Last week Amazon announced it was buying a robot maker called Kiva Systems for $775 million in cash. Before you get excited that Amazon may start offering a robot that can tuck you into bed at night and read Kindle books to you, this is not that kind of robot. Instead, Kiva Systems’ orange robots move around warehouses and stock shelves.
Or, as the company says on its website, using “hundreds of autonomous mobile robots”, Kiva Systems “enables extremely fast cycle times with reduced labour requirements”. In other words, these robots will most likely replace human workers in Amazon’s warehouses.
Michael Kutzer and Christopher Brown, robotics research engineers with the Johns Hopkins University applied physics laboratory, explained that current robots were being designed to work alongside people, not replace them he said, “It is much more likely, for now, that robots will help augment people’s abilities, allowing us to use robots for things humans can’t do.” Even if that changes, he added, “you’ll have to have someone who builds the robots.” It is unlikely that the guy in the Amazon warehouse is going to build robots if he is put out of work.
“Those who lose jobs to robots will have an incentive to acquire skills that are currently beyond the skills of robots — and there are many human skills that will not be surpassed soon by robots,” explained Colin Allen, co-author of the book Moral Machines and a professor of cognitive science at Indiana University.
Edited from Dawn of Amazon’s Robot Squad