Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Economy: A Welcome To The Robots

I believe that this century will be the century of the robots, maybe even this decade. The other day I spotted one of them, a cute household device called "Roomba" (wikipedia).

It was fun to watch how this autonomous vacuum cleaner navigated through a small shop room without any visible human interference. The cute machine moved swiftly while avoiding contacts with walls and the many objects in the room. The little robot averted being trapped in the corners, didn´t bother the huge toy bear sitting in a corner and didn`t fall out onto the street even when the door was wide open.

Roomba is a typical cybernetic machine. The word cybernetic comes  from the ancient Greek term kybernētēs, meaning "steersman, governor, pilot" (wikipedia). Your air conditioner, for instance, is a typical simple cybernetic system. You might choose a certain temperature, say 68 F (20 Celsius). Then the sensors of the climate system will constantly check the room temperature, compare the target with the actual situation and respond to deflections. If the temperature climbs higher than 68 F the systems responds and starts cooling, if the temperature falls below 68 F, it stops cooling and might even start heating.

The Roomba and other robots work in a similar way. The processors respond to signals from the sensors about objects which have to be avoided.

Today most of the robots are working for industry. They are saving costs, for instance by assembling car parts or lacquering them. Even farmers are using more and more robots, for instance for harvesting strawberries or milking cows (wikipedia). These machines are reducing the costs of producing something significantly, making things cheaper and more affordable. Hence robots are raising the living standard of everybody. The saved costs also translate into rising company profits even in a sluggish economy and in this way are fueling  the rise of the stock market - generating wealth for millions. 

I reckon that we will see many more robots soon as a result of the technological progress. The necessary processors, sensors and memories are getting smaller and cheaper all the time (thanks to Moore`s law) which causes more affordable and better robots. Robots also could be the answer to the problem that a falling birth rate leads to a shrinking percentage of working people (work force) and a rising number of retired people. More and more things will be produced by robots substituting the missing workers and raising the life standard of the world.

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