Archive for the ‘Robots’ Category

Public Debate: AI/Robots and Our Future

Posted: October 1, 2017 by keasp1 in AI, Ethics, Events, Robots

The aim of this public debate is to foster a broad and inclusive discussion which informs our understanding of the dynamics and consequences of the rise of AI and Robotics and how to govern its impact on humanity and our world.

Time/Date: 7:00 -8:30 pm, October 19, 2017 @ Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Room BAC 241.

Panel Members: Paul Abela, Acadia University; Teresa Heffernan, Saint Mary’s University; Stan Matwin, Dalhousie University; Danny Silver, Acadia University.

Moderator: Ian Wilks, Acadia University

Format:
A policy debate format will be used. Members of the Pro and Con teams will center their presentations on the following topics:
• AI/Robots and the impact on civil society (jobs and economic sustainability, governance)
• AI/Robots and our conception of what it is to be human (transhumanism, mortality, dominance/subservience/equality with the machine?)
• AI/Robots and our safety and security (social, political and military notions of responsibility and authority: where does the buck stop?)
• AI/Robots and human flourishing (privacy, a literate culture, an open and vibrant democracy)

For more information see: Panel Debate: AI/Robots and our Future

 

By Teresa Heffernan

The tagline at the 2017 Robot Exhibit at the Science Museum in London reads “the 500-year quest to make machines human.” The show has attracted a great deal of media attention—The Guardian’s review announced: “Science Museum’s robotic delights hold a mirror to human society” while The Telegraph preview reads “A truly mind-bending array of humanoid imagery ” and the Londonist insists “You HAVE TO SEE Robots At The Science Museum.”[i] But the reviews by the public, who paid the 15 GBP entrance fee, have been less than enthusiastic—with lots of grumbling about all the robots that were static and inactive. This is a typical complaint on TripAdvisor: “We stood in front of the robot thespian, looking like idiots as we assumed he could engage with us and asked him questions. In fact, he just jiggles about a bit and repeats random speeches. A tape recorder and an electric motor attached to a shop mannequin could easily create a similar effect.”[ii]  So what accounts for this discrepancy in the reviews?

Thespian robot 2

Thespian robot

The expectation that robots be life-like and interactive has been fueled by fiction and film.  Carefully curated and edited, the video clips in the media reviews, complete with soundtracks, promise an evocative spectacle: the robots seem to perform autonomously as if they exist in a state of constant life-like motion. But this digital magic jars with the actual experience of attending the show, which exposes all the limits of machines–from expensive energy costs to bugs to programming glitches to mechanical problems to wires—the robots suffer the same issues that plague most modern technology, leaving its audiences underwhelmed.

Bleeding Jesus 3

Bleeding Jesus

The first rooms of the exhibit are dark but get progressively lighter as you move through the show till you get to the lab-like lighting of the present, suggesting the progress from mysticism to science. This story of robots begins in the sixteenth-century and its fascination with mechanical clocks and anatomical models and continues through the industrial revolution with its factory machines and ends with the current industry of social robots.  “Marvel, Obey, Dream, Build, Imagine” the exhibit instructs its viewers.  The religious age with its “magical” screaming Satan and bleeding Jesus automatons commissioned by the Catholic Church to inspire awe and deference amongst its followers eventually gives way to the modern age with Kodomoroid and Pepper, social robots that vow to transform our lives and become our partners.

Model based on 1920 play 5

Model based on 1920 play

But have we really always been dreaming about “recreating ourselves as machines” as the exhibit suggests?  The term robot was first applied to artificial people in Karel Čapek’s 1920 play R.U.R. and was derived from the Slavic term robota (forced laborer) that referred to peasants enslaved under the feudal system in 19th century Europe; the term was used in the play to discuss the mechanization of humans under factory capitalism.  Robots were born in fiction but the anachronistic use of the term in this show begs the question about why begin with machines as opposed to other fantastical scenes of creating life:  Prometheus’s modeling of man from clay or God’s creation of Eve from a rib or Pygmalion’s female statue that is brought to life by a wish? I am always suspicious of linear historical timelines that suggest the inevitability of the current market for robots.

