Summary of Sure, It Can Backflip – But Can a Robot Hold Down a Desk Job?

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Sure, It Can Backflip – But Can a Robot Hold Down a Desk Job? summary
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No question, employers are increasingly turning to robots to perform work that humans used to do. Automation is pervading food preparation, farming and transportation, often putting humans out of work. But when it comes to desk jobs, can robots compete? Absolutely not, avers Amy LaViers, a movement analyst and director of the Robotics, Automation and Dance Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in a brief but fascinating article for Aeon. According to LaViers, even the lowliest desk clerk does things every day that robots can only dream of – if robots could dream.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why robots can’t perform many basic tasks required in desk jobs,
  • What mistakes roboticists make when they think about human movement and
  • Which seemingly simple movement tasks would stymie any robot.

About the Author

Amy LaViers is a certified movement analyst and director of the Robotics, Automation and Dance Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.



Roboticists commonly believe that existing humanoid robots could replace humans in desk jobs: The robots only need the right algorithms. But the roboticists – like most people – don’t fully appreciate the complexity of humans’ everyday movements, including those necessary to perform a desk job. Roboticists tend to think of movement in rigid categories, such as stillness versus motion or difficult movements versus easy ones. In reality, humans are never not in motion. Their bodies are always moving and adjusting posture, even when a person is seemingly only...

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