Should auld acquaintance be robot

This is always a strange week for us. Save for the occasional disastrous patent dispute, things are (thankfully) almost uncannily quiet in the week separating Christmas and New Year’s Day. You see a lot of reflective posts go up during this time, not only because the calendar year is coming to a close, but also because […]
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Humanoids were a huge story last year for many reasons. The first — and most obvious — is that switch they flip in our collective lizard brains. It’s somewhere in the realm of the uncanny valley, fueled by decades of science fiction. As a species, we’ve experienced generations of job evolution, displacement and replacement at the hands of technology, but seldom — if ever — have those hands so intentionally resembled ours.

However you feel about how this whole thing will play out, you have to be hard-hearted to not empathize with worker concern that technologists are building their literal replacements. There’s very little of the abstraction we’ve grown accustomed to. Imagine for a moment that the Model T was a big, metal horse on wheels and maybe you can get a bit closer.

The second big reason is the sheer number of companies that debuted their humanoid systems this year: Figure, Apptronik, 1X and Tesla, to start. Once again, try to put yourself in the place of someone who doesn’t follow this stuff day to day, and you can begin to appreciate some of the feelings that bubble up when your news feed is suddenly flooded with these stories.

Much like the rise of generative AI, if you weren’t following the industry’s progress, it was probably a massive shock to the system to suddenly have the ability to generate an image, story or song with a short prompt in a text field.

We will, of course, be debating the efficacy of the human form factor for years to come, but we’re at least reaching the beginnings of real-world trials. Whether they succeed or fail, Amazon’s Digit pilots are bound to have a profound impact on how we look at the category going forward.



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