Then again, narrating robots as originating in the context of priests, power, showmanship and magic makes sense given the contemporary business of AI and robotics, with its promises of miracles. Perhaps it is better to understand robotics and AI as the direct legacy of religion given the captains of these industries and their claims of god-like powers. When asked about the future of AI, Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google, who heads a team developing machine intelligence and who insists we will all live forever, announced in IEEE Spectrum’s June 2017 issue: “I believe computers will match and then quickly exceed human capabilities in the areas where humans are still superior today by 2029.”[iii]  I suspect visitors to the robot show will rightly remain skeptical of this claim.

[i] See: “Science Museum’s robotic delights hold a mirror to human society“; “A truly mind-bending array of humanoid imagery – Robots, Science Museum“; “You HAVE TO SEE Robots At The Science Museum.”

[ii] See reviews on TripAdvisor: “Just A Review of the Robots Exhibition

[iii]  “Human-Level AI Is Right Around the Corner—or Hundreds of Years Away

Dependency diagram (Geek Sublime, pg 111)

By Ellen MacIntosh*

During his presentation at the Cyborg Futures Workshop (March 31-April 1st, 2017), author Vikram Chandra called attention to an issue previously overlooked during the conference: the presence of bugs and ambiguity in computer code. Other speakers expressed concern over the potential repercussions of using inexact language when speaking about artificial intelligence, particularly in terms of society’s tendency to anthropomorphize robots. Chandra spoke about the effects of ambiguity in more practical terms though, drawing attention to the fact that computer code is a form of communication that is especially susceptible to indeterminate language. Capitalizing on his interest in both art, which he showed benefits from vagueness, and science, which works to minimize uncertainty, Chandra explored the dualistic nature of the ambiguous by turning to Sanskrit theorists, who attempted to curtail ambiguity while still recognizing beauty in it.

Vikram Chandra

Chandra spoke first of what he called a programmer’s “dream,” a complete clarity of language, allowing perfect communication between man and machine. This is, as Chandra showed, currently impossible, and failures of this dream spawn both computer errors and the message that programmers dread: “an exception has occurred.” But why should communication between man and machine be more difficult than the already challenging task of conversing with other humans? Even between people, words may have multiple meanings and different words can mean the same thing. Context matters, as does setting. Terms can be used literally or figuratively. In essence, coding is a type of formal language, an intermediary between human language and the zeros and ones through which computers operate. The translation is more susceptible to misunderstanding than human to human communication though. As Chandra succinctly explained, computers are dumb. Sentences that are easily understood by people, such as, “Mary ate the salad with spinach from California for lunch on Tuesday” give a computer a multitude of possible meanings. Without the ability to understand context, figurative language, and other idiosyncrasies of human language, the usual pitfalls of communication only increase when we try to speak to a machine.

PANINI (India – commemorative stamp)

Ancient Indian scholars recognized the danger involved in misunderstood words. Sacred texts were considered the “code of the universe,” and misinterpretation of these codes could have dire consequences, providing incentive to clarify language. In 500 BCE, a man named Panini created the world’s first generative grammar. Its rules, which were applied sequentially, acted like an algorithm. With an infinite number of possible words, the language was precise, yet flexible, formal and unchanging. It appeared perfectly unambiguous. Ambiguities still managed to exist though. Chandra used the sentence, “the sun has set” as his example.  Such a simple sentence seems straightforward, but if spoken from a king to his commanding officer, it could mean that the time has come to launch their attack. If said by a girl waiting for her lover, it could insinuate that the day is done and she still awaits his return. Therefore, while a sentence’s expressed meaning might be obvious, semantics and the power of suggestion can impart uncertainty on the clearest phrases. To counter this ambiguity, scholars developed what Chandra called a “low-level Sanskrit,” a method of writing that specified a precondition, a present state, and the exact means of proceeding from one to the other, similar to the practice of modern coding languages.

While Sanskrit speakers tried to clarify their language, they also recognized beauty in ambiguity through the aforementioned “suggested meaning.” The writing produced through their precise language was exact but dull, resulting in an effort being made to identify what made poetry beautiful. Some Indian scholars suggested it was the incorporation of figurative language, while others believed beauty lay in the style or diction of the verse. Finally, a man named Anandavardhana said that neither denotative nor connotative meaning could account for all the things expressed in a poem. He called the final source of meaning that poets used “suggestion,” and proposed that poetry is made beautiful by the things it does not say. Something as simple as a name can be imbued with enough symbolism and connotation to give multiple meanings at once, which is impossible to do when using words only literally or metaphorically.

