A South Korean company has 100 robots roaming around its offices looking for things to do, according to this article in the Financial Times.

The gizmos look like garbage cans on wheels and are limited to making deliveries. The prospect of an electrified box greeting reluctant office workers at the office door doesn’t sound promising to me. I’m willing to bet that the global market for them will be small.

The puff piece is really about the country’s desire to outsource a variety of IT services, with references to the office experiment and reliance on robots in factories as a proof point for its greater goal.

The article claims that the country’s low birth rate has prompted its adoption of robots, which leads to the intriguing silly thought that more procreation might slow the onslaught of automation in our lives.

But that’s a topic for another essay.

It turns out that the country’s biggest internet provider has 600,000 servers cranking away in Sejong City creating virtual models that mimic machines and entire cities and then test and plan functions in the real world. They also operate those office robots remotely, along with others that handle delivery functions at its facility.

So, those office robots are about as aware of their surroundings as rodents or healthy plants.Their brains are in those servers which are then fed by the cloud, where data is shared, collected, and constantly improved.

This is what the South Korean propaganda is selling.

It’s nothing unique, per se, as Microsoft along with Google and just about every other technology adjacent company are spending zillions to make zillions more moving intelligence into gizmos and clouds. The idea is to replace all those bad, imperfect, or otherwise useless things people do with their sloppy consciousness with the choreographed clarity and perfection of calculations made by smart systems.

The problem is that nobody is asking for it.

There’s a massive and distributed propaganda effort underway to change that fact, and the story about office robots contains both elements: First, it talks about clunky, nonthreatening robots popping up in everyday settings. A version of these stories follows all the innocent tomfoolery coming from generative AI helping employees write faster emails and kids cheat on their homework.

Look, robots aren’t scary, they’re silly and fun!

Second, it talks about how aggressively AI makers are marketing the labor and therefore cost-savings of swapping human workers for machines, many of the latter amounting to nothing more than invisible code running on those distant servers. Businesses have invested heavily in the promise of excising jobs from their ledgers next year.

Don’t look, but robots are money-makers!

Add all of the blather about self-aware AI deciding one day to destroy humanity and you get a potent cocktail of distraction and reinvention that is existentially relevant right now.

There’ll be more robots popping up in places so we can deride them, just as employers will more aggressively cut staff because AI will do those jobs. Investors will celebrate their returns as their neighbors look for ways to pay their bills. Government and academic types will hold thoughtful conferences and issue detailed papers and polices that will barely question or slow the process underway.

The fix is in.

Happy New Year.

Recommended Posts

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *