A very common answer why scientists are developing new robots is because they are trying to support existing robots. The idea is, that a robot doesn't fulfill external requirements, but it's main obligation is to become successful in newly created environment not available in the past. Instead of using a robot to solve fundamental problems of mankind for example a traffic jam on the highway, the engineers are imagine new kind of problems which are fitting much better to the robots. A prominent example are robotics challenges like Robocup soccer, micromouse maze finding challenge and Mario AI challenge. All of these synthetic competitions have in common, that they have nothing to do with practical applications, but the challenge was developed with the aim, that only robots can succeed.

It's interesting to observe, that each time a robot should proof it's ability to help employees for dealing with their problems, the project fails. An early example from the history was the Helpmate robot, developed by Joseph Engelberger in the 1980s as a hospital transport vehicle. The project was canceled after a while because the product provided no added value for the customers. The same situation has repeated in the year 2010s with the Baxter robot which was an industrial robot from Rethink robotics. In the meantime the company is bankrupt because Baxter can't be used in a real factory.

Many other examples of failed robotics projects in restaurants, hospitals and car factories can be mentioned. They have all in common that the technology didn't provided extra value but increased the costs and made the life harder for the employees. It seems, that the only thing what the AI experts and visionary thinkers didn't have invented is a purpose for which task a robot might be useful.

quote “Delivered computing power in the U.S. economy has increased by more than two orders of magnitude since 1970 yet productivity; especially in the service sector, seems to have stagnated.” [1]

Is the only application for a robot as an end in itself, which means, that the technology isn't useful at all?

[1] Brynjolfsson, Erik. "The productivity paradox of information technology." Communications of the ACM 36.12 (1993): 66-77.

[2] Brynjolfsson, Erik, Daniel Rock, and Chad Syverson. Artificial intelligence and the modern productivity paradox: A clash of expectations and statistics. No. w24001. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2017.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think that Robocup soccer was developed with the aim that only robots can succeed. In fact, I think it is more the opposite. The challenge exists to show that robots can also do something that supposedly only humans and certain other animals can do (i.e. playing soccer) $\endgroup$ – nbro Nov 14 '19 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, the answer to your question is no. If you consider, for example, search engines an application of AI, then search engines are definitely useful, so AI can be useful. Even games can be useful (e.g. to help to develop certain cognitive skills). Furthermore, entertainment is also important and thus useful! $\endgroup$ – nbro Nov 14 '19 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ Are you referring to cyberocracy? (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberocracy) $\endgroup$ – Tautological Revelations Nov 14 '19 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ Could you please provide any evidence beyond selected anecdotal pieces to support your generalized claims like "each time a robot should proof it's ability to help employees for dealing with their problems, the project fails"? Especially since you mentioned factories which, in fact, successfully use robotics to a large extent in (especially discrete) manufacturing processes. Also, kindly clarify whether you're referring to robots/robotics (as mostly in the text body) or AI (as in the title). $\endgroup$ – Sammy Nov 14 '19 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ Skepticism over the hyped benefits of current AI/robotics work might make a worthwhile question. However, as written, this isn't even a question, despite the question mark in the title. It's just an opinion, and reads more like a troll post. Please add an objectively-phrased question to the question body, so it is clear what you are asking, and what kind of answer would satisfy your curiousity $\endgroup$ – Neil Slater Nov 14 '19 at 22:14

No robotics is not: "A purpose or goal desired for its own sake"

robotics:"the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots"

robots:"(especially in science fiction) a machine resembling a human being and able to replicate certain human movements and functions automatically."

When robots are created as a form of human vanity then yes they are an end in themself. When robotics are used in agricultural automation or in manufacturing they provide industrial benefits in the form of profits and greater outputs then would be possible by people. Machines are manufacturing automatons that fulfill a specific purpose. When we try to create robots to augment human tasks we really should be creating a machine. When we create machines to do tasks humans do that require some AI/intelligence then value is created, because we've replaced a very intelligent and able thing with a much less intelligent and still able thing. Robot picks tomatoes

  • $\begingroup$ The image shows a pick&place robot who is harvesting a tomato bush. On the first look, it's an example how technology can be used in a meaningful way. But the prediction is, that the company who tries to sell the device will become bankrupt within 2 years, because the customer have no advantage in using the machine, and secondly the picture isn't showing the reality, but it is transporting a vision how future robotics will harvest fruits. The picture makes more sense in my OP to illustrate that robotics is an end in itself. $\endgroup$ – Manuel Rodriguez Nov 14 '19 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ When you say “the customers have no ADVANTAGE using the technology” what you really mean is no economic advantage, what I’m saying is in an economy that cares about people and Mexicans not getting poisoned by pesticides, robots are a solution. Arguing that robotics is an end in itself almost seems like me a healthy person arguing medicine is an end in itself or wheel chairs are an end in themselves. Futurist don’t want robots for robots sake they want robots because robots fit into a vision of a better future for people. $\endgroup$ – Michael Hearn Nov 14 '19 at 22:11

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