With 2020 in the rear-view mirror, the world turns its focus to 2021 and the challenges of adapting to the new world created by last year’s global events.
Robots and Humans are Alike - We All Fail
At InOrbit, our mission is to accelerate the adoption of robotics at scale. After talking to 100+ robotics companies, from startups to companies with billions of dollars in revenue, with all types of autonomous robots, we’ve reached an inescapable conclusion: they will all fail.
We’re not saying the companies will go out of business (although, sadly, many have in recent years). Rather, every robot will experience failures, in some cases multiple times per day or per hour. While a few of these failures may be catastrophic (and occasionally hilarious), like steering into a pond, getting stuck next to a trash can, or suddenly catching on fire, many errors are recoverable. The most frequent failures are what we call autonomy exceptions, where a robot finds itself in a situation that falls just outside its operating parameters.
When I was a child, my father would come home from work and give me the extra computerized punch cards that were used that day - it was my first exposure to the world of computers. Later, I became an active participant in the personal computer revolution, both at school (which let students program on Apple II systems) and at home (my father purchased an early IBM PC system).
Because PCs were so new, most people who used them needed to learn how to program them, and in my case it was figuring out the BASIC language. After a while, my interests changed from programming to writing, but I had friends who stayed interested in programming. They discovered how much more they could do when they programmed on top of libraries that gave them higher functions. Similarly, in the early days of the commercial Internet, I was reading books on HTML so I could create my own web pages. I then also learned how to configure and manage early wireless networks (ah, the joys of 802.11b!).
Technology developments like these often follow the same path - a new technology emerges and gains momentum, but then others begin creating tools that let additional people participate in the process from a different starting point. For example, in the world of the web, you can now build a website by using templates and tools from WordPress or Squarespace, and download thousands of widgets that run different parts of the site, such as creating an online store.
Creative destruction. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? If you’re picturing a demolition derby with decorated cars driven by artists and designers… that’s not it at all.
The gale of creative destruction was first introduced by economist Joseph Shumpeter in 1942, to describe the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one”.