Image: NTU/Handout

A robot just made an Ikea chair

Singapore's got serious about robots, and it's not just because there's a lot of flatpack to do

Robots at a university in Singapore have completed one of the world's most notoriously frustrating tasks: assembling Ikea furniture.

What it means: Good robots! Scientists spent three years making the robot – it's got arms, grippers, sensors and 3D cameras (don't we all). The robot – let's call him the Ikeatron 2000 – built a chair in 20 minutes.

So why have they done it? Well the scientists think that the robot could soon be so clever it'll be able to listen to verbal instructions, or even look at a finished chair, and build it. They're saying it proves robots will be able to contribute to us all having nicer lives.

But that's not the full story. Singapore is explicitly pushing for automation and robotics to do the jobs that cheap foreign labour would otherwise do – a lot of work in hotels and restaurants, for example – because they want to reduce the number of immigrants working there (currently about 40 percent of their workforce is made up of nonresidents). Funnily enough, rather than trying to replace foreign workers with local workers, they're replacing them with robots instead.

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Reader Comments

  • RW

    Your right to a degree. You mentioned “the wandering Jew”.

    I elaborate that the Jewish people, historically have tended to migrate almost exclusively to locations that are economically and culturally vibrant already. I would speculate that Jews have thrived in these places and have often improved the bounds of their economies and knowledge base.

    You can also ask; how many massive entertainment conglomerates, Nobel winners or billionaires has Isreal developed? If Jews are so capable, why isn’t Tel Aviv the Rome of our time?

    Jews are successful because they value education, maintain a strong social cohesive, they actively monitor and have a good sense for Zeitgeist wherever they are and they carefully choose the places they settle and congregate themselves heavily in these choice locations.

    But most importantly (haulocaust increased the importance of this aspect), they actually designed their culture for success. They not only attend Harvard, they use what they learned to better the group as a whole. With as much, they studied intricate networking systems, adapted to it and in many cases improved upon them. (See how Japan acquired Aegis warships and made them better).

    Of course there is nothing wrong with any of this. It’s when you elaborately gain disproportionate power in any society where you would stand out, you must take care when attempting to make a society better (Civil Rights movement) and rewriting that society all together (mass immigration). Ask blacks in China, Mexico, Philippines or India how much opportunity they have? Go to businesses owned by their American diaspora and see how many blacks they hire. Go to Silicon Valley and see how many East or South Asian tech workers wish they could work with more black people. California might work as a state, but as a nation, I think your rolling the nuclear dice here. I hope we can succeed as a tolerant pluralistic superpower but at this stage in human societal development, it’s a pipe dream.

    And if Jews really are the icon for success, they would see that fundamental human successes happen over generations. Just look at the rest of the planet? Are we ready?