Chandra’s talk provided wonderful insight into ambiguity in communication. I appreciated his look at the beauties of ambiguity since it is usually something that is feared in our culture. From coders who want a computer to respond perfectly to their commands, to scientists who meticulously record their experiments to ensure reproducibility, the unknown induces anxiety. Even in Western art, ambiguity often incites unease. A course I took on Romanticism focused heavily on the fear these poets experienced as one of the first groups of writers whose work, thanks to new technology and media forms, would spread beyond their ken or control once released into the world. The anxiety they experienced seems to have focused mainly around an inability to ensure their work was interpreted as intended. Ambiguity could strike, giving phrases unintended meaning, or perhaps turning their words foolish, trite, or offensive. It is always useful to be reminded of the benefits of something one typically tries to avoid, in this case ambiguity, and I appreciated the unique insight that Chandra provided.


*Ellen MacIntosh is a student at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax. Her blog post is based on an essay she wrote for English 4556 (Honours Seminar): Animal Life, Social Robots, and Cyborg Futures, taught by Dr. Teresa Heffernan. Ellen was among the students who helped make the Cyborg Futures Workshop a successful event.


 

by Teresa Heffernan

Poster

We had a wonderful group of international and interdisciplinary speakers at Saint Mary’s University on March 31/April 1, 2017. They all took time out from their very busy schedules to come to Halifax to discuss robots and artificial intelligence at the Cyborg Futures Workshop. Academics from literary theory, digital culture, anthropology, sociology, environmental studies, robotics, and evolutionary biology, along with students and the public, convened for a lively discussion about technologies that are impacting us all. This workshop is part of a larger SSHRC-funded project–Where Science Meets Fiction: Social Robots and the Ethical Imagination–that is about shifting the conversation about robots and AI, which has been animated by fiction but dominated in the real world by the military and industry. Opening the discussion up to wider social and cultural contexts–from the impact of technology on human relations; to non-human animals, the environment and trash; to racism, imperialism and misogyny; to automation, labour and capitalism; to killer robots and the military; to the problematic collapse of science and fiction—this workshop considered both the infrastructure currently being laid that is forcing us down a troubling path and imaginative alternatives to it.  What follows cannot possibly do justice to the richness and complexity of the talks, so please click on the hyperlinks to listen to them.

1. Born in Fiction: Robots, Artificial People, and Animate Machines

Mr. Rastus Robot (Paleofuture)

The term robot was popularized in the 1920 play by the Czech writer Karel Čapek, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). The mass produced and servile humanoid machines in the play rise up against their masters and overthrow them. The play is about the anxieties of industrialization, technological change, and the mechanization and exploitation of human labour. Yet as the literary theorist Louis Chude-Sokei argues, the anxieties expressed in these fictional works about robots were framed by nineteenth-century discourses about race that linked blacks to machines. Questions about whether machines could think, whether they could feel, whether they had souls, whether they were worthy of rights, whether they would revolt–were all thoroughly steeped in the legacy of colonialism, racial coding and slavery. From Mr. Rastus Robot, “the most lifelike of mechanical men,” built by Westinghouse in the 30s to Norbert Wiener’s work in cybernetics–the industry also explicitly borrowed from the material histories of blacks, who were positioned as the prosthetic extensions of white masters. The history of technology and industrialization, Chude-Sokei, contends is haunted by colonialism and racism.

