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Amazon patent for a safety cage stirs up a buzz

Human transport device
Diagrams show the design of a proposed human transport device, as seen from the side at left and from the top at right. The patented concept was never turned into an actual device. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO).

Warehouse workers confined in cages? That’s the dark vision evoked by an essay delving into the worries that come along with the development of artificial-intelligence devices such as the Amazon Echo speaker.

“Anatomy of an AI System” was published on Friday by the AI Now Institute and Share Lab — and it’s already gotten a rise from the executive in charge of Amazon’s distribution system, who says the cage concept never ended up being used.

The 7,300-word essay was written by Kate Crawford, who is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research as well as co-founder and co-director of New York University’s AI Now Institute; and Vladan Joler, director of the Share Foundation and a professor at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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