Amazon is now one of the largest employers in the United States, but its empire was built partly thanks to a small army of robotic workers.
As WIRED senior writer Will Knight writes in a behind-the-scenes feature article, Amazon is now rolling out thousands of new, more advanced robots. The move could have profound implications for the company’s workers, for its customers, and for ecommerce as a whole.
“Amazon’s latest robots could bring about a company-wide—and industry-wide—shift in the balance between automation and people,” Knight writes. “Certain jobs will be eliminated while new ones will emerge […] and competitors, as always, will be forced to adapt or perish.”
Knight has spent more than a decade chronicling developments in automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence. He explains that, despite recent excitement over AI programs like ChatGPT, most industrial robots remain remarkably dumb and inflexible—largely because of the incredible challenges that come with operating in the messy physical world. And yet, rapid progress in AI, steady improvements in hardware, and rising demand for automation mean that we may well stand on the cusp of robotic revolution.
Read on for more stories about machines that are marching (and flying and rolling) this way. And when you’re ready for more, check out Knight’s Fast Forward newsletter.
Image courtesy of Figure AI / WIRED
WK: “John Deere is creating robots capable of toiling on farms. The outcry from some farmers reveals much about the power of AI and automation to concentrate power.”
WK: “This fascinating essay explores the problems with blaming robots—and automation in general—stealing people’s jobs.”
WK: “Why automation is not the real threat to US factory jobs—and why that is crucial to the future of America’s economy.”
WK: “Robot cars are a common sight in some cities. The chaos they are causing around San Francisco shows that not everyone is enamored with the technology.”
Will Knight is a senior writer for WIRED, covering artificial intelligence. He writes the Fast Forward newsletter that explores how advances in AI and other emerging technology are set to change our lives—sign up here. He was previously a senior editor at MIT Technology Review, where he wrote about fundamental advances in AI and China’s AI boom. Before that, he was an edito