Caution, Hazard Detected: Robots Of Late Capitalism
August 4, 2019 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Martys are googly-eyed robots working at Stop & Shop grocery stores and are designed to warn unsuspecting shoppers of dangers such as adversarial bottle caps or cilantro. Martys aren't, however, sophisticated enough to actually clean shit so they need assistance from their hominid colleagues. At least they only cost 35K each.
posted by Foci for Analysis (116 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
They have one of these at the Martin's in my home town. It's attracted a surprising amount of attention (granted, there isn't much going on in my home town).

I don't get it.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 11:22 AM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Man, if one of these stores really wanted to waste $35K on something useless they could have just hired me for a year.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:24 AM on August 4, 2019 [93 favorites]


Who thinks of these things? They could have at least combined it with a Roomba to clean stuff up. I predict it's just a matter of time before troublemakers start leaving "hazards" for it to find, and posting the results on YouTube.
posted by TedW at 11:28 AM on August 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


This is reporting? Mashable might try hiring a robot.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:47 AM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Ah, the useful art of misdirection:
Badger Technologies

From Badger's website, the robot is just a roving camera that will "put you in control of operations by":

* Detecting holes on shelves and generating replenishment lists
* Generating powerful on-shelf availability best practices analytics across stores
* Prioritizing out-of-stock alerts with supply chain integration
* Correlating POS data to out-of-stock data, location and facings
* Ensuring center store planogram (POG) and sales plan compliance
* Addressing price integrity issues by comparing unit tags to current POG pricing
* Analyzing and leveraging CPG display compliance data
* Generating CPG managed display compliance analytics
* Leveraging pricing integrity best practices data

Maybe the part about customer tracking is mentioned somewhere else.
posted by haemanu at 11:49 AM on August 4, 2019 [13 favorites]


Looking at that list it's clear these robots aren't replacing labor, they're replacing management.
posted by peeedro at 11:58 AM on August 4, 2019 [44 favorites]


My BFF told me about these things back when the strike was going on. Ostensibly the strike was over the company's choosing to cut out some health-insurance-related benefits as a cost-saving exercise, and my friend had a lot to say about how cutting these things would have been much more effective than cutting people's benefits.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:00 PM on August 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


The people who design these robots kill me. Specifically the voices. The robot says one thing frequently: "caution hazard detected". Why not record a normal human being saying that in a normal tone? While you're at it use normal words, like "look out someone spilled something". Why do this robo synthesized voice? Why use bizarro words like "hazard"?
posted by Nelson at 12:03 PM on August 4, 2019 [25 favorites]


How is this incredibly expensive Cylon Pylon less effective than a Roomba with a mop feature?
posted by UltraMorgnus at 12:16 PM on August 4, 2019 [28 favorites]


You can trap them with boxes of ice cream cones

And it looks like it uses a different sensor from the "caution hazard detected" sensor, because it has the blue light instead of the yellow light, so it won't just shout for an employee to help it.
posted by JDHarper at 12:18 PM on August 4, 2019 [12 favorites]


If the ice cream cones don't work, try a circle of salt
posted by JDHarper at 12:19 PM on August 4, 2019 [48 favorites]


Did they have to make it look like a Reaper from Mass Effect?
posted by Automocar at 12:21 PM on August 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


Ooh, I wonder what would happen if someone were to push it outside?
posted by JDHarper at 12:23 PM on August 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


I've worked with these. The googly eyes are there strictly to make it have some semblance of normal behavior. I've never seen one with googly eyes before because, well... I know what the heck one is and what it is doing. Spills are not their priority. Their priority is to walk past the shelves and compare the shelf contents with the planogram*. When a shelf is non-compliant, or there are products out of stock, the robot does the ordering. This is one of many robots that is winding up in your grocery aisles.

You also get to look forward to various forms of smart shelves (1) robots that look at what you are looking at while you shop - to know where you spend your time browsing vs. searching vs. grabbing exactly what you want and leaving. (2) Other smart shelves are planning on maintaining out of stocks by weighing that portion of the shelf and knowing what is in that slot - thereby knowing how much of something is there. Some of these work in conjunction with eachother, and yes... they represent big money for all parties involved.

This isn't necessarily about replacing labor, as much it is about how a store maximizes its efficiency ($ per linear foot) of shelf space. This is about settling disputes between manufacturers ('more people buy my product' vs. 'the people who buy my product spend more in your store' vs. umpteen-thousand other CPG squabbles). When you have to maintain 4976 different planograms for a small section of ONE retailer, enlisting the help of robots makes it easier. Ergo - a lot of these bots rolling out are jointly funded by vendors, unless the retailer is really tech savvy (e.g. Target).
----
Glossary:
Planogram: The layout by product so that the store knows how much space is taken up by each item. When the shelf slot is empty - you need more of that item.
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:28 PM on August 4, 2019 [75 favorites]


The thing that makes me mad is that we did figure out you should test new technology with real humans before you put it out into the world. We KNOW this to be true. We have people who know how to do it and it's their specialty. When you test it first you save a lot of money and you avoid hassling the real humans who have to interact with this thing. It's a win win! And yet we still have ppl who just REFUSE to do so out of short sighted psychopathic greed. The fact that this thing doesn't know what to do when people surround it is proof that this is a cheap cash grab and our lives are utterly controlled by one cheap shoddy useless cash grab after another. I wish they would just stop.
posted by bleep at 12:30 PM on August 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


Looking at that list it's clear these robots aren't replacing labor, they're replacing management.


Yeah, that's the trend everyone keeps ignoring. The future isn't replacing the low skilled, cheap and expendable human labor, it's getting rid of the harder to find and higher paid humans.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:34 PM on August 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


These things have been testing in market for the better part of 5 years - and that is 5 years testing as 'products'. That is excluding all the I'd like to do X Y and Z stuff... Target has been massive in testing and rolling out their version of these. If you haven't seen one - there are reasons: They aren't cheap. They take a lot of time to train. They weren't sure whether or not they could deliver.

We are at the tipping point now where yes - you will start to see these in your large chain grocery stores because the bugs have largely been worked out of them.
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:35 PM on August 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


Ooh, I wonder what would happen if someone were to push it outside?

It rightfully detects the planet (and entire universe!) as a "hazard" that is also not very well stocked and then we get Skynet, T-1000s and Warhammer 40K and Wall-E.

