Friday, April 14, 2006

America's Answer to Immigration?

This may sound somewhat like a rant, but I must comment on UPI article from the Washington Times written by Shihoko Goto.

Called "Robots answer to immigration?" the article asks the question, "Could robotic technology be part of the solution to the immigration conundrum that is facing the nation?"

The article says that after all, "From gadgets that will sweep and mop floors to robots that will look after people, hi-tech products may well help buyers circumvent the headache of trying to find affordable and reliable domestic help that do not require government papers or tax filings, not to mention sick days and time off."
""We provide peace of mind," said Martin Spencer, chief executive of Atlanta-based GeckoSystems, which specializes in making domestic-use robots, most notably its Carebots."

The Gecko Carebots are your basic mobile telepresence robots with built in appointment reminder. Two-way video and audio, PC functionality, probably plays DVD's for the kids, etc. At US $20,000 it is no bargain. It does get points because it looks like Rosie from the Jetsons, though.

The premise of the article is that a root cause of immigration is rich Americans needing someone to mop their floors. Therefore if you fill that need with robots the immigration problem will go away.

Any human should feel deeply insulted by the suggestion that any human, immigrant or otherwise, could be replaced with one of these high-dollar rolling cell phones.

This is an example of what I call technomorphism. Technomorphism is applying a technological solution to a problem that is could or should be solved with humanity.

My point: You cannot solve migration issues with robots!
Immigrants are people - moms and dads, children, families, lives - they cannot be replaced with robots.
Even if every home in America is fully automated there will still be people who will come here for the opportunity and a dream for a better life for them and their descendents. They do not come here to clean floors.

This article is also an example of the kind of ridiculous claims (or the suggestion of ridiculous claims) that can lead to hype and expectations that can never be met. The truth is, robots are robots. They will probably create many more social problems than they will solve.

United Press International�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper


Blogger Ivan said...

I would say a more annoying statement is the "immigrants do jobs Americans won't". It's just not true, and a very big red herring.

This blog has a good post on it:
"The Reddest of Red Herrings"

The comparison is made to justifying tax breaks because you save paper. It that is the biggest reason to be for something, the opponents have a pretty easy time being against it.

Either way, I've seen countless examples of people that drastically underestimate the skill involved in "low-skill labor". You try making a vision/robotic system that can pick up a glass on a table!

9:39 AM, April 17, 2006  

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