We Have a New Cleaning Lady!

THEN: Sprinkle the carpet with damp tea leaves, which always should be saved for that purpose, by putting them into a jar, as soon as the teapot is emptied. The tea leaves absorb the dust, and cause the carpet to look cleaner and brighter. Then go over the carpet briskly and lightly with a corn broom. Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book: a Manual of Domestic Economy, 1850.

NOW: Ecovacs Basic Features: Includes our unique 3-stage cleaning system, anti-drop & anti-collision sensors – 120 minute battery life, auto-return charging, automatic software update, durable protective bumpers, air filtration, a large easy-to-empty dustbin, large wheels for climbing thresholds, etc. Amazon detail page for the Ecovacs Deebot NT95 Robot Vacuum Cleaner.


She doesn’t do windows or laundry. Actually all she will do is vacuum the floors,  but she does a really good job! We call her Wanda because she wandas all over the carpet. (sorry). To those who are offended by my gender assignment of our robot, get over it.

Surely there is nothing morally objectionable about a machine that eliminates the drudgery of wrestling with the Hoover and is easy to use, Yet as I ponder the question of robotics taking over the work of humans, I find that there is an aspect of robotic progress that gives me some concern.

* * * * * * * * * *

That’s as far as I got with this post yesterday. And then, today in my morning meandering of the internet, I was led to the Amnesty International website where I learn that even as I type this, a meeting is taking place in Geneva where A Group of Governmental Experts is meeting to come up with a solution to the risks pose by lethal autonomous weapons.

For most of us, serious robotics occur behind the scenes for instance in the field of manufacturing, where robots are doing many tasks formerly performed by humans or in medicine where they assist doctors in performing  operations they could not do without their help. But the military? That never crossed my mind . . . until this morning. What I learned is indeed terrifying and seems to me it should be getting more attention in the media than the latest complaint about Trump.

Killer robots are no longer the stuff of science fiction. From artificially intelligent drones to automated guns that can choose their own targets, technological advances in weaponry are far outpacing international law. We are sliding towards a future where humans could be erased from decision-making around the use of force.

—Rasha Abdul Ramin, Researcher/Advisor on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights at Amnesty International.

This isn’t the first time this group has met. In April of this year, they discussed developing new international law on lethal autonomous weapons systems. Amnesty International is calling for a total ban on the production and use of these weapons. But states which are already developing such systems: France, Israel, South Korea, the USA and the UK,  oppose legally binding prohibitions.

Killer Robots are weapons which once activated, can select, attack, and kill human targets without a person in control.  Experience should have taught us that when it comes to technology, if it can be done, it will be done.  It is naive to believe that production of these weapon systems will not proceed until they are a reality.

The meeting will be over on Friday, Aug 31. Let me know if you hear anything on the news about it. It should be a matter of concern that prompts the Sunday shows to impanel experts to discuss the risks and the possibility of a doomsday scenario. Is that likely? No.

I’ll save my original reservation about robots until next time.

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