The scene ends with endless armies of robotocapitalists fighting to build and fill shelves out of entire galaxies full of now utterly nonsensical simulacra dollar store merchandise, like edible talking picture frame back scratchers and bacon flavored gift wrapping paper.

By the way, this is how the plain old regular plumbus was invented. It was just one of these dumb Markov-chainian useless, pointless consumer goods, a hybrid mash up between a toilet brush, a sex toy for a non-human species, a pocket nuclear reactor power source and a gravitational wave ansible.

But when it was discovered how obviously and incredibly useful it was it was widely copied throughout the multiverse.

Seriously, do not apply a plumbus to your genitals. I mean besides the radiation and galactic taboo and poor taste of abusing a gravitational singulaty, the really bad thing about this that they don't tell you is that this spawns more fragments of the multiverse that makes things like Marty the Robot be a real thing. And, guh, Trump. Of course it feels good, just don't do it.
posted by loquacious at 12:40 PM on August 4, 2019 [16 favorites]


Okay, either these robots are doing more than the store tells us they're doing, or they're there to make everybody comfortable enough with grocery store robots that when robots for other functions are introduced, people will already be used to them. Because detecting floor debris is not a $35,000 problem.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:46 PM on August 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


We have one of these in my local Stop & Shop and I swear it likes to follow me around. Except if it really were following we around, apparently the store shouldn't be out of the stuff I want to buy quite so often!

Yeah, that's the trend everyone keeps ignoring. The future isn't replacing the low skilled, cheap and expendable human labor, it's getting rid of the harder to find and higher paid humans.

But it's only middle management that has to worry; you can safely bet that upper management won't implement anything that threatens their own job security. I can't find the link to it now, but I remember reading an article talking about how companies like Uber are essentially using software/technology to create an impenetrable wall between the wageslaves and the upper management. The corporate ladder is being destroyed; the middle rungs are being replaced with code. This seems like part of the same trend, but for grocery stores.
posted by mstokes650 at 12:46 PM on August 4, 2019 [20 favorites]


Also, am I the only one that wants to accidentally push that big robot dildo right the fuck over?

How long until there's a special punishment or crime for messing with some corporate bots that goes above and beyond the laws that already cover private property?
posted by loquacious at 12:47 PM on August 4, 2019 [18 favorites]


They may be using them to spot spills in the aisles, but I guarantee that's not the sales pitch, or the reason someone decided to spend $35k/ea on them. They're pretty clearly (based on Badger's website) meant to do inventory management. The payoff is probably by being able to do smaller and more frequent restocks while keeping shelves just as full (i.e. preventing out-of-stocks). Reduced inventory equals reduced costs, which is presumably what justifies the purchase price.

The "hazard detected" thing is probably a sort of tacked-on bonus; since it's going to be roaming the aisles anyway, and since it probably has collision-detection built in (it'd have to), someone decided that when it detects an unexpected object it should pretend to be a very expensive traffic cone. (As opposed to, probably, just going back the way it came or doing a Roomba-style random-turn avoidance maneuver.) That's my guess as to why the robot voice and lack of cleaning equipment: it's not really meant to clean floors.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:50 PM on August 4, 2019 [7 favorites]


Yeah, the height is so it can scan shelves. This would be pretty easy to do to automate stocking requests and inventory and stuff since modern stores are mapped down to about an inch with planograms.

The googly eyes are to inspire you to push it over and stand on it and maybe take a common stun gun to any exposed data ports.
posted by loquacious at 12:55 PM on August 4, 2019 [12 favorites]


I want a robot that warns me of cilantro in what I'm about to eat, not about cilantro that's on the floor. That's where it should be.
posted by jonathanhughes at 12:58 PM on August 4, 2019 [34 favorites]


On the one hand, I don't understand this at all. For inventory management, surely it would be both cheaper and more effective to install shelving with sensors? And for "hazard detection," surely it would be both cheaper and more effective to use computer vision algorithms with the already-installed security cameras covering every aisle? An actual moving robot seems like the worst possible way of automating either of these tasks.

On the other hand, I kind of like the idea that in our haste to try to create what we've seen in science fiction for decades, we'll end up filling our future with bumbling, stupid robots that constantly require human assistance to get out of the most minor scrapes. Everyone's all terrified of the Boston Dynamics robots, but when we finally see them in the wild they'll spend 50% of their time trying to walk through walls and 40% of their time shouting "Hazard detected!" at houseflies.
posted by biogeo at 1:00 PM on August 4, 2019 [16 favorites]


I guess what I'm saying is the first emotion that an artificially intelligent robot is going to experience is anxiety.
posted by biogeo at 1:03 PM on August 4, 2019 [20 favorites]


Here in Winchester, I like to watch the locals stop and stare, shake their heads and occasionally lash out with a kick to these things at our local Martin's. I was informed they were part of legal defense against lawsuits for slips and falls. That the robots were scanning the store for spills on the floor, even if only on paper actually.
posted by Harry Caul at 1:16 PM on August 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


I dunno. $35k to retrofit an entire grocery store with sensor-equipped shelves seems like it might be a challenge. Store fixtures and the labor to install them are pretty pricey.

But probably if you were building a brand new store from the ground up that would be the preferable option—and one that I'd be surprised if we didn't see someone like Amazon try with their new retail stores at some point.

I do suspect that eventually, very high resolution static cameras will do a better job than the robot, though. My understanding of the "Gorgon Stare" technology (from Wikipedia and the recent FPP on it) is that it basically just uses multiple cameras with overlapping fields of view, stitched together in software to create a simulated high-resolution, wide-angle image. There's no reason you couldn't do that with cameraphone sensors and security-camera lenses, and hang one in each aisle, and track items on the shelves that way.

TBH that actually opens up more opportunities for creepiness than the robot. The robot looks creepy; a black camera dome goes unnoticed, even if that black dome contains a camera that is to a normal store-security camera what the Hubble Telescope is to a box with a hole in it. High resolution static cameras would let you do stuff like track people moving around the store, see how long people spend looking at what items, what alternatives they consider when buying something, track individuals based on facial or gait analysis, etc. It's much harder to do that with a robot that might only do a complete circuit of the store once an hour or something.

Humans' perception of what is "creepy" is often not especially connected to reality. The stuff that looks or feels creepy is often a lot less invasive (and by definition a lot more noticeable) than stuff that exists out of sight and out of mind. Personally, I'll take the googly-eyed robot.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:22 PM on August 4, 2019 [20 favorites]


The trends are also for smaller supermarket/markets and also for groceries to develop and stock their own in-store brands. So, would you still need a robot to check the shelves if your store is both smaller and has five instead of 13 different brands of spaghetti sauce to keep in stock?

