are chemical they might be quantum state!

  24. They wil not clean up the trash, they will clean up the humans. I find future robots realy scary. I am not talking about my vacumcleaning robot (Roomba) it is broke now after many years of use and was realy stupid, it could vacumclean but nothing more. But the ones that will come in 40 years, scares the shit out of me.

  25. Yes very good.
    I agree it would at least be a solution untill they are so smart so they take over.
    But I vote for that we stop when we crated that society, and start now when it is to late it is to late.

  26. Robot are going to have to get a lot smarter before they ever take care of the elderly. I don't think they'll be able to differentiate between valid requests and rather odd requests by dementia patients.

  27. and man robot trainer? haha what a joke even artificial intelligence won't need any training because it will be programmed to teach itself…

  28. It eventually will happen. more automated robotics will likely to take all factory jobs and constructions or any other labor fields from us, Its efficient in money and faster production value.. We likely have to change the entire society and monetary system when automated drone's doing our jobs..

  29. This is just my opinion, I don't think this guy is very smart. I think his idea are very naïve, or he is simply lying. If a company buys robotics its to SAVE money. You really don't need to think any further to understand where we are headed..

  30. You never know, companies might not complain so much about being taxed for social security payments if they realise their taxes come back to them:
    quoteinvestigator. com/tag/henry-ford-ii/

    Well, I can dream at least can't I 😛

  31. Underestimate in long term? Back in the 50s they thought we would have robots cleaning our houses. I dont think so.

  32. Well we have got Robots cleaning our houses in form of Robotic vacuum cleaners and floor cleaners. It's just that their shape and functionality is bit different than originally they thought of. But nevertheless they are smaller than originally imagined and they do their job very well.

  33. all current human jobs, perhaps, but they then create different ones, someone has to maintain them for one thing, program them, produce them. Robots have no capability for creativity so anything that involves that involves thinking out the box or designing something will have to be done by humans. I know that's a short list and yes probably quite a few people are going to be made redundant but with the right training I'd like to think future generations will still have work…

  34. This guy seems fairly short-sighted. I agree that humans will most likely work with robots in the near future, but only for a small window of time. Eventually they will become 100x more efficient and cheaper than the average worker and the need for a human "co-worker" will be a thing of the past.

  35. It shows very clearly that the Westerners don't think of the other human beings on the planet as part of mankind. When so many of them are crammed into much less space and without hope for a good job, couldn't they think that it might be appropriate to let them come over to their surplus land space and do the work that younger people could do as they themselves grew older? No, they would much rather depend upon robots and keep the wealth gap perennially.

  36. The argument you presented will probably work in the short term, I was thinking more along the lines of 40 years from now. Since I am 26 that's probably (hopefully) a future I get to see. I expect to see advanced A.I. by then, maybe even more advanced than humans, and in that case that just changes the game altogether. The current system we have now will break down, the only thing worth anything would be information and materials, maybe future A.I. will solve the problem it itself creates.

  37. I suppose, I'm just not sure we'll be able to emulate the human brain even within 75 or so years from now…I mean obviously we can't even imagine what kind of thing is going to be around in that time, it just seems unlikely to me.
    Also systems tend to right themselves over time, it's not as if the technology is going to come in without the time for us to adapt to it, and I would think people will find things to do or a complete overhaul in the system will take place at some point. who knows eh?

  38. I think you might be surprised, we might be shockingly close to human brain like A.I. within 25 years. Even if this never happens though, specific A.I. solutions will keep displacing jobs in that specific category, and these systems will become more prevalent over time and that will have huge impact on jobs. All human jobs will most likely never be eliminated, but it's impossible for a future where 80% of the population lives off the 20% that work, the numbers say that's where we are headed.

  39. You're probably right, unfortunately, a little wishful thinking on my part perhaps. Though as I say systems tend to right themselves over time…I don't know how it'll happen but it has to or everything will fall to pieces, as you pointed out. I hope it turns out well though because if you are right I'll be alive to go through it all!

  40. Google resource based economy, the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project. End of money as a result of this.

  41. I don't know if I should laugh at you or be concerned with your lack of critical thought. RBE is no where near close yet. Where is tyhe evidence? Point me to the physical and not a book written by a futurist. Show me the evidence!!!

  42. You must be young. If I am wrong, do you remember the days when you had to go to the library to get books out, then go to the picture developers to pick up last months photos, then go all the way home to make a phone call. Well now we live in the era where all of this can be done from anywhere and brought directly to you. Wait until the whole process is automated by machines and AI. AI indistinguishable from our own… with all our capabilities and more. See the trend yet? There's your evidence.

  43. I'm no Luddite, but what happens when the Robots are capable of building themselves? That isn't a far-fetched notion. Sure, you'll need a programmer to set the robot in motion, but you wouldn't need an assembly line of workers.

