EDITOR’S NOTE – OCTOBER

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This was not written by a robot.

I often think back to the 1950s romantic image of robots – a tin can with arms, legs and an apron – serving cocktails and canapés to the families of the future. We’d put our feet up and enjoy increased leisure time, while our mechanical friends carried the bulk of the workload.

50-60 years later this vision still feels far-fetched, as far as domestic robots go anyway, but has come to pass in manufacturing and other key business areas, leading to apparent increased efficiency and profit at the expense of jobs. Robots now build cars, farm, make shoes, answer telephone queries, dispense food and swiftly pack your online purchases into parcels across hundreds of Pentagon-sized, human-less warehouses.

In case you hadn’t heard, content in the mainstream media is also gradually being automated, that is, written by robots. These machines are highly effective at researching, drawing on multiple sources, factoring in subjective and objective tones, and pasting together seamless reports on events across the globe.

So who benefits from this technology? Wasn’t the implied promise of business and governments that it would be everybody? I wonder how many of ‘everybodies’ like us own a factory, a media empire, or develop robot technology? Recent figures suggest that the richest 1% just cracked the 50% mark in terms of control of the world’s wealth, rising at an alarming 2% per year – ironically at about the same pace as our sea levels.

So by the time we’re becoming accustomed to life underwater, we, the 99%, may be renting our robot-manufactured snorkels.

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