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Tackling labor shortages with human-like AI robots

PLUS: AI will soon do the work we hate…

Hey there, AI fans

It has been a wild few weeks during my hiatus! OpenAI fired Sam Altman, then he got hired by Microsoft, and then all the OpenAI engineers threatened to quit. Sam Altman is back, the board is fired, and a new one is in place. 

What was all the fuzz about? We don’t know, but Sam Altman has confirmed Q* (Q star), which seems to be at the core of it all. I have no idea what Q* AI is all about, but the big question is: have they reached AGI? We don’t know, but I’m sure we will know soon… 

If you wonder why I did not cover the OpenAI drama and all the surrounding news, the answer is simple; I want you to regard The Practical AI Newsletter more as a letter and less as news. Therefore, today, I will talk about an AI and robotics company that fascinates me - one I am sure we will hear much more about in the news! 

This is a sneak peek into the near future, where smart AI humanoids do the jobs we hate. 

Are you ready? 

Let’s go! 

- Thomas

“…this newsletter is loaded with more business ideas than a Silicon Valley coffee shop of Monday morning…”

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I have been an entrepreneur for over 30 years and started over 20 companies in 6 different countries (most failed, but some made $$). I was hustling for money from 6-7 years old…

I admit it, I am an ideas junkie! I have a lists of over 100 business ideas I will never start. Instead of them rotting away in my Dropbox, I will start sharing them with the world, including detailed breakdowns on how I would start them.

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- Today’s story - 

Expanding human capabilities through advanced AI 

This might be a pretty thought-provoking statement, but no matter where you stand on the question of humanoids and AI, I think it is inevitable that AI and humanoids will be part of our lives. 

The long-term readers of this letter might remember that I took a break this summer because I got scared about the whole AI thing and needed a breather. 

When we talk about the topic of AI humanoid robots, I think we walk a fine line between positive and negative outcomes. 

Maybe it is “scary” because we all watched Terminator in the 1980s and 1990s and we can easily visualize what it might look like. Or it is the human form and (superior) capabilities that invoke that fear in us?

I am not into fear-mongering, and want to showcase technology's positive sides and how it might practically impact your life. Figure AI is a company that says their mission is “to expand human capabilities through advanced AI”. 


The company was started less than 2 years ago by serial entrepreneur Brett Adcock.

I was impressed when I first learned about Figure AI on the MyFirstMillon podcast in September.

Figure have recently released the v1 of their smart AI humanoid - Figure 01.

Will humanoids replace us, or supplement us? 

Until recently I was a humanoid sceptic, albeit impressed by Boston Dynamics and their robots. 

And while it is clear I didn’t have any deeper understanding of what a humanoid could be used for, the aforementioned podcast gave me perspectives. 

Maybe reading this will do the same for you? 

Here’s the stitch… (I always thought it was “here’s the stick”)

Tackling societal problems with humanoids

The labor force is shrinking! 

There are 10 million unfilled jobs in the USA and 7 million of those jobs are for essential roles in warehouses, transportation, and retail.

There are only 6 million people available to fill these open positions - and attrition rates remain high. Key warehouse suppliers predict they will run out of people to hire in 2024. 

That’s like next year… 25 days from now. 

Another interesting number, is that there are over 10 million unsafe or undesirable jobs in the U.S. alone. 

An aging population will make it increasingly difficult for companies to scale their workforces.

I know Japan is suffering from this. I suspect it is the same in Europe.

Automation is the solution. 

I am sure you are well aware of the production robots in car factories. 

These types of robots are big business and can be found in lots of production plants around the world. ABB is one of the largest manufacturer of such robots, but you do not really hear anything about them in this AI heatwave. 

These robots are currently “stupid”. No AI brain, and they are stationary and made for a single purpose. 

What we do not have, are smart robots doing more complex tasks that require reasoning and multitasking. 

Figure AI wants to develop general purpose humanoids with human-like capabilities that can function in complex environments. 

In short, provide resources for jobs that are undesirable or unsafe for humans. 

And while I understand that this is a bold statement and a lofty goal, we are moving towards a future where robots will be utilized more and more. 

In an interconnected world with basically no trading borders, we as consumers are in need to robotics and AI to fuel our mass consumption of “everything”. 

And while mass consumerism is an interesting topic in and of itself, technology and automation is needed to uphold the level of life and efficiencies we have come to expect in the “modern” society. 

There are not enough truckers. AI and self driving cars is a step towards solving this problem (I wrote about AI in the 9 trillion transport industry in a previous issue). 

Amazon is struggling with drivers and warehouse staff. They have invested heavily in robots and transportation for years. But not every ecommerce store or business have the capabilities and endless dollars of Amazon. Humanoids helping with packaging, labeling, and shipping might be a gamechanger for them. 

In Estonia, where I have my business (and where this publication calls home), we have delivery robots driving around the streets of downtown Tallinn

I am sure you have seen videos of these little robots in restaurants delivering food to the table, or similar ones driving around trade fairs with info and brochures. They are pretty “dumb” at this point. In the future it is not unlikely a humanoid will take your orders. 

But if we think ahead 10-15 years, maybe humanoids can perform corporate labor roles, maybe assist individuals in the home, and even care for the elderly? 

Honestly, I am not sure I am keen at having a humanoid care for me when my time comes. But having a robot to clean my house or my car - heck yeah! 

What other jobs are there where we see a lot of repetitive and unfulfilling work being done? 

Sure, the counter argument is “what will all those people do when the robots do all the labor?” 

Back in June 2023, Marc Andreessen wrote his now famous Why AI Will Save the World article where he argued that AI will “cause the most dramatic and sustained economic boom of all time, with correspondingly record job and wage growth”.

Andreessen claim that AI and automation killing jobs is a fallacy, and refers to the “Lump of Labor Fallacy”. In short, the fallacy says that there is a fixed amount of labor to be done in the economy at any given time, and either machines do it or people do it. If machines do it, there will be no work for people to do. 

There are plenty of people argue that AI is good and it will replace all jobs, and the human race should/will receive UBI (Universal Basic Income) so we can all pursue artistic expressions and find the meaning of life through art and nature. 

As a “capitalist” and “technologist”, I am not quite so sure about UBI…

I think it is amazing what Figure AI have managed to achieve in less than two years and I am onboard with the idea of a general purpose humanoid. I can see the problems they will solve - at least in the short to medium term. 

I think we live in unprecedented times when it come to technological development and I think we are at the cusp of the fifth industrial revolution where AI and robots will be in the center of things. 

Do you think we entering a new industrial age?

That’s all I have for you today!

I hope you enjoyed this short introduction to AI humanoids and its potential.

Until next week…

AI’ll be back!

- Thomas

Thomas as a Humanoid - AI work by ChatGPT/Dall-E 3 & Canva AI

ChatGPT is now multimodal. I uploaded a picture of myself to ChatGPT and asked it to create a humanoid based on my picture. Then I took it to Canva and asked its AI to make it square and expand on the cityscape. I look young, fit and handsome. Thanks AI, for making me 25 again… 😃 


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