11/20/18
Brice Bunner
Environmental

Automation used to clean our wastes is a future we can get behind

    

Image ©: Waste 360Robots taking jobs is one of the least appealing aspects of an automated future, but there are some times when what the robot is doing can actually be better than hiring a person to do it. We see this in quite a few industrial applications; robots are often employed at tasks that would kill or seriously injure a human worker. But this latest example is more an opportunity to do a task that is simply overwhelming in nature.

The golden potential of automationImage ©: Male Xtra

When it comes to something that would overwhelm even the most capable of us, capturing the waste that our species seems incapable of curbing is probably the highest on the list. Things like ocean plastics and e-waste are so massive that it will have to take something dramatic like robots to even make a dent.

Robots like the WasteShark (which was designed after the whale shark in how it gathers waste with its open mouth) give us hope that some major change can be made in our lifetime. After all, the clean-up that is needed is simply not manageable with manual labor alone.

The point, of course, is that tireless technology can be employed for overwhelming tasks. Ocean plastic waste has reached a staggering amount and will only increase as we consume more. It only makes sense to employ tireless machines that never complain, never call off, and never sleep to tackle that task. But even with this ideal marriage of robots who never need a break working at a job that never has an end, there are still obstacles to overcome.  

Giving robots the reach

Image ©: Programmer FishCurrently, robots are heavy and unwieldy, not to mention power hungry. And, unless the laws of physics have changed, batteries and buoyancy are not on friendly terms. Add to that the distances between wifi hotspots across the ocean, and the WasteShark has a long way to go to be a viable solution to our waste problems.

At the very least, battery capacity and GPS tracking needs to improve. But, if we can give drones like the WasteShark the range and energy they need to roam the entire ocean day in and day out, then things like scrubbing the atmosphere for carbon, processing e-waste, and cleaning up the ocean gyres are close enough to be a reality.

So, instead of nursing your anxiety about robots supplanting the workforce, why not push for automation to tackle climate change? That way, the robot-laden visage of the future, that is becoming less and less like science fiction, won’t turn out to be the dystopian novel you might be thinking of.

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