Amazon has envisaged transporting their employees in cages

Credits: United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

A patent filed by the American giant two years ago has recently sparked unprecedented debate.  The patent is for a cage to transport employees working in their warehouses.  However Amazon has declared that they have no intention of making this equipment. 

The online shopping specialist, Amazon, has been accused of making life for their employees a living hell in several countries.  For example the company is accused of aggressive managerial methods as discussed in a 2015 study carried out by the New York Times.  What’s more some Scottish workers decided to sleep in tents outside their warehouse due to the excessively overpriced shuttle that could take them home.  More recently, there was much debate concerning the patent for a wristband which aimed to monitor employees.

New controversy now smears the American giant since the press discovered the former patent. The polemic started after a recent publication by two expert artificial intelligence researchers. Kate Crawford and Vlandan Joler, who are members of the Share Lab, a laboratory linked to the University of Novi Sad (Serbia) aimed to detail the operation functions and anatomy of the AI in  Amazon Echo speakers.

In contrast, the fifteenth point of their study looked at the controversial patent, System and Method for Transporting Personnel within the Active Workspace which was filed on March 8, 2016 with United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

According to the researchers, the US Patent No. 9980157 was “hidden among the thousands of patents held by Amazon“, illustrating  “an extraordinary way to alienate workers.” The publication authors said that it was “a decisive turning point in the relationship between humans and machines“.

The patent is for a metal cage,  which is equipped with a workstation with electronic knobs to control handling activities.  According to Amazon it would be a safety device.
A wave of protest naturally erupted when details of this patent was released.  Dave Clark who is Amazon’s Head of Operation justified the polemic patent in a tweet which was published by the Seattle Times.

Mr Clark said that “sometimes even bad ideas get a patent” and that Amazon never intended using these machines. He continued that “a much better solution“, would be “a little vest that employees can wear and that prevents robots near them from moving.”

Everyone will have there own opinion about this issue. But it is clear that the patent was filed and that a representative of Amazon had indeed thought a cage concept was a potential idea.

Sources : Business InsiderNumerama

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