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Beginnings: Rise of the Machines

As a result, a new generation of robots was winding up on the floors of small- and medium-size companies that had previously depended only on the workers who lived just beyond their doors. Companies now could pick between two versions of the American worker - humans and robots. Counting health insurance and retirement benefits, even the lowest-paid worker was more expensive than the robots, which Tenere was leasing from a Nashville-based start-up, Hirebotics, for $15 per hour. "How's everybody doing?" said Matt Bader, as four just-hired workers walked in on a day when Robot 1 was being installed. Now, as the testing continued on a robot that he said "Just looks like something you see in the damned dentist's office," Campbell was starting his 25th consecutive workday feeding claws to the machine. Robot 2 had a different job than Robot 1. Days earlier, Annie Larson, the woman who would work alongside Robot 2, had been at home, the end of another shift, laid out in a recliner sipping a Mountain Dew mixed with what she described as the cheapest vodka she could find. Her line supervisor, Tom Johannsen, had told workers a few weeks earlier the robots were coming. Eight days after arriving in boxes, the robots' first official day of work had arrived. In came the workers, some of whom took a moment to stand near the robots and watch. Within an hour, the workers of the first shift had filled a shipping box with finished containers - the first batch made by both humans and robots. In September, the engineers would be coming back, arriving this time with the boxes holding Robot 3 and Robot 4.

Where do we go now?