Industrial Robotics / Changing Workforce

Interview: Why robots still need us, and why complete autonomy is a myth

By Hope Reese, for TechRepublic

Oct 19, 2015

The rise of smart machines is impossible to deny—with driverless cars, self-checkout stations, and drone deliveries, more and more tasks are becoming automated. But while many are troubled by this rapid integration of machines into the workplace, MIT professor David A. Mindell sees it as a largely positive development.

Humans, he believes, serve a vital role in analyzing and interpreting data. So instead of worrying about how robots will replace humans, he says, it is the relationship between human and machine that count.

Q: What myths do we have about these machines?

Mindell: There are three main myths. One is the myth of replacement. That you can have a person standing in an assembly line, put a robot in their place, and the robot does that same job. Then there's the myth of linear progress. That somehow we are moving from human tasks, to remote tasks, to full autonomy. That it's the natural progression of the technology. The final myth is that full autonomy is the highest level of the technology. That machines act independently in response to the environment.

Read the full TechRepublic interview with Mindell, including why he doesn't believe in full autonomy, and how humans and robots will work together in the future.