Every few years, there is an industry-wide panic that some new technology like artificial intelligence or robotics will make people’s jobs obsolete. While it is true that some jobs are replaced entirely through automation, more often than not, technology replaces the tedious or monotonous parts of a job, allowing companies to harness their employees’ cognitive skills for improved efficiency and productivity.
But what happens when your job is entirely labor focused? Are you at greater risk of job displacement if you are being paid to walk back and forth all day in company-supplied uniforms while sporting an enigmatic, vacant stare? I’m speak, of course, about fashion models, and if the latest Coperni runway show is any indication, then it’s only a matter of time until statuesque robots are walking the catwalk in couture.
For the launch of their fall 2023 collection, Coperni partnered with Boston Dynamics to incorporate five of the company’s “Spot” canine robots into their Paris fashion show. The robots lined the sage while models walked confidently past and around them.
In an article for Interesting Engineering, Loukia Papadopoulos described how the robots interacted with the models. “The Spots even helped the models. One helped a model take her coat off, while another picked up and carried a model’s handbag for her.”
Arnaud Vaillant, one of the two designers for the fashion house, told The Guardian, “Ours is a positive message, that humans and technology can live together in harmony.”
Not everyone who saw the show, however, shared Vaillant’s utopian sentiment. Maggie Harrison, in an article for Futurism, wrote, “But conveniently left out of the Coperni x Boston Dynamics narrative are the more troubling functions of the robodog. In reality, Spot is military-grade hardware, heavily funded and already in use by the US military as a tool of the increasingly eerie surveillance state.”
In an article for Jezebel, Kady Ruth Ashcraft wrote, “Robo-dogs might nobly not be taking up arms (paws?), but just for good measure, they do have a controversial history that does not fall in line with this “peace and love” techno-optimism fantasy Coperni is spinning. In 2020 and for $94,0000, a pupbot was adopted by the NYPD and received such negative backlash from the public the department was basically forced to re-home it within a year.”