And all this with the overarching pressure of Amazon and other e-commerce delivery companies intending to change the industry, it kind of makes sense that they're willing to give these machines a shot.
posted by FJT at 1:25 PM on August 4, 2019


I guess what I'm saying is the first emotion that an artificially intelligent robot is going to experience is anxiety.

Life? Don't talk me about life.
posted by loquacious at 2:04 PM on August 4, 2019 [49 favorites]


Why not just embed wide screen cameras on opposing shelves to do real time feed on shelf stocking instead of monolith bot?
posted by Karaage at 2:13 PM on August 4, 2019


Or just hire someone who does nothing but inventory management. Aaah, it drives me nuts that everything is constantly being optimized to maximize efficiency and profit. It's always sold as "fewer empty shelves, more of what you need," and that's true to some extent, but even the needs of the customer are secondary to the profit margin. The needs of the workers don't even rate, and are in fact solely an impediment to continual growth. Ugh, I feel like I'm in a Twilight Zone episode, about to wake up in a world of maximum efficiency where I'll blow everyone's minds by talking about love, or something.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:19 PM on August 4, 2019 [11 favorites]


hi fellow human cow-orkers
it is me, the Marty
I don't mind the shenangigans with boxing me in with cat litter and circles of sodium chloride
but checking against the planogram sucks enough as it is
amirite amirite amirite amirite amirite amirite amirite armite ite ite ite te ite eeeeeeeeeeeee
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:31 PM on August 4, 2019 [10 favorites]


The future isn't replacing the low skilled, cheap and expendable human labor, it's getting rid of the harder to find and higher paid humans.

I dunno. In most of these places, the manager is barely paid more per-hour than the basic labor.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:35 PM on August 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


Yeah but the middle manager is more cheaply automated.
posted by The Whelk at 2:38 PM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I give it the finger every time I walk by it and once in a while I give it a kick right where I imagine his robot nutsack would be.
posted by bondcliff at 2:38 PM on August 4, 2019 [12 favorites]


My understanding of the "Gorgon Stare" technology (from Wikipedia and the recent FPP on it) is that it basically just uses multiple cameras with overlapping fields of view, stitched together in software to create a simulated high-resolution, wide-angle image.



So you're saying Marty has multiple foci for analysis.
posted by otherchaz at 2:46 PM on August 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the great explanation, Nanukthedog. One question, though: Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper and more reliable to just install a few hundred cameras through the store?
posted by clawsoon at 2:46 PM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I dunno. Cleanup and inventory both smell funny. Inventory is already controlled by barcodes and POS systems.
posted by j_curiouser at 2:54 PM on August 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Writing prompt: Replace the word "Marty" in this FPP with "Martyr".
posted by glonous keming at 3:10 PM on August 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


The future isn't replacing the low skilled, cheap and expendable human labor, it's getting rid of the harder to find and higher paid humans.

Historically senior management has tried to automate every position below themselves so why shouldn't they continue that trend? Cashiers are already getting replaced by self-checkout machines and restocking and inventory staff will probably be gone in 15-20 years.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:14 PM on August 4, 2019


1. positioning
2. compliance with vendor contracts
3. stores like Target change floorplans once every X years as an effort to prevent shrink / confuse shoplifters.
4. A floor to ceiling pan/scan has a great shot every time. programming an image at 43 degrees x, -27 degrees y, and z units away which is in variance to every other package that looks the same means your visual identification AI has to beat the CAPTCHA. Right now if you turn a picture 15 degrees, some AIs have a hard time identifying that you've given it the same input.
5. robots are 24/7 employees. They don't call in sick, and they don't need to be retrained when someone quits. If they make a mistake, you can retrain them not to and *every* robot benefits from the hivemind learning - that means the 4900+ walmart stores all learn from one robot.
6. One camera, one shot, if the image doesn't make sense - you can't move the camera. This is a moving camera.
7. 'Spills' are something that is low level and an inconvenience to customers. Pretending that spills are important to the robot (which they are only insofar as you don't want a robot to drive through a spill - that thing requires a repairman, not a sick day) draws attention for it as a solution to a customer problem. Spills are PR opportunities for robots.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:21 PM on August 4, 2019 [14 favorites]


The people who design these robots kill me.

I'd start worrying when they design them to kill you.
posted by Splunge at 3:23 PM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


glonous keming, these things do have an oddly penitent vibe, don't they?

And I wonder if their on-the-face-of-it uselessness is part of a long-term strategy to get us used to them first, then make them Do Actual Things...
posted by runehog at 3:31 PM on August 4, 2019


I guess what I'm saying is the first emotion that an artificially intelligent robot is going to experience is anxiety.

Life? Don't talk me about life.
Let me tell you about my mother...
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 3:50 PM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


[...] 3. stores like Target change floorplans once every X years as an effort to prevent shrink / confuse shoplifters.
Since I'm not a shoplifter, I assumed they change floorplan to confuse their customers (though I've noticed it more at the grocery store). It means it's time to pick a different chain, since the only reason I go to the same one all the time is that I know where everything is, and maybe I'll like the next one better (usually not). Yet another successful management application of the Politicians' Fallacy.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 3:55 PM on August 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


> For inventory management, surely it would be both cheaper and more effective to install shelving with sensors?

What kind of sensors? A simple weight sensor would be easy to spoof; the driver from Coca-Cola would start stuffing all the Pepsi shelves with Coke products; he'd get a bonus for increased sales and the store would be none the wiser. RFID sensors? RFID is still not cheap and easy enough to produce in the volume necessary to tag every packet of gum without affecting product costs.
posted by at by at 4:02 PM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Fish and sea greens, plankton and protein from the sea. And then it stopped coming. And they came instead. So I store them here. I'm ready. And you're ready. It's my job. To RESTOCK. Protein, plankton...
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:13 PM on August 4, 2019 [10 favorites]


In my opinon, this is pretty much the foot in the door to replace humans as inventory managers and computer assisted ordering specialists.

It's similar to how larger self scan areas led to more customer service work done by less people, or introducing rotating shopping bag carousels leads to most stores cutting back on baggers.
posted by ShawnStruck at 4:16 PM on August 4, 2019


Historically senior management has tried to automate every position below themselves so why shouldn't they continue that trend?

