So, boston dynamics has put out another video showcasing the Atlas robots, this time having one manipulate a plank of wood to bridge a gap, go retrieve a bag of tools, carry them up some stairs and across the gap, tossing them up onto a platform to a human "construction worker," turning around. knowcking down large box, jumping down onto that box, doing a "sick flip" from that box to the ground, and then turning around giving a thumbs-up.

Everyone should take a look at the BtS video for this one (; not because it's particularly bias-bracketed or anything— it's still Boston Dynamics trying sell you their "awesome tech"— but rather because their VERY CAREFUL word choices are quite revealing. …These boston dynamics engineers and programmers are all talking AROUND the idea of whether this system is truly autonomous by using words like "we" did such and such, and "wanted to show," and "future research," and terms of art like "predictive programming." All of this provides a kind of obfuscatory cover so people are wowed by Boston Dynamics' capabilities while still letting BD say that they never really "misled" people as to what they're doing in the original video.

So to be clear: This video is NOT the Atlas system autonomously responding to a completely novel situation with no prompting. It IS the result of a lot of hard work, and that work involves a lot of pre-programming and modelling of EXTREMELY similar "likely" situations, with a lot of fuck-ups in the interim, until they get a whole run right enough, and then that's the video they use.

Boston Dynamics is doing a LOT of research into these areas, but the things they've achieved and are planning to work on are not what most people in the public think they are.

Now, that being said, lots of people who thinking about this in terms of what it's going to do to the value of human labour, and I think that overarching question is a very important one. In a better world, what would come to pass is that the jobs dismantled by automation wouldn't matter because we'd all be getting UBI from the taxes levied against the companies which revenues and profits were increased by, again, dismantling humans' jobs. However, as has been noted, the forces of automation are currently controlled by those who want to both a) not have to pay people to work, let alone to just live, AND b) have those same people somehow still continue to pay into consumer capitalism.

We are, as I've said, looking at a post-WORKER economy, not a post-work one.

And this is without getting into the fact that we're not even ACTUALLY looking at a "post-worker" economy! Most "automated" algorithmic tools are still maintained and supported by humans— just humans paid pennies and exploited for their crucial labor; cf., most recently, ChatGPT and Kenyan workers:

At the end of the day, there are still lots of humans involved in the programming, maintenance, and support of Atlas and other Boston Dynamics stuff, but their labour is often intentionally occulted for a bunch of reasons— chief among them, the prospect of selling more units while paying those humans less.


Actually, this deserves its own point:

ChatGPT used Kenyan workers for content moderation and paid them at a rate of TWO DOLLARS AN HOUR:

Like… we all know the mental health harms of content moderation processes, right? So to put that level of harm onto undervalued already-exploited workers is just… morally disgusting.


All this stuff is done without disclosure to the government or people involved, and no human impact study is ever done.

"...ChatGPT and other generative models are not magic – they rely on massive supply chains of human labor and scraped data, much of which is unattributed and used without consent"

Getting enough labeled data tends to be the bottleneck of those big neural networks: you need a whole lot of human eyes to feed the algorithm. And everyone is farming that out to Asia or Africa.
The only positive thing is that it creates work, but it's boring badly-paid temporary work.

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