Venture capitalists point out that robots are taking over the jobs we’d rather they leave alone. Artificial intelligences are making useful progress at creating original art, music, and prose, the sort of tasks we’d hoped they would free us up to be able to do ourselves. Meanwhile, the jobs we want them to do are proving “shockingly hard to automate”:

The cleaning robot Roomba was one of the first commercially available robots to everyday consumers in 2002. Almost 15 years later, there has not been any real innovation in terms of cleaning robots that has seen commercial success.

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Textile manufacturing, one of the first industries to be automated, remains incredibly hard to automate completely. Robots work best when manipulating solid objects, but textiles shear, stretch, and compress, making them difficult for robots to handle.

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Automating the harvesting of crops that are today picked by hand has so far been hard because many of these crops can be damaged easily and computers have had trouble with visual recognition of the fruit or produce they are trying to pick.

Posted by Peter Scott

Peter Scott’s résumé reads like a Monty Python punchline: half business coach, half information technology specialist, half teacher, three-quarters daddy. After receiving a master’s degree in Computer Science from Cambridge University, he has worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an employee and contractor for over thirty years, helping advance our exploration of the Solar System. Over the years, he branched out into writing technical books and training. Yet at the same time, he developed a parallel career in “soft” fields of human development, getting certifications in NeuroLinguistic Programming from founder John Grinder and in coaching from the International Coaching Federation. In 2007 he co-created a convention honoring the centennial of the birth of author Robert Heinlein, attended by over 700 science fiction fans and aerospace experts, a unique fusion of the visionary with the concrete. Bridging these disparate worlds positions him to envisage a delicate solution to the existential crises facing humanity. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two daughters, writing the Human Cusp blog on dealing with exponential change.

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