Ironically, this behavior sounds relatively easy to automate.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:20 PM on August 4, 2019 [7 favorites]


I dunno. $35k to retrofit an entire grocery store with sensor-equipped shelves seems like it might be a challenge. Store fixtures and the labor to install them are pretty pricey.

That's not even how this is working, though. These "robots" are just remote cameras sending video to cheap labor in the Philippines.

To no one's surprise, it turns out it's far cheaper to pay people shit wages to do the menial work instead of trying to automate it. Even if that low wage worker is halfway across the globe.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:23 PM on August 4, 2019 [23 favorites]


This is reporting? Mashable might try hiring a robot.

I don't know, slap the phase "Late State Capitalism" on something and this website is guaranteed to give you clicks about it.
posted by sideshow at 4:42 PM on August 4, 2019 [9 favorites]


backseatpilot: That's not even how this is working, though. These "robots" are just remote cameras sending video to cheap labor in the Philippines.

Somehow AI news always manages to give me whiplash. So this is just the Internet enabling yet another job to be outsourced?
posted by clawsoon at 4:47 PM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'd think a roving sensor package is vastly preferable to a distributed built into shelving solution. Maintenance is concentrated in a single unit (and you can send the unit to the tech not the other way around and even on site repairs can be done without impacting customer areas) ("maintenance" is likely to be pop out one of a half dozen easily accessible modules and plug in another anyways); ultimately capital price is probably cheaper (IE a roomba and a half dozen cheap smart phones are only a couple grand); and if the unit fails a hot swap is picking up the slack in a matter of minutes.

Cleaning/mopping/sweeping/fronting will undoubtedly be added to at least some future models. This is after all version 1.0.
posted by Mitheral at 4:49 PM on August 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


3. stores like Target change floorplans once every X years as an effort to prevent shrink / confuse shoplifters.

Shoplifters are not mice. They don't steal things because they know the layout. They steal things because... they find things to steal.

Shoplifter: Damn, the stuff I like to steal is no longer in aisle three. I am out of here.
posted by Splunge at 5:02 PM on August 4, 2019 [10 favorites]


Also, cleaning would be problematic. Consider the floor of the average supermarket. It always has crap on it. Looking at the base of the Marty, let's say that it has the drive motor and the wheels/treads. That leaves very little space for a roomba setup.

So it cleans up stuff. It has to differentiate between solids and liquids. But say they can figure this out. So then it sucks up a tiny anount of whatever it finds. And then it's full.

What then? Does it go back somewhere that it automatically dumps the debris? No. It stands there plaintively crying, "I am full. Empty me. Estoy lleno. Vacíame."
posted by Splunge at 5:09 PM on August 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


Sorry for the spam. I am Contrary Man! I disagree with your premise!
posted by Splunge at 5:11 PM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Our local Fred Meyer (a Kroger brand) is remodeling, and a lot of stuff is being moved around, shelving replaced, etc. I wonder if smart shelves are going in. It's hella disruptive (the employees talk about coming in after a day or two off and not knowing where anything is, which makes it even harder for customers). And it's expensive, too, but capital costs are usually separate from operating costs, and increased operating efficiency can make capital outlay worthwhile.

No word of Krobots yet, though.
posted by lhauser at 5:23 PM on August 4, 2019


Splunge, there are two kinds of shoplifters: people trying to make a profit, and people stealing on impulse. The people making a living will hit for a ton of product because they plan ahead, and mixing up the store disrupts their plans. The impulse people don't steal enough to make margin a big problem but the planners do. Sometimes it really matters to the plan that the spray paint is facing away from the camera, or whatever, hence moving around once in a while. If shoplifting isn't easy, they go somewhere else, since the goal of planned shoplifting is to not work hard for the things you want.

When I was in retail, we had to fight corporate a lot because they would come up with a new POG that put something expensive and pocketable, like Copic markers, way away from both the cameras and the employees so we knew we'd lose a ton if we let them change it. The main reason they move stuff around is because moving it around resets the "novelty" sense of other customers, much like how people tend to like their living rooms more after they move the furniture around. People buy more when shopping is fun, and safe, fun novelty feels good to most people. Plus they want to leverage seasonal sales where they can (i.e. put sunscreen on the endcap in May-June-July instead of in the aisle so we can sell as much of that as possible during peak season.)

And there are all these weird product adjacencies that corporate wants because they either have a contract with the supplier or they have data that tells them people buy more when certain things are next to each other. This is why we kept having to move the Copics to stupid places-- they wanted them next to the spray paint for a "street art" vibe in that aisle, whereas we couldn't afford to keep taking the hit when they immediately got stolen when they were not directly next to the register. It's pretty interesting, and the shoplifting thing is not the only piece or the major part of it.

I would imagine it would make more sense if the Marty could deploy cones around a spill and then like text the mop person about where to go next.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:26 PM on August 4, 2019 [10 favorites]


Also one more thing! Retail was my life for like 10 years and it's interesting because it's such a horrible and accurate microcosm of human behavior.

People steal less and buy more when they feel like someone is watching them. We were directed to greet people within 60 seconds of them entering the store and to check on every single person every couple of minutes. Anyway, if someone is paying attention by greeting you and chatting and being in your space, it is both physically much harder to steal and there's social pressure to buy something (Most people can't say a hard no, and also shop without a list, which is great if your goal is to make them spend money.) Grocery doesn't use the social pressure as much because their margins are so crazy that the expense of the staff time is more than the expense of the stuff they lose to shoplifters, but clearly SOMEONE has figured out that the robot's presence creeps people out enough not to steal and that combined with the lowering of slip-and-fall liability is worth the money.

I think the googly eyes also have something to do with it. Pictures of watchful eyes reduce littering, reduce casual theft, and increase casual charitable giving.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:39 PM on August 4, 2019 [10 favorites]


backseatpilot: That's not even how this is working, though. These "robots" are just remote cameras sending video to cheap labor in the Philippines.


I'll bite on this. A few years ago I did a machine learning model where I needed to quantify a negative or positive reaction that was written down, accounting for slang and a whole host of stuff. I needed to stand it up quickly. At the time, there weren't the libraries that are available today - all I had was a common dictionary file, which I built a string of n-grams on. I took the n-grams and tried to build a classifier for repeated phrases / etc, but ultimately, to put it to market faster, I wound up leveraging a mechanical turk job for my initial dataset (and then focused on training and improvement). IT took me like the better part of a year to build everything. A year ago, I sat through a demo of a few new Azure libraries, and I laughed my butt off because within the first 10 minutes they had almost successfully demoed about 75% of what I had built... but they built each component separately and really weren't demoing what had been my use case - just... almost all the pieces were there - and they built it in 10 minutes...

