COVID-19 has caused a variety of drastic changes to the lives of individuals’ lives around the globe. The instances increasing throughout Canada as well as worldwide as well, we are seeing the rise and development of robots to do tasks in certain workplaces which are considered to be dangerous for humans.
There have been instances where robots are used to clean health establishments, administer medicines to patients, and carry out temperature checks. In April of 2020, doctors in the Boston hospital employed Boston Dynamics’ quadruped robot named Spot to decrease health care employees’ exposure to SARS-CoV-2 the virus which is responsible for COVID-19. By supplying Spot with an iPhone and a two-way radio, doctors and patients could talk in real-time.
Marc Raibert, founder and chair of Boston Dynamics, watches one of the company’s Spot robots during the demonstration. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
In these cases, robots’ usage is a good idea since they directly contribute to decreasing the rate of transmission of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of exposure for health professionals to the virus. However, as we all know that robots can also be found performing these functions outside of health care environments, such as in airports and office spaces, retail spaces, and in restaurants.
This is exactly where the question of robot use becomes complex.
Robots at work
The kind of work robots and other machines do or, in certain instances, substitute for, is work that is typically thought to be low-paying, between cleaning staff and workers in fast-food restaurants, to security guards and factory workers. While many of the workers in Canada get paid minimum wage, but they also make up the majority of them are racialized women and young people aged 15 and 24.
The use of robots impacts the immigrant population. The gap between workers from immigrants who earn minimum wage and native-born Canadian workers has nearly tripled. The year 2008 saw 5.3 percent of immigrants and Canadian-born workers had minimum wages, when compared to the year 2018, which saw 12 per cent of immigrants earned a minimum wage while just 9.8 percent of native-born workers made minimum wage. Canada’s dependence on migrants for low-cost and disposable labor has accelerated the level of exploitation of workers.
McDonald’s has replaced cashiers with self-service kiosks . It has also begun testing robots to replace both cooks and servers. Walmart has begun using robots to clean store floors while also increasing their usage in warehouses .
The use of robots more obvious than in the way Amazon uses robots in its fulfillment centres. As the information specialists who use the marxist theory of Nick Dyer-Witheford Atle Mikkola Kojosen and James Steinhoff explain, Amazon’s utilization of robots has cut down on the time for orders and expanded storage space, which allows for 50 percent greater inventory levels in the areas that robots can be utilized and also saved Amazon’s energy costs due to working in the dark and without air conditioning..
Workers who are already marginalized are the most affected by the rise of robots. Also, any human work that is automated, mechanized, or routinized in some way is thought to be disposable since it is believed to be re-usable. This is work that has been removed of all humanity to ensure effectiveness and efficiency for huge corporations. But the impact of the corporate sector on robot development extends beyond the cost-saving measures.
The development of Boston Dynamics’ Spot provides a glimpse into the way robots have moved from the battlefield to urban environments. Boston Dynamics’ robot development program was once receiving funds by the American Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
As of 2005, Boston Dynamics received funding from DARPA to design one of the first quadruped robots, known by the name of BigDog, a robotic pack mule which was designed to help soldiers navigate difficult terrain. It was in 2012 that Boston Dynamics and DARPA unveiled a second quadruped robot, called AlphaDog that was designed to transport military equipment for soldiers..
The creation of Spot could have been impossible without these earlier initiatives funded by DARPA. The director of Boston Dynamics, Marc Raibert, claims that Spot is not going to be used as a weapon. The company contracted to lease Spot from Massachusetts State Police in 2019. Massachusetts State Police bomb squad in the year 2019 for a period of 90 days.
In February 2021 in February 2021, the New York Police Department used Spot to examine the scene of a home burglary. In the month of April, 2021 Spot was used by the French Military school during a series of exercises to assess its value in the near future on the battlefield.
Massachusetts State Police leased Boston Dynamics’ Spot in 2019.
The most vulnerable are the ones to be targeted.
These examples aren’t meant to completely ignore the value of certain robots. This is especially the case in the field of health healthcare where robots are still able to assist doctors enhance the patient experience. In reality, these instances should be used as a reason for governments to step in to stop a rise in robots across various areas.
In addition, it calls for action to end the various types of exploitation that impact the most marginalized of groups. Because technological advancement tends to surpass laws and regulations, It is crucial to ensure that legislators take action before it’s too far too late.