March 13, 2024

The Advent of the Robot Age

In science fiction movies, TV series, and cartoons, robots are ubiquitous. Despite our familiarity with the concept of robots, they remain “the most familiar strangers” and have yet to become a major part of our daily lives.

Nevertheless, I believe that the era in which humans and robots coexist and collaborate may arrive sooner than we think.

As science and technology evolve, the obstacles that once kept us from building robots are now little more than technical and engineering challenges waiting to be overcome. In the early stages of their development, robots tended to be bulky and were prone to falling. However, as Tesla’s latest humanoid robot Optimus proves, today’s robots display remarkable agility and can perform actions such as picking up eggs, folding clothes, and doing yoga. Optimus can even handle power tools and screws to assemble other robots. Meanwhile, the American company Apptronik replaced the hydraulic system in their Apollo robot with electric motors, making it safer for human interaction without sacrificing its dexterity.

Furthermore, the rapid development of AI has continued to strengthen robots’ abilities to adapt and perform tasks in unstructured environments. In the past, robots were limited to performing highly precise and repetitive tasks in structured environments such as factories and laboratories; but with the help of AI, even general-purpose robots can handle complex actions, increasing the potential for human-robot collaboration.

I think the most important factor driving this vision forward lies in the cost of robot construction, which has decreased significantly.

At last year’s Boston Marathon, police officers patrolled alongside robot dogs developed by Boston Dynamics to maintain public order and safety. Though, these robot dogs come with a hefty price tag of up to $75,000 each, making widespread adoption economically unfeasible for the foreseeable future. However, things are different in China, where relatively low-cost supply chains allow companies such as Unitree and Xiaomi to price robot dogs at just $1,600 each.

Additional factors influencing the widespread adoption of such technologies include government policies, the pace of technological development, and the speed of adoption by businesses. Often, low manufacturing costs sufficiently address this latter concern.

Throughout history, there have been moments when humans have needed to rethink their values and purpose. I believe that the advent of the robot age is one of these moments. Perhaps it’s time for us to “Rethink Everything!”

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