I-Robot

Despina Kakoudaki examines the ways in which robots, androids, cyborgs, and automata are constructed in relation to people in literature, film, and popular culture. Attentive to the gap between current technological innovations and the fantasies and desires that give rise to “unreal” artificial people, she suggests that even the most contemporary versions of them are informed by ancient tropes that perform the cultural work of elucidating and negotiating what it is to be human. Rather than understanding artificial people (whether real or fictional: Frankenstein, Electro, ASIMO, etc.) only in terms of an impending robot future, she argues that they have been the constant and long-standing companions of humans. In other words, her poetics of robots counters the prevalent readings of artificial people as continuous with developments in science and instead offers innovative readings of them as always having been part of an imaginative landscape. Her encyclopedic review of artificial people–from ancient stories to origin myths to Aristotle’s theories of animation to Frankenstein to Star Trek to Battlestar Galactica to Ex Machina—exposes the plot lines and tropes that persist in the depictions of artificial births, mechanical and enslaved bodies, and angst about authenticity. Yet whether the artificial person is imagined as other or as passing, as subjugated or rebellious, as having some level of consciousness or agency or not, the representations also speak to the particular cultural moment in which these fictions are conceived.

Kismet (MIT News 2007)

Lucy Suchman argues that we should be wary of the fiction of “autonomous” robotics and artificial intelligence that replicates the myth of the liberal human subject. So often robots are presented as spectacular and “life-like,” a technology that seems to operate miraculously and seamlessly on its own. Yet what gets erased from the picture in promotional videos and media clips of celebrity machines–from Deep Blue to Kog to Kismet–is the enormous infrastructure that enables these systems to function, which includes the many human “appendages” needed for them to operate. The oft-cited Turing Test is typically described as the point at which a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligence is deemed equivalent to or indistinguishable from that of a human. The evaluator in the test is aware that one of the two “invisible” partners in this conversation is a machine, and thus asks questions in order to determine the human from the machine. But what is so often left out of this description, Suchman reminds us, is the initial design of this test, which involved a man and a woman and an evaluator, with the man trying to confuse or trick the evaluator into thinking he is a woman and the woman supporting the evaluator by insisting she is the woman. The bodies are hidden from the evaluator in the course of this performance, but gendered assumptions (such as questions about hair length) all point to embodiment. When the machine takes the part of the man, however, the material body is abstracted and rendered invisible. As various narrations about AI and robotics encourage slippages between humans and machines and between the environment and the lab, Suchman argues we need to be attentive to this magic act that hides not only the enabling props but also the cultural and historical specificities of the technology.

Teresa Heffernan’s complete summary of the workshop can be found here. It includes:

1. Born in Fiction: Robots, Artificial People, and Animate Machines

2. Sex, War and Work: Machine-Human Relationships in the Twenty-First Century

3. The Singularity: Capitalism, Ancient Cultures, and Evolution

4. Some Concluding Remarks

Source: SoftBank Robotics (Guizzo 2016)

“Pepper is finally coming to America.” So IEEE Spectrum editor Erico Guizzo wrote in a piece covering SoftBank Mobile Corporation’s announcement on May 19th that its humanoid robot Pepper will be introduced to North American markets later this year (Guizzo 2016). To say “finally” seems something of an overstatement: Japanese telecom Softbank and its French subsidiary Alderban Robotics unveiled the prototype only two years ago and began selling the first batch in Japan just 12 months later. Yet a calendar year may well seem like forever when product development news moves at magical speeds in digital space/time, and high-tech gear can be bought online and delivered in a no less wondrous 24-hour turn over time. So Guizzo’s “finally” should perhaps be read as a sigh of relief, an “at last,” for a product that landed on this continent in spirit, if not in body, at least a year ago.

That temporal lag between the arrival of the spirit and the coming of the body of Pepper hints of a disharmonious “real world” occluded in the seductive promotional narratives and industry reportage framing Pepper. Indeed, the temporal lag itself is finessed with the aid of an enchanting storyline, specifically, a story of cultural metamorphosis that explains why “the world’s first personal robot that can read emotions” (Softbank 2014) needs time to adapt to the American cultural context. In other words, Pepper, a social robot coded to interact in a “cute-centric” Japanese milieu (Knight 2015), has to learn “American manners” (ibid.) in order to sell well as a social companion in the land of the free. Apparently though, the coding required to shift from reading the emotional states of interlocutors in Japan to those in America entails more than a tweak of the robot’s ‘universal translator.’