Point being: it is possible that cheap labor in the Philippines is doing a ton of work in image identification and verifcation today; but, in the span of a few years, as the image processing for various AIs get better, these will not be outsourced. And - with strictly defined pattern recognition and HD cameras - it is getting closer and closer.

TLDR: if you want to confuse everybody but the mechanical turks, rotate all the products 20 degrees before the robot gets there - and if you can, lean them on another product.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:41 PM on August 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


Why not record a normal human being saying that in a normal tone? While you're at it use normal words, like "look out someone spilled something". Why do this robo synthesized voice? Why use bizarro words like "hazard"?

Making it absolutely clear that you're talking to a robot and not a human being is really helpful. Those natural-sounding recorded voice trees that can sorta understand human speech that you get when you call a customer service line screw people up all the time when they don't realize they're talking to a robot and adjust their interaction and expectations accordingly.

I can see people getting confused about whether this thing is being driven remotely by a human being if it started talking like one.
posted by straight at 5:42 PM on August 4, 2019 [12 favorites]


You can trap them with boxes of ice cream cones

I’ve seen lots of sci-fi, so I know how this plays out. Trapping them may work for the first generation, but when you do it to the second generation, the blue lights will turn red and it will start exterminating non-compliant life forms.

But seriously, I would like it if Home Depot had a bunch of these and they would just tell me where things are. I can spend hours in there looking for the right widget.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:55 PM on August 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Here’s the thing about the upcoming wave of automation, including low level white collar or managerial jobs - none of them are going to be better then a human worker, they will be inefficient, badly made, prone to failure and fraud AND a hassle to deal with.

But they will be CHEAPER at least on the quarterly, which is the only thing the private equity vampires in charge of everything care about until they metaphorically burn the place down for the insurance money.


Everything , at every level of interaction, is about to get so much more shittier.
posted by The Whelk at 6:02 PM on August 4, 2019 [16 favorites]


I don't know why they bother. The real gains will come from automating the customer.
posted by klanawa at 6:26 PM on August 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


Cilantro is a hazard not to people but to the robot, it probably has tiny little casters that if they get something soft and slightly wet in there they will gum up like that off-brand radio control car you got for Christmas as a kid.
posted by kzin602 at 6:51 PM on August 4, 2019


They seem to have been working on Mahty's algorithms. A few weeks ago, I was minding my own business, waiting to check out at the Dedham Stop & Shop. The robot headed towards me from the left and, when it saw I was in its way, began beeping at me. Screw you, you tin heap, go around me. Instead he moved an inch or so closer and started beeping again. Nope, not moving. So he got an inch closer and began beeping again. Then the lady in front of me moved up and I had no reason to just stand there anymore, so Marty could keep going.

A couple weeks ago, I was in the produce department and Marty came at me again. And again, no, I'm not moving, you move. But this time, he did, he swerved around me.

On the minus side, the chain has added a paper grin to the big googly eyes, which make him even more punchable.
posted by adamg at 6:59 PM on August 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


I absolutely hate them. They seem to always be in the way and they're freaking slow as crap.

HOWEVER! One of the funniest things I ever saw was one of those machines creeping up on a dude and he retaliated by shoving one of those cardboard standup things that grocery stores insist on blocking the aisles with directly in front of the robot, resulting in an immediate freak out. It started shouting and blinking red lights and didn't know what to do. I'm totally doing that the next chance I get, although I'm now purposefully shopping at stores that don't have those things.
posted by jwest at 7:14 PM on August 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


I would like it if Home Depot had a bunch of these and they would just tell me where things are. I can spend hours in there looking for the right widget.

Incidentally on this: hitting the Home Depot website from your phone is handy for finding stuff in-store, as if you can find the widget (or something similar enough to it) showing in-stock at your store it'll tell you the aisle and bay in which they're located.

Doesn't help with those "don't know what it's called but I'd know it when I see it" things though.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:21 PM on August 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


Incidentally on this: hitting the Home Depot website from your phone is handy for finding stuff in-store, as if you can find the widget (or something similar enough to it) showing in-stock at your store it'll tell you the aisle and bay in which they're located.
I've had a Home Depot employee do this in front of me when I asked about something. It's a good trick to know.
posted by cardioid at 7:25 PM on August 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


The Marty at our local store lost an eye and has a comic-art style X over the missing one. There's also a 'notice' (warning sign) at the entry of the stores stating they are present. I want to like robots! I hold a fading hope that automation will reduce the work-load like they said automation would since the, what, 1890s? And yet I scurry away from these wonky towers like they're police cameras at a peaceful protest.

Honestly, since the strike, I've been going to the Shop Rite more often.
posted by cobaltnine at 7:33 PM on August 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


Ah, but the sales pitch to the public IS all about the spills.

I've received a couple of press releases that talk only about spills, how the machine doesn't clean up but somehow notifies an employee who then dispatches a human to clean it up. Supposedly it can detect something as small as a bread bag tie. None of this makes financial sense. Most people I've spoken to are convinced that the cameras either are or will be spying on them and that the device is really a security control.
posted by etaoin at 7:34 PM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I don't know why everyone hates Marty with such a passion. He's a good little robot who's trying his hardest. We always make it a point to be extra nice to them — you want to get mad, aim your anger at the suits. The robot is just trying to make sure you don't slip on things. It's not his fault if he's been mis-programmed. Yet everybody treats him like he's running down their pets in the parking lot.
posted by thoughtbox at 7:39 PM on August 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


I read about these before I saw one in the wild, and when I did encounter one I was surprised at how creeped out I was. This is exactly the kind of thing that would have terrified me as a child (thank you, creepy droids in the Jawa transport/VINCENT from The Black Hole). I wonder if there's been any push-back from parents about them. As an adult, I hate them and find them unsettling, and that makes me angry -- like, you make me feel unsettled and unhappy at your store, to make planogram compliance easier for you? I'm just trying to buy some cheese without being forced to struggle with signs of our impending dystopia, man.
posted by chowflap at 7:40 PM on August 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper and more reliable to just install a few hundred cameras through the store?

Each of those cameras is a potential point of failure – when one (or more) is not working, there's a gap in your coverage and it will likely require a service call to fix (or replace) the camera(s).

