Brace yourself, robots are coming

The year is 2021 and the first day of classes for a brand new semester is nigh.

A realization hits the student, “I am required to have a hard copy of my textbook for my class that I have in 45 minutes!”

(Although, it is more than likely that at this point all hard copies of textbooks have been eradicated. The textbook graveyard will be a grim, grim sight to see.)

Anxiety consumes the student for a moment, but he is relieved once he accesses Amazon’s marketplace via Google Glass. Quickly, he orders a copy of the book with prime drone delivery.

Thirty minutes go by and the student is waiting anxiously outside of Hayden Library. Hoping, wishing, praying that his order arrives in time.

From the distance he hears a flutter in the air.

With metal propellers and the wondrous branding of Amazon, the delivery drone has made its way to the student in the nick of time.

The drone approaches the student, begins to slow and circles the area in order to find the ideal landing zone.

The package is dropped lightly on the ground in front of the student: “Oh drone, you have saved me in my time of need!” he exclaims.

“No problem, Zane,” says the drone in a computerized voice as it flies off into the sunset to rejoin his Amazonian drone fleet and carry out more deliveries.

I know what you’re thinking: Have you gone mad? Maybe just a little bit.

Amazon recently announced its plans for the most efficient delivery system to date: delivery drones.

Amazon wishes to establish a “prime” delivery option that can transport packages to customers in about 30 minutes.

This new direction is pretty groundbreaking. The thought of unmanned aircraft delivering books, iPods and a 30-pack of Livestrong bracelets is pretty mindboggling.

Is anyone else getting this eerie dystopian feeling?

While the program likely won’t begin for quite a long time, the concept does bring up plenty of interesting questions.

For instance, how will it navigate trees, birds and other aerial hazards at it makes its runs to the customer? I’m sure some tech-savvy MIT grad has an answer for me, so let’s move on to the more interesting aspect of this development.

For the past few years, government usage of drones has taken the spotlight. Whether it is for spying or targeting terrorists, the utilization of unmanned aircraft and other unmanned technology has grown dramatically.

The usage of these drones brought up very real concerns: When is enough, enough? The technological spike presents a pretty steep development that may outpace the wishes of people.

Admittedly, I had not given much thought to the commercial usage of drones. But, as these things do happen, it makes sense.

I guess it was only a matter of time.

One of the main things we will have to keep an eye out is how the labor market reacts. It’s unfortunate that the expansion of technology has an inverse relationship with employment rates, and I don’t see this instance being any different.

For anyone who thinks sci-fi movies are set too far into the future, you better wake up. Brace yourself; the robots are coming.

 

Reach the columnist at zjenning@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @humanzane.