Alec Ross: COVID unleashes robots – and the hit on America's workforce will be enormous

This pandemic has massively accelerated investment and developments in artificial intelligence and this will have far-reaching implications on the American workforce

I saw this firsthand when I visited a factory where a company was packaging pharmaceuticals. Because of a surge in COVID infections, the factory closed to workers for a period of weeks at a time during the winter when its medicines were most needed. Remarkably, the factory kept on working without human beings on the factory floor.  

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Artificial intelligence-enabled robots using laser 3-D printers continued to produce, store and manage the packaging process. Humans working from home could observe the factory floor by video and remote control the robots whenever they needed to get involved, which was not often. People were able to direct another set of robots to pick up the packages, label them and move them to the dock for delivery without a single human setting foot in the factory. 

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What I saw wasn’t a scene from a science fiction movie. It is growing more and more common in factories around the world and it’s happening at a speed that has been accelerated by the onset of COVID. 

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