When the robot breaks down, that's a single point of failure that should be covered by your robot insurance, and you should be able to get a loaner until it's repaired (you do have robot insurance, don't you?).
posted by rochrobbb at 7:48 PM on August 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


I've received a couple of press releases that talk only about spills, how the machine doesn't clean up but somehow notifies an employee who then dispatches a human to clean it up. Supposedly it can detect something as small as a bread bag tie. None of this makes financial sense.

The store manager/owner might actually want everything to be cleaned up, and they almost certainly don't want to rely on customer complaints for cleaning advice. Cleaning up silly little things like cilantro leaves and bottle caps hardly takes any time at all, and if you're paying people to go around and attend to the aisles anyway, it makes sense to have a way to alert them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:59 PM on August 4, 2019


I "made" a thing: Martyr the Smasher/Devourer [YouTubeMultiplier]
posted by glonous keming at 8:05 PM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


The main reason they move stuff around is because moving it around resets the "novelty" sense of other customers

blnkfrnk, thanks for that explanation. I wondered, when my local grocery store did some major rearranging, whether it was a matter of getting people to take longer to find their items which would lead to more impulse buying/upselling; but I assumed I'd never get a straight answer out of store staff (If they even knew in the first place) so I never asked.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:09 PM on August 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Listen, and understand. That Marty is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until that cilantro is gone!
posted by Naberius at 8:46 PM on August 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


The store manager/owner might actually want everything to be cleaned up, and they almost certainly don't want to rely on customer complaints for cleaning advice. Cleaning up silly little things like cilantro leaves and bottle caps hardly takes any time at all, and if you're paying people to go around and attend to the aisles anyway, it makes sense to have a way to alert them.

Eh, I worked in a grocery store, and it's not like we were on call to just swoop in after every little cilantro leaf or bit of onion skin that hit the ground. We'd sweep our sections every so often depending on how messy things would get, but beyond that we had other things to take care of. Customers were usually able to walk past the odd leaf without complaining that we were a filthy hellhole. Bigger spills were pretty rare, and they'd usually be spotted by an employee pretty quickly, unless a customer had dropped something and came to tell us.

In other words, the idea of a slow-moving robot alerting staff to every little thing on the ground seems more aggravating than helpful, from the perspective of the people tasked with keeping things clean. Think of it this way: you don't see every employee carrying a broom and dustpan everywhere they go. Maybe some stores have dedicated sweepers on staff, but in general I think managers and customers alike are more concerned about keeping the shelves stocked.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:56 PM on August 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


How does this robot handle the inevitable moment when two shoppers place their carts almost-overlapping side by side in the aisle so nobody can get past, then both shoppers pay intense attention to the ingredients on something they are holding, completely oblivious (willfully or otherwise) to all the surrounding people they are inconveniencing?

I ask because humans are pretty bad at navigating that situation, and I would sure enjoy those inconsiderate shoppers' reactions to a robot right next to their elbow unexpectedly shouting SHOPPING OBSTACLE IN AISLE THREE CANNOT PROCEED HUMAN ASSISTANCE NEEDED.
posted by davejay at 9:11 PM on August 4, 2019 [9 favorites]


perhaps the robot would do what I do, and simply roll it's googly eyes SO HARD
posted by davejay at 9:12 PM on August 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


Without getting into a long and unproductive conversation about Situational Awareness, I find that aisle-blocking is relatively easy to address with a polite but forthright "Excuse me".

It's the slow-moving, otherwise-able-bodied strollers that apparently have no speed beyond "aimless amble" that bug me (I'm not talking about people who for various reasons are legitimately unable to move faster than they already are, only those who are perfectly capable of moving faster or at least staying out of the way but just don't). I'm a quick shopper, because I don't especially enjoy shopping and I want to minimize the time I spend doing it; I have my list organized by aisle (unless the &*!%^+@ store has been rearranged recently, grrr), I know what I want and where I'm going. The lollygaggers are infuriating impediments to the swift completion of my rounds.

Conversely I'm sure that motivated speed-runners like me bug the slowpokes, but I'm moving too fast to care.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:05 PM on August 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


just wanted to share that the googly eyes are only one ONE side of the robot and NOT always on the side facing "forward" in the direction it's moving

On the other 3 sides, around where the eyes should be, there are horizontal slits of intense and bright blue light. see here: https://i.imgur.com/XkrQMMx.jpg (my own shitty cellphone pic.)

definitely the "exterminate" kind of robot.

Now, a question: If there were googly eyes on all four sides, would that be less creepy or more?
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 10:17 PM on August 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


Doesn't help with those "don't know what it's called but I'd know it when I see it" things though.

Though with the general building knowledge people of 90% of the employees at Home Depot they won't know what you are talking about either. I KNOW the names of things I generally looking for at the Borg and I still encounter blank stares a lot.

Mitheral: I need a two pole 20A SquareD plug on breaker, where can I find it?
Home Depot Employee: Is that some sort of tool?
M: No, it's an electrical safety device. Goes in breaker panels. *Uses Hands* So big.
HDE: It'll be in electrical, that's isles 37-39.
M: Ya, I guessed. Been there, couldn't find them. Was hoping for something more specific than 300 feet of shelving.
HDE: Let me call someone.
*20 minutes of assorted HDE phone tag and aisle conferences, finally finds the secret holder for this information*
HDE: Oh, they are in a lock up next to the register. Just ask a cashier for number 70.
posted by Mitheral at 11:11 PM on August 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


Side note: that $35K figure might be a little misleading. According to Google, there are ~415 Stop and Shops. Every store would have to have at least 2 - in case one breaks - otherwise it is back to pen & paper for adherence.

That means $35K x 415 x 2. This program - for Stop & Shop alone is a ~$29M investment in infrastructure.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:35 PM on August 4, 2019


Can't remember if I have said this here before.

The large Chinese grocery stores are starting to install the "self-checkout" machines, even in 3rd and 4th tier cities. A few days ago I saw my first "corner shop" that was largely robot cashier.

In China! As if there is not enough cheap labour here! It makes me so angry, every time, and I have yet to use one. I guess the suits have calculated that rather than giving jobs to 3 or 4 people, the robots will make the CEO and shareholders 2% more profit.

Burn it down. Seriously, I am just in a rage over what I am seeing in late stage capitalism play out.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:04 AM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


I mean, automation is literally how we got to our current standard of living... in the US around year 1800, roughly 83% of workers were employed in agriculture, and it's dropped to merely 2% today, and we grow so much food we have an obesity crisis. Is anyone raging that the machines have already taken over the majority of our jobs?