“July Andrews and ‘Wouldn’t it be loverly?” Source: Mroczka (2013), Broadwayscene.com

So, it is not, perhaps, too surprising that the musical My Fair Lady is called on to further the story of Pepper’s cultural transformation (Del Prado 2015). My Fair Lady tells the story of how, on a bet, professor of phonetics Henry Higgins teaches a street flower seller with a Cockney accent, Eliza Doolittle, to pass as an aristocratic lady by learning proper manners and speech. Based on a 1912 satirical play by George Bernard Shaw, the story draws on a Greek myth in which the goddess Venus brings a sculpture – the beautiful Galatea – to life after her human creator, the artist Pygmalion, falls in love with her (Kakoudaki 2014). In Shaw’s play Eliza is a willing participant in the (re)making of her social origins. Nonetheless, her metamorphosis is anything but instantaneous. Similar to Pepper’s acquisition of “American manners,” it takes months of training for her to pass her first real test. Yet Eliza’s story concerns the prospects for class mobility and individual autonomy in the highly stratified British society of the early 20th century. If the education of a 21st century humanoid social robot has anything to do with the downtrodden classes represented in My Fair Lady, which it does, it isn’t simply about the acquisition of polite manners, much less the aspirations of the working poor.

Over the last few years much media attention has been given to the “rise of the robots” and the “future of work,” not least the end of the future of work in the low wage service industry. When Pepper arrives later this year as a salable commodity, SoftBank intends to focus first on service sector markets rather than private consumers (Guizzo 2016). This promotional video, with the Pepper robot equipped with software by Zora for application in hospital and retail sectors, provides some insight into the marketing strategy.

Source: Dignan (2016), ZDnet.com

SoftBank plans to rent Pepper to business customers at a cost of around US $500 per month (¥55,000 Japanese yen), or US $18,000 over the course of a mandatory three-year contract for one unit (SoftBank “Pepper for Biz”, Hamblen 2016). At that price, the labour cost savings might make the robot irresistible, as reporter Larry Dignan (2016) suggests in his story on Mastercard’s partnership with Pizza Hut in the deployment of Pepper units for fast food ordering and payment. While Mastercard’s own rhetoric disavows the historic displacement of labour through automation in the service sector, Dignan’s story implies that savings will come not only through replacing existing service workers with Pepper robots, but also through augmenting already automated services like self-serve kiosks with social robotic interfaces rather than with people. In short, machines replace living labour in the service sector. Where those machines are inadequate to the task of facilitating a satisfactory customer experience in a digitally mediated environment, more machines, machines educated and conversant in the mores of the local culture, will be brought in to enhance the effect.

Japan News. Pepperworld 2016 frame

Source: Japan News “Pepper World 2016” (excerpt)

The scope of Softbank’s ambition for business applications can be seen in a Japan News video report from PEPPER WORLD 2016, a trade exhibition held in Tokyo earlier this year. A small army of Pepper units—hard, white plastic derivatives of the human corpus in capitalism’s “standing reserve army”—is deployed to demonstrate the machine’s capabilities in various service settings: promoting Nescafé lattes, leading exercise programs in nursing homes, selling household appliances, instructing patients in the “do’s and don’ts of taking a CT scan,” and teaching English as a second language.

These scenes are at once familiar and weird. Familiar enough for conference goers, already versed in all things digital, to lean in and engage, encouraged it should be said, by the robot’s own scripted friendliness. Yet weird, a series of strange post-labour machine-meat-market scenarios, haunted in humanoid form by the ghosts of future sentient workers. Karl Marx (1993) argued that “living labour” was being increasingly “absorbed” into capitalism’s ever expanding system of machines; it was becoming a “mere living accessory” of the machinery, with its material character becoming “a mere moment of the realization process of capital.” Isn’t this what was on display at PEPPER WORLD 2016 – those round, staring camera eyes and “expressive” gestures constituting the expanding terrain of the machinery of production under capitalism? Familiar yet weird scenes of the “absorption” of living labour into fixed capital in the form of social robots, scenes that the claim to a “living wage” can’t speak to, and the fight for a “universal basic income” is unlikely to bring about soon enough, if ever, for workers caught in the transition.

Luddism is not the point. Or perhaps it is the point insofar as reaction to workplace technology exposes something of the disharmonious “real world” hinted in the temporal lag between the arrival of the spirit and the coming of the body of Pepper to North America. Here we can bring into view another “real world” dimension of the event of Pepper’s arrival. While the “rise of the robots” has brought attention to the “future of work” (however much the stories are diffracted through the ideological prisms of technological progress and economic efficiency) the same can’t be said for the current conditions of work in the robot manufacturing industry.

