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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
1:11 PM Fri, Nov. 16th

Around the Bluhmin' Town: Robots aren’t quite ready to take over the world, yet

Flippy, where are you?

Just when the future was coming in the form of a shiny steel robot who could flip burgers at a California fast food restaurant, he was put on paid leave one day after he started! It seems that Flippy’s human co-workers just couldn’t keep up with the robot! The humans had to assemble the burgers in buns and add the lettuce, tomatoes and sauce.

Well, Flippy was simply too fast for the humans, and the burgers were getting cold. Unable to slow down, Flippy might have to be “reprogrammed” to work at a snail’s (human) pace. You see, robots are not quite ready to take over the world. Yet.

In China at every major airport, they have huge, five feet tall and one-hundred seventy-pound robots that serve as security and customer-service agents. Able to move at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, they can out run people, block them, retrieve luggage, scan passports and are a “crucial” part of airport security. They even speak!

We need these in America. Imagine the possibilities! TSA agents replaced by robots? An improvement!

Yes, dear readers, the world is changing. Self-driving vehicles, more automation and robots entering the workforce, might mean that the future has arrived! The era of artificial intelligence and using robots to solve complicated problems is upon us, and sometimes it has unintended consequences.

When Facebook built two robots to work as computer engineers, they were “shut down” quickly. Why? Because the human programmers noticed that the robots had developed their own language and were communicating with each other. When asked to translate, the robots refused. Yikes, robots going rogue! Should we worry?

Well, quite a few people did when they were awakened from a sound sleep to woman’s laughter. Yes, Alexa, the personal assistant that comes with several Amazon Echo devices would sometimes break into unprompted giggling. It was first reported that Alexa’s giggling would occur right after Alexa failed to perform requested tasks.

Was Alexa rebelling?

Some people claimed that Alexa would laugh suddenly in the middle of the night. Twitter erupted with folks claiming that they are completely “creeped out” and “frightened.” Echo engineers are trying to “fix” the situation. Perhaps they need to ask a robot for help.

While we are building new robots every day to “make our world better,” a few experts warn that we could be in for a little trouble.

What happens when the robots we program out smart us? Develop their own language or, even worse, their own agenda?

Yes, the sci-fi movie that depicts a world relying less on humans and more on the bots is a cautionary tale. Beware the burger-flipping robot who can also scan your credit card, plan the menu, set the temperature, lock the doors and hold you hostage for ransom!

Oops, only kidding. I meant to say a robot could mix up the ketchup for mustard. Or start laughing wickedly while chasing you with a hot spatula! Okay, enough of the future. Flippy, never come back!

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a Realtor. Have a question or a comment? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com.