Cities will automate first. We should prepare now

Olympics Autonomous Driving

Three robotic arms move brushes languidly across canvases as the glass eyes of cameras gaze ahead. The robots are painting a still life—lit with a tarnished black standing lamp—of a stuffed fox, a bird perched on a branch, a skull in the center, and a seashell to the side.

This summer in Paris, it is not only the clutch of international travelers filling the museums, but robotic visitors as well. The Grande Palais is hosting an exhibit called “Artistes and Robots” that features works created via artificial intelligence and robotic hosts. Elsewhere, AI-produced art is growing increasingly indistinguishable from the “real thing.” Since 2016, teams of programmers have competed in an annual RobotArt competition (here are this year’s finalists), and robot-made art will go on sale at the Seattle Art Fair this summer, alongside works that came solely from human hands.

This partnership between human and machine is what lies ahead as automation tools permeate our lives at a quickening pace. As many worry about the potential for robots to steal our jobs (or lead a violent overthrow of society), the reality may be more nuanced: They may end up being something more like creative collaborators, much like these robotic artists on display.

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A.I. killed 800,000 jobs in the U.K., but created 3.5 million new ones

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First Amazon announced plans to fully automate its new brick and mortar store with robots. Then we learned that Foxconn plans to automate 30 percent of its factory workforce by 2018. And recently, Wendy’s announced plans to add automated kiosks at more than 1,000 stores. One thing is clear — robots are changing the way we live and work.

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Robot lawn mowers are a thing now

From smart TVs to a modular sofa that can be controlled by an app, home tech isn’t just something for the future, it’s in our homes now. New technologies aim to make our lives easier, safer, and—sometimes—a little bit cooler. It was only a matter of time before innovators tackled the next great frontier of irritating domestic chores: the yard.

Cordless electric robot mowers are like a Roomba for your yard, traveling around the grass with a set of sharp spinning blades. They run automatically on whatever schedule you’d like, day or night, and the clippings are left on the grass as extra fertilizer.

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The rise of the online courtroom

The digital revolution has not escaped the courts. The courtroom of tomorrow may no longer involve litigants and their lawyers pitching up armed with reams of papers to do battle before robed, bewigged judges. In fact, for many it may not involve a court at all. Judges could be replaced by computers and the courtroom with the internet to meet the needs of the 21st-century litigants.

Last month Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Liz Truss unveiled the Prisons and Courts Bill. Aside from wide-ranging plans to reform prisons, the Bill contained proposals to enable people and businesses with claims worth up to £25,000 to use an online digital process instead of going to court.

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Marijuana ‘trimmigrants’ have the hardest job in the industry ― and they could soon be upstaged by robots

Every summer, tens of thousands of migrant workers swarm a remote area of Northern California — the marijuana-growing capital of the US — to find work as “trimmers” after the weed has been harvested.

Their job is to prune the fluffy, green buds with small pairs of scissors to clear them of leaves before they wind up on dispensary shelves or in dealers’ pockets.

The work is arduous and pays between $100 and $300 a day for 10 to 15 hours of labor on the black market, which generated 87% of pot sales in North America in 2016.

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The first self-driving car will debut in three years, but will you want to buy one?

Right now, you can head over to a local Volvo dealership and test drive a 2017 Volvo S90. With the push of a button, drivers can watch the car take over steering to stay within a lane, slow itself down in rush-hour traffic and accelerate — up to 80 mph — on the highway. It’s the first Volvo to include the second-generation Pilot Assist as a standard feature.

But, even equipped with radar and a 360-degree camera that can distinguish humans from deer, bicyclists and other cars, the $47,000 S90 sedan is not an autonomous vehicle. A driver must be in the seat and frequently touch the steering wheel. Otherwise, the car slows down.

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Robots won’t just take our jobs – they’ll make the rich even richer

Should robots pay taxes?

It may sound strange, but a number of prominent people have been asking this question lately. As fears about the impact of automation grow, calls for a “robot tax” are gaining momentum. Earlier this month, the European parliament considered one for the EU. Benoît Hamon, the French Socialist party presidential candidate who is often described as his country’s Bernie Sanders, has put a robot tax in his platform. Even Bill Gates recently endorsed the idea.

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Robots and drones: Coming soon to a construction site near you

Advancements in the robotics field are helping to transform a number of industries, construction being one of them. Companies that build things can expect to see a host of new machines that perform a variety of tasks — adding efficiency to construction projects as well as reducing injuries to human workers.

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Sewbo is getting closer to disrupting the sweatshop

Jon Zornow, the founder of Sewbo, made waves in September after announcing that he had built the first robot to sew a t-shirt without human intervention. Using a robot arm and an automatic sewing machine, Zornow took some carefully prepared material and ran it through a pre-programmed series of moves.

It worked. Out popped a t-shirt.

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The Perfection Quandary

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Futurist Thomas Frey:  I often wake up in the middle of the night with a big idea, something I’ve dubbed the grand epiphany. But as it turns out, very few actually fit into the “grand” category.

Whenever they do, big ideas carries with them a heavy responsibility, the responsibility of either moving them forward or allowing them to die in the silent echo chambers of our own grey matter.

For this reason, I’ve often equated my eureka moments to that of being tortured by my own ideas. Yes, grand ideas are a wonderful playground where you can dream about starting a new company, solving some of the world’s biggest problems, and constructing visions of wealth and influence, all in the time it takes most people to get ready for work.

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