IT in the News Essay

Robots are mustering for recovery in Japan. On March 11th, Fukushima nuclear power plant has been damaged as a result of a magnitude 9 earthquakes and tsunami. Lots of people died and some people alive are stuck under the debris of earthquake, waiting for the rescue. The concept arising from this catastrophe is this—using robots to rescue people and help recover. Japan has been long known for its reliance on technology to save lives in case of natural disasters. According to information reported by The New York Times , the country has spent billions of dollars on advanced technologies to help people and structures survive earthquakes and tsunamis.

The primary stakeholders in this concept are the victims of this disaster, robot developers, Japanese government, and workers working in radioactive area. Victims of the disaster are waiting desperately for rescue. Japan proposed that there are currently 12,431 died and 15,153 missing. To successfully rescue those tremendous numbers of people in time, lots of rescuers are needed. However, since those places are affected by fatal radioactivity, not many people are willing to work for them. This is why the robots are needed. They can replace those rescuers, without having to worry about being affected by radioactivity. Japanese government is associated in this IT concept because they have to provide money for the robots.

The IT system works like this. Building codes in making robots require seismic resistance. In fact, many structures are equipped with steel braces, high-tech rubber pads and hydraulic shock absorbers. Some examples of the robots used in disasters are ‘Pipe cleaner’, ‘RoboCue’, ‘Quince’. Pipe-cleaner can crawl into tight crevices to assist with search operations in the case of natural disasters. RoboCue can help to locate and retrieve victims. Its sensors and infrared eyes can find trapped humans and safely pull them to safety. The robot’s on-board oxygen tanks can help survivors breathe until helps arrive. Quince has four sets of wheels that make the toy-car sized vehicle mobile in all kinds of terrain. The sensors on it can detect carbon dioxide in human breath to help detect the victims. This IT concept came about because many people avoided working in danger zones. It is one of the solutions to overcome labor shortage.

Robots can play a big role in natural disasters because they can work for humans in dangerous zones whenever. They can standby in the place where they are needed at any time. Robots don’t need working shifts, don’t need to rest, thus can be present whenever needed. However, we have to know that there still exist some limitations. Radiated environment needs robots that are particularly rugged. Max Lungarella, a roboticist at the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, claims that such robots are rather large, slow, and have only a few CPUs and sensors. They are also way too expensive, costing around $100,000 per one.

There are some social/ethical issues arising from this IT concept, robot usage in natural disasters. First is—is it right to spend lots of money on purchasing robots when more people can be saved if the money was used elsewhere? This relates to 1.9_policies and 1.10_standards. Robots are too expensive to afford. With such a lot of money, only few are affordable. Wouldn’t it be worth spending money on survivor’s food and water? The second issue whether the robots are really trustable. Robots do what humans order only. Since they cannot think on their own, they can’t make any decisions like humans do. Also, they might not cover all the areas as humans can. This can result in danger, robots causing problems. The third is taking away worker’s jobs. Although not many people prefer working in radiated areas, there still are people who still need those jobs for their living. This is the disadvantage to those workers. If the robots all replace the job of humans, where would those people go for work?

It is very demanding to come up with a clear solution to these issues and problems since some of them are ethical issues. Thoughts might vary from people to people. But about the usage of money, for robots or for survivors, I personally think the money should be used for the survivors. Survivors are already there, where we can see. They are desperate of food and water. If they have food, they can live. But even if the money were used for robots, there is a very slight chance of finding a living person underground. This is a challenge. Let’s say that the robot found a person. This takes time to go under the debris and save the person. As time passes, the chance of the already surviving people dying increases. I think it is better to save the survivor which is safer.
Though there still are some errors and problems in using robots for recovery in places struck by natural disasters, the next generation of technological lifesavers could come in the form of robotic rescuers.

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