The rise of the robots brings threats and opportunities | Letters

Readers respond to the advance in robotics, and what it means for our economy, social fabric and the planet

The difference between the robots of today and all previous forms of automation is that they are so flexible (Editorial, 25 November). Intelligent robots will be utilised in any new enterprise rather than people now because the financial returns are likely to be so much greater, given that there will be no recruitment difficulties, wage demands, overtime claims, strikes, sickness absence, pensions, transport or housing problems to take care of. Factories can be situated anywhere, and HS2 could be redundant before it becomes operational.

In the past, workers displaced by automation could rely on new industries springing up to take them on, but in future these will create far more jobs for robots than people across the board. Our whole economic system, which concentrates on profitability and economics rather than the welfare of the population, can only encourage this trend. What we need is a new economic system.
Dr Richard Turner
Beverley, East Yorkshire

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How much?! – Star Wars Battlefront II and the problem with paid-for video game rewards

A backlash from gamers and concern from legislators has drawn attention to virtual add-ons that cost real-world money

When the new Star Wars video game, Battlefront II, was made public in a final testing session before a general release, it didn’t receive quite the reception its publisher, Electronic Arts, was hoping for.

It featured a confusing mixture of virtual collectibles and randomised rewards that could be used to unlock characters within the game, meaning it would take 40 hours of continuous play to access just one top-tier character such as Luke Skywalker. The system, though, could be shortcut with cash: players were able to spend real money buying so-called “loot crates” full of the required rewards and credits. Just a few thousand dollars was all it would take to unlock every character in the game. A bargain! What’s more, these loot crates were also randomised, with users not knowing what they were getting before buying.

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