Retail jobs today are among the most common and low paid you can find. It's the agriculture of our age, and like it, those jobs will go away too. We've achieved over 90% efficiency gains in many professions over the past 50 years (for example, accounting work).

Inequality is the real enemy, not automation.
posted by xdvesper at 12:17 AM on August 5, 2019 [9 favorites]


I'm curious if in this instance they will make sure the visual processing actually works with black folk.
posted by srboisvert at 2:45 AM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


You know what Marty needs?

Hair like Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's assistant, Beaker. Maybe in a metallic copper color.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:53 AM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


People trying to improve the lives of people at the shitty end of the power hierarchy by making sure we don't take away menial, back- and joint-destroying, mindlessly repetitive work are solving the wrong problem.
posted by PMdixon at 4:56 AM on August 5, 2019 [6 favorites]


LOW WINE LEVEL DETECTED
posted by killdevil at 6:27 AM on August 5, 2019


The main reason they move stuff around is because moving it around resets the "novelty" sense of other customers, much like how people tend to like their living rooms more after they move the furniture around. People buy more when shopping is fun, and safe, fun novelty feels good to most people.

This is a fascinating notion to me, because it would have never in a million years occured to me that someone out there might _enjoy_ having to look for stuff in the supermarket. Thing is, familiar floorplans don't just make shop-lifting more efficient, it makes _shopping_ more efficient. I'm not usually at the supermarket because I want to have a fun adventure, I'm there because I ran out of milk and toilet paper, and the less time I have to spend rectifying that situation, the better. Running errands is not high on my list of favourite hobbies.

Now, being a single woman with a tolerable amount of leisure, I can view this with some equanimity, but my mum, who used to shop for four people would loathe floor plan changes with the fire of a thousand suns. Maybe she feels more mellow about it now when it's mostly just her and dad, but in the past she definitely took her business elsewhere if things got too egregious. Her theory was always that stores would do this to keep you wandering in search of staples as long as possible, so you would stay in the store longer and be exposed to more temptation to buy stuff you don't need.
posted by sohalt at 6:59 AM on August 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


> ...there are ~415 Stop and Shops. Every store would have to have at least 2. That means $35K x 415 x 2. This program - for Stop & Shop alone is a ~$29M investment in infrastructure.

That sounds low. High-quality video feeds are bandwidth killers, so each store will have to have upgraded (or, if the robot company insists, additional and completely segregated) wireless and wired networks, which means more hardware and maintenance. If S&S is using workers in the Philippines as the actual eyes for each machine, that means a staff of hundreds, plus the fees of the contracting company they work for. 415 added enterprise-grade networks, regular fees for maintenance, network connections, and the massive mechanical turk operation overseas, should in total outweigh the cost of the robots.
posted by at by at 7:23 AM on August 5, 2019


I'd be willing to bet they are getting cut a significant deal or doing some sort of cost-share with Badger; that seems to be how a lot of robotics prototype deployments work. The manufacturer shares the cost with the business, and gets a lot of data about how the robots work in real-world situations (and, hopefully, a case study they can tout to other buyers) in return.

This is how some of the warehouse-automation systems that were all the rage ~10 years ago were being deployed. Quite a few of them didn't really pan out in practice vs. manual or semi-manual picking. So it's not like automation is always a win, even when you'd think it would be.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:29 AM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


Now, a question: If there were googly eyes on all four sides, would that be less creepy or more?

Now that's getting into "BE NOT AFRAID" territory.
posted by cobaltnine at 8:50 AM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


People steal less and buy more when they feel like someone is watching them. We were directed to greet people within 60 seconds of them entering the store and to check on every single person every couple of minutes.

I wonder how much of this is culturally specific? Stores in the UK started this several years ago, having learned it from the US, and there are shops I now avoid specifically because I can't step in the door without a total stranger leaping in my face to say hello. If I do go in to browse, I get out again as quickly as I can because I feel like I'm being watched and it makes me uncomfortable. It strikes me as a very American thing to be cheerful to strangers, and just pisses me off mightily to have my thoughts interrupted. No, I don't want your help, if I want some help, I'll ask for it.

What's worse is that you know the poor assistants know all this, and can see how much they're pissing shoppers off, and they feel equally uncomfortable with their role in this weird fake, pushy interaction, but they've been told to do it and so have to slap on a rictus grin anyway as the 20th person walks straight past them with a tut of irritation.

Grrhrrrnnrhrhnrnnnn......
posted by penguin pie at 9:37 AM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


I kept reading Martys as Martyrs and passing by because I couldn't make it make sense. 12 years of Catholic schooling, I guess.
posted by theora55 at 10:09 AM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


Watching the video of a Marty reminded me of Chopping Mall.
posted by Token Meme at 10:28 AM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


sohalt, that is also part of it. If you walk past more product, you will buy more product. Hence why the milk is at the back and the design of the store tries to get you to go up and down the aisles. The product mix changes often enough that you have to move the whole arrangement around to fit everything plus meet the terms of the stocking location/visibility contract.

Also bear in mind that many people don’t read with automaticity or fluency, they’re not looking at the sign that says “BAKING,” they’re looking at the shapes and labels they recognize and then puzzling out the letters if they think it might be relevant. Plus they’re not shopping with a list, they’re shopping with a goal like “get food” so they’re extra suggestible.
posted by blnkfrnk at 10:55 AM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


These things are taking jobs from low wage folks who need those jobs. Nobody kills their feet/legs/back/body working retail unless you need the job and are willing to be customer focused. Where the hell else is a 60 y. o. person going to find a replacement job when robot worker comes along?

But they are a boon to corporate because of stockholders and the rule of increasing profits.

It's like we faced the loss of manufacturing jobs because robots. The promised retraining doesn't happen and another group of people find there is no safety net.

Once all but the corporate jobs are outsourced or replaced by automation we may finally reach the tipping point where humans themselves are useless.
posted by mightshould at 11:09 AM on August 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


It's not clear or obvious that these things are actually taking away or directly replacing a human at all. A lot of automation doesn't.

