The first fired robot

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Fired the first robot chef, too fast for men.

Robot chef

One day of work and Flippy, the robot who cooks the burgers, has been fired. Maybe it would be better to say retired or put on leave for a while. The problem was not, however, of a performance type, Flippy that is not disappointing than expected, far from it. It was perhaps too efficient. Yeah, because with his ability to cook up to 150 burgers an hour the rest of the staff simply could not keep up with him.

In practice, Flippy made more burgers than bread rolls managed to pack human personnel. “It was above all a timing problem,” said Anthony Lomelino, CEO of Cali Group, the company that owns the fast-food chain in which Flippy should have worked.

Flippy robot chef

The first robot chef

“When you’re in the kitchen and you work with other people, you’re talking to each other … With Flippy it’s not possible, you have to organize around its timing, choreographing the movements to decide what to do, when and how to do it.” The staff would then have to prepare the sandwiches partly before and partly after Flippy had done his business, preparing the sandwiches and adding the ingredients at the right time.

According to Lomelino, however, the decision is only temporary: “we need some time to train the staff,” he said. Personnel who, however, according to statistics, in this sector goes away on average before one year, because the work to be done is excessive compared to the pay that is received.

Flippy’s story therefore highlights various contradictions of this moment of problematic passage between human and robotic work. On the one hand, in fact, the robots are super specialized and are not able to do the whole job without collaborating with human beings. On the other hand, however, they are not designed to really interface with us, in the way we think is more natural. An imperfect mechanism of this type is easy to jam.

flippy miso robot chef

For David Zito of Miso Robotics, the company that makes Flippy, in the future there will be people in the kitchen, but supported by robots, which he sees as a useful tool, a third hand to do more and better, not to take away jobs to human beings.

I personally believe that technology itself is neutral, the problem is what we do. The real problem is probably to bring the human being to the center of any project, be it technological, work or economic. The structuring of work, the development of new technologies, should revolve around us, our needs and our way of being.

While currently the tendency is to reduce the human being to automaton, distorting it and forcing it to become what it is not and can never be. A road with no way out, which frightens us and generates frustration and social anger. The signs are already there, we hope someone reads them before it’s late.

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