Interesting Factoid about Money and Injury Reduction Payoff of Robots at Amazon

December 12, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Who know if the data in “Amazon’s Humanoid Warehouse Robots Will Eventually Cost Only $3 Per Hour to Operate. That Won’t Calm Workers’ Fears of Being Replaced” are accurate. Anyone who has watch a video clip about the Musky gigapress or the Toyota auto assembly process understands one thing: Robots don’t take breaks, require vacations, or baloney promises that taking a college class will result in a promotion.


An unknown worker speaks with a hypothetical robot. The robot allegedly stepped on a worker named “John.” My hunch is that the firm’s PR firm will make clear that John is doing just fine. No more golf or mountain climbing but otherwise just super. Thanks MSFT Copilot. Good enough.

The headline item is the most important; that is, the idea of $3 per hour cost. That’s why automation even if the initial robots are lousy will continue apace. Once an outfit like Amazon figures out how to get “good enough” work from non-humans, it will be hasta la vista time.

However, the write up includes a statement which is fascinating in its vagueness. The context is that automation may mistake a humanoid for a box or a piece of equipment. The box is unlikely to file a law suit if the robot crushes it. The humanoid, on the other hand, will quickly surrounded by a flock of legal eagles.

Here’s the passage which either says a great deal about Amazon or about the research effort invested in the article:

And it’s still not clear whether robots will truly improve worker safety. One whistleblower report in 2020 from investigative journalism site Reveal included leaked internal data that showed that Amazon’s robotic warehouses had higher injury rates than warehouses that don’t use robots — Amazon strongly refuted the report at the time, saying that the reporter was "misinterpreting data." "Company data shows that, in 2022, recordable incident rates and lost-time incident rates were 15% and 18% lower, respectively, at Amazon Robotics sites than non-robotics sites," Amazon says on its website.

I understand the importance of the $3 per hour cost. But the major item of interest is the incidence of accidents when humanoids and robots interact in a fast-paced picking and shipping set up. The information provided about injuries is thin and warrants closer analysis in my opinion. I loved the absence of numeric context for the assertion of a “lower” injury rate. Very precise.

Stephen E Arnold, December 12, 2023


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