  44. I think any job that can be automated should be automated. One step closer to a resource based economy. Abolish the monetary system altogether.

  45. I agree. I believe it's inevitable that the future will be a completely technological society/world, perhaps something similar to the movie WALL-E and that will result in a resource-based economy. There is also the Ray Kurzweil possibility, that humans will merge with the technology and become cyborgs.

  46. id like a future in which alongside what he talked about here, the technologies of exoskeletons and such has been advanced to a point where its like the iphone or something, everytone has some form of easy to use [extra strength/ect]
    kind of like the best of both sides of the conflict in deus ex: human revolution

  47. Free-time isn't what most people need in the current socio-political environment. People want to work for money they desperately need. The profit created by robots isn't beneficial to most people. The situation is that people are being replaced by robots because these people can only perform simple tasks. Building a robot requires at the very least a technical education and preferably some college to understand robotics. A lot of work that will remain will require proper education.

  48. Well, think it is very difficult to predict but I think people's job would be less physical rather people's new era jobs' would be more into IT and design, just going back in recent history to examine industrial revolution and process development all the way through automations and technology. I belong to an era when ATARI was cutting edge game console 🙂

  49. It positively surprises me that so many people in the comments are already advocating for a resource based economy. Maybe there is some hope left for humanity.

  50. Everyone who uses a computer is technically a programmer. If everyone is appreciating the power of these device, then the interaction of human-robots will be easier because of #Baxter.


  51. the same 'social problem'  it is not the technology…where there is a need and profit there will be the technology first. the lady 'training' the robot will now face maybe over seeing more than one….so where's the other 3 or 4 'ladies' that used to work beside her…they are gone from the work place because it is physically NOT a threat doesn't mean no lost jobs. just like detroit's auto workers that were replaced by the 'unfriendly' robots…dude so what if it's physically 'friendly' those other workers are still gone…so it's not a solution…the solution is local ..local energy..local industry…local farming..local building…local…local….we have examples of local remedies for energy shortages….there is no longer a place for large industrial complex society…not if we are to survive as a species. not if we are going to change the direction of global destruction.

  52. electricity turned out to be not just the downfall of mankind but of the many tons of co were produced to make these things?   another straw on the planets back.

  53. @ Charlie Hutch and people of the same mindset. I work in a factory. We can't find people willing to do some jobs. The company I work for has been trying to add more people for almost 2 years. People arent interested in doing some jobs. Our management brought in 2 Baxters and it is great! We are being trained how to set them up, we are learning to think of ways to expand the use of the Baxters.
    If you watch the whole video we NEED to find ways to do more with less people, there are going to be less people producing! A decline of more than 30% in the available workforce in the next 25 years needs to be addressed now.

  54. so how many different types of robots will be made with different commands?? i would say integrating a robotic machine into a system suppose a car would be much better than having a whole seperate robot who would walk and take you to uf car, what say?

  55. factory robots are the main cause of the decreased life expectancy of Caucasian non college graduates ages 24 to 70 in U.S.A. . So, now, ' Death made in the U.S. ' will be our greatest glory.

  56. Why can't robots replace us? I am very tired of seeing the most advanced technology only lead to MORE work for humans and less down time for leisure. When can we regain our lives?????

  57. This guy wants to make robots seem fun. . . . The United States of Rothschild already has robots that can use sonic weapons against U.S. citizens and against which guns are therefore useless, because humans can't withstand sonic weapons. Of course, the Rothschilds are already engaged in chemical warfare against U.S. citizens, using drone (robotic) military planes that spray chemtrails (nanoparticles of aluminum, barium, strontium, and more), and these are actually worldwide. Thanks, robotic technology.

  58. I work with robots every day. I use an automated postal scale, sure it's a pretty dumb little robot, only good at weighing things and telling me if it's not level, but it's a robot where the old balance-beam scales I remember still seeing in post offices in the 90s are not.

    I take a lot of photos and since I don't want to do all that myself I use my camera on automatic mode so it focuses the lens and chooses the shutter speed and even diddles around with things like color balance, and lets me know if I need to keep extra still for some shots. That's a robot. Not like my dad's camera I used to use in high school which was entirely mechanical and I did everything myself.

    If we're going to have people out of work due to robots, then that's where something like a universal basic income needs to be brought in.

  59. It's not that I don't like robots. Honestly, robots are my favorite thing in Scifi, but I can't really trust one that well.

  60. This entire TED talk gets something wrong.
    People (99% of humanity) are retarded. If you get rid of the mundane mechanical challenges, which is all these morons are good for, then they'll be useless. They HATE intellect.
    Religious idiots, anyone? They're all anti-science. They get in the way of the 1% that are interested in science. Dark ages, hellooo?

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