Note — Apr 04, 2021

How to Mass Manufacture Humanoid Robots

It’s really quite a shame that Ev Williams is, again, turning away from publications at Medium because OneZero was doing some excellent work, this piece by Ingrid Burrington being a great example.

What kind of supply chain and extractive environmental impact might the large-scale manufacturing of humanoid robots require and produce? None of Blade Runner, Westworld, Battlestar Galactica, or any scifi really, make those questions or answers part of the story, it “gets hand-waved away into a solved manufacturing problem.”

Of course, Westworld follows in a long sci-fi tradition of humanoid robots exhibiting total indifference to maintenance and supply chains except as short-lived McGuffins. In science fiction, a lot of attention goes to the software side of creating sentient A.I. — it’s a topic that lets otherwise-vacuous narratives pretend they’re really asking Smart Questions about “what it means to be human.” […]

While mass-manufacture of humanoid robots may not be a current or even near-future development, given the tendency of tech companies to treat dystopian literature as a VC pitch deck, it’s reasonable to assume someone will try to pull it off. […]

[U]ltimately most narratives around building a humanoid robot aren’t actually about making a machine — a thing — that’s exactly like a person; they’re about responding to a frustration that people can’t be — and can’t be treated — more like things.