Recent AI Developments: How Easy Are Humans to Replace?

By Joseph Pazmino Larco

A common sci-fi trope is to have humanoid robots take over humanity through uncontrolled development, but is that possible? Recent developments in AI are getting closer, yet there is still a long way to go.
Thousands of companies are attempting to break into the market of AI, as this technology is still in its early stages and has the potential to be revolutionary. With the popularity of ChatGPT, the possibilities of AI are starting to be realized, and one such company that has been prominent in this process is Figure AI. Figure AI in partnership with OpenAI has created a humanoid robot capable of carrying out simple tasks using speech-to-speech reasoning, meaning it can do simple tasks upon verbal request. A video of this robot performing such tasks can be found here.
Figure AI has been working tirelessly to create humanoid robots capable of performing basic tasks and expanding human capabilities through advanced AI in hopes of eventually having AI enter the workforce. This robot, known as Figure 01, is bringing Figure’s vision of the future closer to reality. It can use integrated cameras that send data to a large vision-language model trained by OpenAI to retrieve information needed to analyze the situation around it. Then, it adapts to the environment and has full control over its locomotion to perform simple tasks. While tasks as mundane as putting away silverware or picking up trash may seem trivial, the implications that a dexterous AI-powered robot is no longer a work of science fiction but a reality is remarkable.
With this being said there is much to consider about AI and its future involvement in the workforce. Figure AI plans to have the machines enter jobs that are strenuous and unsafe for humans, namely physical labor jobs, specifically those that are automated. Jobs in manufacturing, shipping and logistics, warehousing, and retail are where the AI robots are intended to go and have significant promise in doing so. Many of these jobs require an individual to perform a task repeatedly with a high degree of accuracy, which are the kind of roles that AI at its current state will have the capability to excel at.
This isn’t to say that robots will take these jobs any time soon, as although AI is developing exponentially it still has many limitations to consider. The first and most glaring one is the Artificial intelligence responsible for operating the robot, as although it can perform tasks (such as putting away dishes or taking away trash) it is still unable to do many other things. Another issue is the cost of creating the required workforce (the amount of robots needed) to be able to replace the current workforce is extremely expensive. It costs between $30,000 and $150,000 per unit, since getting each part to make the machine can make expenses rise quickly. It is important to mention that although these prices are high they are a significant decrease from the year prior as the units dropped in price from the previous range of $50,000 to $250,000 which may mean this problem will get better as time passes.
Recent advancements in AI bring humanity closer to a future in which robots and humans work together in the workforce. Figure AI’s pursuit of this vision and recent videos show this future as a real possibility. Despite this, it’s important to understand the limitations that are still being battled with today and understand that many obstacles must be overcome. Yet, as costs decline and technology evolves, these obstacles will be a thing of the past, and a new era will begin one in which AI robots can benefit humans symbiotically in a future unlike those told in our favorite works of science fiction.