The robot can't restock the shelves, all it can do is tell when a particular spot on the shelf is empty. That's a pretty small part of the overall process, and I doubt there's a person whose job it is to walk mindlessly up and down the aisles, all day, doing nothing but check for empty slots. Likely they have people doing that, but only more occasionally, or in the course of doing other stuff (like actually restocking items). Or they do all their ordering off of POS transaction history ("store is supposed to have 20 packages of Bisquick, we sold 15 packages so far, therefore reorder"... which inevitably leads to going out of stock of one thing and having tons of another, based on what I've seen working retail; in theory this ought to work perfectly but in practice it never does). So the robot might be doing a function that currently doesn't exist, in order to create process efficiencies.

When I worked retail we had to do a complete "physical inventory" once a quarter and it suuuucked (I mean, the whole job sucked, because retail, but doing PI sucked more than usual). It basically ended up being something everyone had to do on top of their other jobs, or rather at the expense of their real jobs. If you'd automated it, you wouldn't have necessarily reduced headcount at all, but you would have had many fewer weird overruns or underruns (and in the grocery business that probably leads to spoilage).

Not all automation is aimed at reducing headcount. There's a lot of other stuff that can be improved, and there are lots of cases where the number of people has already been pared down as far as it can go, and has a lower limit that's driven by other factors. (E.g. you'll almost never see a bank branch with only a single employee in it for security reasons, even though it would certainly be possible to run one that way. Sometimes this leads to "bullshit jobs", admittedly.)

Eventually you will get automation that aims to reduce headcount, but even that's not necessarily a bad sign: there's no way you're ever going to raise salaries, e.g. a $15 minimum wage, and not also get increased automation. And the reverse is also true; if you hold back the introduction of labor-saving tools, you'll inherently also hold back salaries. I think history shows that this is rarely a good trade, and I'm personally pretty suspicious of industries that are both laborious and resistant to automation; scratch any of them hard enough and you'll almost always find terrible inequality and abusive conditions, and the lack of automation is because "human robots" are literally cheaper. (See: agricultural labor, meatpacking plants, clothing manufacture, etc.) That's not good, and I'm unconvinced that abusive employment is better than no employment.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:55 AM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


"Yeah, that's the trend everyone keeps ignoring. The future isn't replacing the low skilled, cheap and expendable human labor, it's getting rid of the harder to find and higher paid humans."

Kind of horrifying in a way I didn't think possible. Billionaires are already sub-human in most meaningful ways, but to replace them with actual robot programmed with cruel capitalist efficiency... A lot of the small ways we can influence companies to be marginally less evil only work because of human pressures, concerns, and pushback with a system that considers humans only as numbers. Bezos is an evil entity but Bezosbot can only be worse.
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:04 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


Here's the complete list of things that don't look creepy with googly eyes:
1. Cookie Monster
posted by dances with hamsters at 2:02 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]




That Cookie Monster is a literal monster really says a lot in this context.

Bezos is an evil entity but Bezosbot can only be worse.

You don't automate the ownership of capital, silly. Capitalism isn't work.
posted by klanawa at 2:13 PM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


Billionaires are already sub-human in most meaningful ways, but to replace them with actual robot programmed with cruel capitalist efficiency...

Isn't that pretty much what a corporation is?
posted by straight at 2:26 PM on August 5, 2019


Everything Is Better With Googly Eyes

Best googly-eye usage ever
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:51 PM on August 5, 2019


posted by blnkfrnk

Point taken.
posted by Splunge at 5:35 PM on August 5, 2019


I guess what I'm saying is the first emotion that an artificially intelligent robot is going to experience is anxiety.

Life? Don't talk me about life.
posted by loquacious at 2:04 PM on August 4 [42 favorites +] [!]


I assume someone's doing that on purpose.

(beaten to the punch by a better Marvin joke than the one I was going to make).
posted by aspersioncast at 9:03 PM on August 5, 2019


Anyone giving that a 43rd favorite is excommunicated.
posted by biogeo at 9:55 PM on August 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


It's similar to how larger self scan areas led to more customer service work done by less people, or introducing rotating shopping bag carousels leads to most stores cutting back on baggers.
Larger self scan areas lead to me shopping somewhere else. My first union job was in a grocery store, so it is completely obvious to me that the owners want to replace paid employees with me. Except they are not paying me, it's the other way 'round. So, to coin a phrase, screw that and screw them. I have only used a self-check a couple times (and as an aside, it worked like ass) and now I simply refuse. If they want me to do the work they can give me a discount, and I still probably won't do it. It's like being asked to cross a picket line every time I buy something...
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 7:05 PM on August 6, 2019 [2 favorites]


Larger self scan areas lead to me shopping somewhere else.

Seconded!

For people saying "this is progress, it leads to better jobs," etc. I am with you in principle, this is how it should work, but in the current climate that isn't what is happening..

People moving from farms to factories in the 18th and 19th centuries got the benefits of city life, but they were also alienated from their labour and their lives were much more at the whim of the capitalist elites. The backlash against the social justice of the 60s-70s has proven the greedy fuckers never went away, and they would still like to exploit society to as great an extent as we will allow.

So what I am saying is, socialist revolution (peaceful or otherwise) is the only way that we get to fully automated luxury communism. The elites quite clearly have another plan in progress that does not include milk and honey for the little people.

Robots are great, when the labour they are generating is for the benefit of the people.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:02 AM on August 7, 2019 [2 favorites]


So what I am saying is, socialist revolution (peaceful or otherwise) is the only way that we get to fully automated luxury communism

And what I am saying is, self checkout areas are not the thing preventing that revolution, and they are not the thing that made it the only way, and the elites have had that same notion of progress since ancient Rome and before. You can do what you want with those facts.
posted by PMdixon at 6:35 AM on August 7, 2019


As someone who has worked as a grocery cashier (more often as a cashier at other stores), I'd rather have the job than to see it replaced by tech. There's never any real thought given to what people like me should do once our jobs are made obsolete. People get so excited by the possibilities of technology, but they don't seem to consult with the people they're supposedly "saving" from their "menial, repetitive" jobs. Cashiers don't magically move up the ladder thanks to self-checkout. The reality is that we all just move on to the next "menial, repetitive" job available to us, only with slightly fewer options.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:17 AM on August 7, 2019 [4 favorites]


As someone who has worked as a grocery cashier (more often as a cashier at other stores), I'd rather have the job than to see it replaced by tech.

I understand that desire but that's not under your control. That decision will also not be affected by the choices of individual shoppers. What is under your control is whether you work with others in a systematic way founded in solidarity to take that control away from the people currently sitting on it.
posted by PMdixon at 5:17 AM on August 11, 2019


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