“Rows of Pepper robots are ready for shipment after a quality inspection.” Source: Tabeta (2015), Nikkei Asian Review

The carefully cultivated promotional narrative of Pepper’s “world” offers little if any information on the material conditions of the robot’s manufacture. While SoftBank promotes its involvement with Alderban, the fact that Pepper is exclusively manufactured by Foxconn, and that Foxconn owns a 20% share in the robot (online retailer Alibaba owns another 20%), is not featured in the narrative being promoted in North America (Tobe 2015). Foxconn, a Taiwanesse company officially known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., is “the world’s largest electronics manufacturing service provider. […] best known as the main assembler of Apple’s iPhone and iPad and for the harsh working conditions in its mainland Chinese factories” (Andrijasevic et al. 2016, 8).

As Peter Pawlicki observes, working conditions in the electronics manufacturing industry first gained wide-spread attention in 2010 after 14 suicides and four attempted suicides at Foxconn were brought to light (Pawlicki 2016, 21). Riots at Foxconn plants in 2012 and 2013 evidenced ongoing severe problems with working conditions there (Wan 2012; Smith 2013). Pawlicki states that “[a]lthough lauded as a high-tech industry, the electronics industry in general, and one of its most prominent representatives Foxconn in particular, is characterized by inhumane working conditions: low wages, long working hours, neglect of health and safety regulations and forced labour, to name just a few […]” (2016, 21). These concerns are typically associated with brands prominent in the smartphone and computer industries. But Pepper robots for Softbank are among the other kinds of branded electronics manufactured at Foxconn facilities (van Liempt 2016, 51).

Foxconn is not alone among its competitors in the way it treats workers. Moreover, as Pawlicki shows, the contract manufacturing industry does not bear sole responsibility for these conditions. Indeed, these issues stems from the problematic relationship between the electronics brand owners and the contract manufacturers — notably, the brands increase their profit margins by externalizing production costs, which the contractors cover, but it leaves the latter with “low profit margins.” Nonetheless, the collection of research papers edited by Jan Drahokoupil, Rutvica Andrijasevic and Devi Sacchetto (Drahokoupil et al. 2016) provides insight into the labour conditions and political economics of Foxconn operations not only in China but also in Europe. As the editors make clear in their introduction, the highly regimented and near captive living conditions imposed on their million strong workforce in China are among the factors contributing to Foxconn’s success there. These factors aren’t necessarily transferable to different political economic contexts but case study research in European countries shows the company doing what it can to maintain the high level of workforce “flexibility” needed to maintain profitability in a “low profit margin” situation (Andrijasevic et al. 2016). Given these study findings, the fact that Foxconn, like other manufacturers in China, is turning to robots to reduce labour costs seems unlikely to entail improved working conditions or better wages for those not fired (Chan 2015, Zuo 2016).

“A robot’s range of motion is checked out in time to music.” Source: Tabeta (2015), Nikkei Asian Review

What then are we to make of a certain snippet of Softbank-related news gleaned from Chinese sources by Frank Tobe, editor of The Robot Report? In a brief article titled “Foxconn Looking To Buy Robot Manufacturer,” Tobe notes that the most interesting thing about a China Post story from December 2015 was that Foxconn was planning a “30-person trip to the U.S. to explore purchasing companies that can help Foxconn increase Pepper production of this very complex robot” (Tobe 2016). 7,000 Pepper units had been manufactured in the seven months following launch of the product in the Japanese market, and every one had been snatched up by eager consumers. The Foxconn manufacturing plant in Yantai, China is reported to have ramped up production from five to ten units per hour, and was aiming for 15 per hour. Nonetheless more capacity seems to be needed to keep up with the plan to expand markets and increase demand. The question may not be so much whether the arrival of Pepper robot manufacturing capacity brings jobs to North America, although automation portends limitations on that score, but whether the jobs will be good ones, jobs worth working for given pay rates and conditions elsewhere in the Foxconn universe.

