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The following is adapted from The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, out now in hardcover.
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«Computers and other digital advances are doing for mental power what the steam engine and its descendants did for muscle power.»
Baxter is instantly recognizable as a humanoid robot. It has two burly, jointed arms with claw-like grips for hands; a torso; and a head with an LCD face that swivels to ‘look at’ the nearest person. It doesn’t have legs, though; Rethink sidestepped the enormous challenges of automatic locomotion by putting Baxter on wheels and having it rely on people to get from place to place. The company’s analyses suggest that it can still do lots of useful work without the ability to move under his own power.