Not sure if this is the right category for this, but…
For those of you who are in the Bay/Berkeley, I wanted to share this bit of news about your local delivery robot startup. Maybe you guys know this already…
Why I’m sharing this: the bots aren’t bots at all (by which I mean not “autonomous” or independent in any way) but are actually basically drones, being piloted remotely by users in Colombia.
The Kiwibots do not figure out their own routes. Instead, people in Colombia, the home country of Chavez and his two co-founders, plot “waypoints” for the bots to follow, sending them instructions every five to 10 seconds on where to go.
As with other offshoring arrangements, the labor savings are huge. The Colombia workers, who can each handle up to three robots, make less than $2 an hour, which is above the local minimum wage.
This is a hilarious and evil thing to do: outsource delivery work, already a rough job for low pay, to drones piloted by even lower-paid foreign workers in places possibly with dreadful labor laws (I don’t know anything about labor laws at the current time in Colombia).
This reminds me of this story I read recently about a 1959 cultural exchange between the US and the Soviet Union.
The US used the trip as a chance for spying (about half of the “student ambassadors” were spies working for either the CIA or RAND Corporation) and as an opportunity for capitalist propaganda demos, putting on a display of “the kitchen of the future.”
It was then recycled as futurism for Look magazine in 1959:
She presses a button, and the dishwasher “walks” an electronic track to the dining table. Kitchen also has a robot floor cleaner and automatically adjustable sinks. By pressing buttons, Anne can prepare a complete meal without leaving the kitchen’s control panel.
But the robot floor cleaner, the proto-Roomba, was just an elaborate fake to impress/scare the Communists:
“They had a two-way mirror with a person sitting behind it that could see the room,” former designer Joe Maxwell told me over the phone. “And they radio-controlled the vacuum cleaner and the dishwasher.”
eta: the source and context for the Kiwibot drones was this Twitter thread, arguing that self-driving cars are probably also a grift.