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What is a robot? Autonomous cars, breathing beans, and robot chefs

What is a robot? Autonomous cars, breathing beans, and robot chefs
By Joshua Ouellette • Issue #2 • View online
In one of the article commentaries below, the question “what is a robot?” pops up. My secret hope is that it’s as difficult of a question for everyone else as it is for me.
If you work with self-driving cars, drones, and robots, what’s the broader category under which these fall? They’re all machines, sure, but lots of other things are machines. Autonomous systems? Perhaps, but one of my coworkers likes to argue that air conditioners are autonomous systems as well. People seem split on whether drones and AVs are robots. Should the Internet of Things be considered a large meta-robot… or something else?
It’s a linguistic mess.
As of a few days ago, I considered parsing definitions to be a purely academic exercise — a minor annoyance. Then I sat in a conference talk entitled, “Should Robots Pay Taxes? Tax Policy in the Age of Automation.” All of a sudden, it seems like lots of things actually hinge on the definitions of “robot” and “automation.”
I once had a friend argue that his company’s product — which has the equivalent intelligence and locomotion of a garage door opener — is a robot. After all, it can sense, decide, and act. I’m curious if he’ll stick to his argument when it has negative tax implications.
Legal and colloquial definitions around autonomy, AI, and robots will have serious implications for the acceptance of robotic technologies. I don’t have a good answer for what the right vocabulary should be. I suspect it will come from science fiction by way of Hollywood, or the branding of some breakout company in the space.
If you have thoughts on this, or anything else related to autonomy and robotics (for lack of a better words), feel free to shoot us a note at: We’d love to hear from you.  – Joshua Ouellette, CEO, RavenOps

Startup news Raises $5M for Crowd-Sourced Autonomy
Zippy Team Cruises Towards GM
Now Everyone Can Help Self-driving Cars Learn the Ropes...Er, Roads
Technology trends
How to Give a Self-Driving Car a Test
Reading the Tea Leaves on Regulation
Robots Teach Themselves Tricks
Culture and Design
$930/Hour Giant Robot For Your Child’s Next Birthday Party
Chef Daniel Boulud Masterminds Recipes for Spyce's Robotic Kitchen
Events on our radar
Return to Westworld!
That’s all for this week! You know where to find us next Sunday evening. 
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Joshua Ouellette

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