So the spirit of Pepper has arrived, all chatty and enchanting, on the “shores” of America. Meanwhile in the disharmonious “real world” of capital’s expanding system of machines, the robot’s body is being fashioned using the blood and sweat of “living labour” and with the corollary objective of labour’s own absorption into the automaton. Far from valorizing Eliza Doolittle’s story (at least in the version originally penned by Shaw), the incarnation of Pepper depends on disavowing the working class labour that contributes to its animation. Moreover, it depends on appropriating the cultural product of a social collective in order that “speech” and “manners” can become, not just the regulators of class boundaries as in Shaw’s England, but “bearers” of value and regulators of exchange in 21st century circuits of capital realization. If the body of Pepper has not arrived yet, we could say the delay concerns, at least in part, the spiritual work that capital needs to do first. One tech reporter inadvertently understood this when she wrote, “But before it can take over the US, Pepper needs to get to know us better” (Del Prado 2015).

By Karen Asp

References:

Andrijasevic et al. 2016. “Introduction,” in Drahokoupil et al. (eds). Flexible Workforces and Low Profit Margins: Electronics Assembly Between Europe and China. Brussels, BE: European Trade Union Institute (ETUI).

Chan, K. 2015 (24 Sept). “Robot revolution sweeps mainland factory floors.” China Post.

Del Prado, G. M. 2015 (Sept 28). “This ’emotional’ robot is about to land on US shores — and it wants to be your friend.” Tech Insider.

Dignan, L. 2016 (May 24). “MasterCard, Pizza Hut Asia try robotic commerce: Pepper will take your order now.” ZDNet.

Drahokoupil et al. (eds). 2016. Flexible Workforces and Low Profit Margins: Electronics Assembly Between Europe and China. Brussels, BE: European Trade Union Institute (ETUI).

Guizzo, E. 2016 (19 May). “SoftBank Prepares Humanoid Robot Pepper’s U.S. Debut, Releases Android SDK.” IEEE Spectrum.

Hamblen, M. 2016 (24 Feb). “Pepper, a humanoid robot, will make first appearance in U.S. businesses this year.” Computerworld.

Kakoudaki, D. 2014. Anatomy of a Robot: Literature, Cinema, and the Cultural Work of Artificial People. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP.

Knight, W. 2015 (16 Sept). “A Japanese Robot Is Learning the American Way.” MIT Technology Review.

Marx, K. 1993. Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. Translated by M. Nicolaus. London and New York: Penguin Classics.

Mroczka, P. 2013. “Broadway History: The Golden Age of the American Book Broadway, Part 6 My Fair Lady.” Broadwayscene.com.

Pawlicki , P. 2016. “Re-focusing and Re-shifting – The Constant Restructuring of Global Production Networks in the Electronics Industry,” in Drahokoupil et al. (eds). Flexible Workforces and Low Profit Margins: Electronics Assembly Between Europe and China. Brussels, BE: European Trade Union Institute (ETUI).

Smith, D. 2013 (24 Sept). “Foxconn Riot: Largest Apple Supplier Suffers Another Violent Outbreak.” International Business Times.

SoftBank 2014 (June 4). “SoftBank Mobile and Aldebaran Unveil ‘Pepper’– the World’s First Personal Robot That Reads Emotions.

SoftBank. n/d. “Pepper for Biz.” www.softbank.jp/robot/biz/

Tabeta, S. (2015, 01 Sept). “Hon Hai’s success with Pepper humanoid a matter of molding.” Nikkei Asian Review.

Tobe, F. 2015 (19 June). “Foxconn and Alibaba invest in SoftBank Robotics as Pepper goes on sale in Japan.” The Robot Report.

Tobe, F. 2016 (01 Apr). “Foxconn Looking To Buy Robot Manufacturer.The Robot Report.

Van Liemt, G. 2016. “Hon Hai/Foxconn: Which Way Forward?” in Drahokoupil et al. (eds). Flexible Workforces and Low Profit Margins: Electronics Assembly Between Europe and China. Brussels, BE: European Trade Union Institute (ETUI).

Wan, W. 2012 (25 Sept). “Foxconn riot in China unlikely to be the last, experts say.” The Washington Post.

Zuo, M. 2016 (22 May). “Rise of the robots: 60,000 workers culled from just one factory as China’s struggling electronics hub turns to artificial intelligence.” South China Morning Post.