Amazon says there's nothing for us to fear from its robots, or AWS to fear from Azure

Australian Financial Review

Tye Brady, the chief technologist at Amazon Robotics, is in Australia this week as executives from the tech behemoth combine forces with its cloud computing arm Amazon Web Services for the first time to present at its annual Sydney Summit.

The company’s robotics arm is targeted towards finding advancements in robots to work alongside human workers in its order fulfilment centres, and is therefore at the forefront of the ongoing debate about the impact of automation on the future of work and society.

Brady says he believes the development of robotics can be compared to the sophistication of computers in the 1960s, describing the field as being like the first innings of a baseball game. He asserts that responsible development means robots will become our indispensable allies, rather than our usurpers or enemies.

Early days

Amazon has had its robotics division since it bought Kiva Systems for $730 million in 2012. It specialises in storage and retrieval robots, and the company had provided its robots to a number of retail chains including Gap, Walgreens and Office Depot before Amazon acquired it and made it solely operate in its own warehouses.

“I view our robotics as extending human capability in a way that allows us more efficiency, the automation that we add really doesn’t eliminate jobs, it just makes the jobs at our fulfilment centres more efficient and redirects employees to more sophisticated tasks,” Brady says.

“We want humans and machines working collaboratively, together, to achieve a greater task. More efficiency leads to more productivity, and more productivity leads to more jobs, and the evidence that we have is very compelling.”

We want humans and machines working collaboratively, together, to achieve a greater task. More efficiency leads to more productivity, and more productivity leads to more jobs, and the evidence that we have is very compelling

Brady says the fact Amazon has added almost 300,000 jobs since the acquisition of Kiva systems in 2012 is an indication of what happens when employment is needed to meet the increase in productivity ushered in by robotics.

He says Hollywood has helped fan fears about devastating future impacts of robotics and artificial intelligence, which did not represent the reality within the research and development work being conducted at Amazon, and said humanity needed to “reframe its relationship with machines”.

View the full article at the Australian Financial Review

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