Open Thread: Emergency Munchies, Via Skynet

Kevin Roose, NYMag‘s finance blogger:

So far, people seem to think that Amazon’s incipient drone-delivery program, which was announced to great fanfare on 60 Minutes last night, is either a short-term publicity stunt designed to draw attention to Amazon on Cyber Monday, or a long-term publicity stunt meant to convince us of “Amazon’s indomitable spirit of innovation,” while not actually requiring Amazon to do anything yet. (Since, by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s own admission, there’s no way the FAA will allow unmanned aircraft to deliver Amazon packages before 2015.)

Instead, I think Bezos is up to something much more practical. By unveiling a huge drone program in progress, he’s sending a message to the FAA regulators and Senate committees who are currently considering how unmanned aircraft can be used commercially. And that message is: Don’t even think about getting in our way. By floating a teaser about the drone program, and allowing the public to freak out about it, he’s showing regulators how popular such a scheme would be, and how much backlash they’d face if they outlawed it….

111 replies
  1. 1
    NotMax says:

    Or he was just drunk at the time.

  2. 2
    Mnemosyne says:

    By floating a teaser about the drone program, and allowing the public to freak out about it, he’s showing regulators how popular such a scheme would be, and how much backlash they’d face if they outlawed it….

    Uh, if people are “freaking out” about the idea, how does that show that it would be “popular”?

    Personally, I think Bezos is trolling all of us, because otherwise the scheme makes no sense. How do drones deliver to apartments or condos? What about my workplace, where everything goes to a loading dock?

  3. 3
    NotMax says:

    “If it’s not delivered in 30 minutes or less, the assassination is free.”

  4. 4
    kindness says:

    To shoot down or not to shoot down?
    For that is the question of flyover countrymen (and women).
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind, to suffer someone else getting their holiday gifts…

    Or is this one for me?

    That is the question.

  5. 5

    But but but, Dronez R bad still, right?

  6. 6
    Violet says:

    @Mnemosyne: What’s so hard about apartments or condos? If the doors open outside, the drone just flies to the door, even over a gate or fence. If it’s a high rise, then the UPS or FedEx person probably delivers to a central location, like the front desk, and that’s how a drone would do it. Deliver to the front door outside. Loading dock for a business? Opens outside right? Drone drops off just like a truck would.

  7. 7
    Randy Khan says:

    I agree that the likely motivation is to put pressure on Congress and the FAA (and more than one commentator has said as much already), but I’m still trying to puzzle out what Bezos expects to gain from that. The Amazon Prime Air delivery model shown in the Amazon video just isn’t practical for mass delivery, or even specialized custom delivery in all but an insignificant number of places, for dozens of reasons that are fairly obvious (some of them mentioned above). So the real question is what Bezos actually wants to do with drones.

  8. 8
    MikeJ says:

    I understand that the government is considering allowing any fool on the street to drive a 5,000 chunk of metal at 60 mph up and down the streets.

    When will this madness end?

  9. 9
    Violet says:

    @Randy Khan: Maybe Bezos is being used as a tool. Get people used to the idea of drones delivering packages. Then drones aren’t scary and can be used by law enforcement, FBI, etc. without people questioning it.

  10. 10
    MikeJ says:


  11. 11
    cleek says:

    quadcopter with package, meet me with fishing net.

    free stuff from the skies!

  12. 12

    Here’s an excellent use of drone technology….Taking meals and/or other goods (maybe even certain types of prescriptions–non-narcotic meds) to house- bound seniors. We’ve had Meals on Wheels for a very long time and goodness knows they don’t and can’t reach enough seniors. There are so many good applications that should be attempted before we start with something commercial. But nope, our need for more stuff….more crap will be the driving force. Because Americans need the newest Fellatiator 2000 and we need it now, now, now!!!

  13. 13
    Anoniminous says:

    So much for work. My book order arrived and it included the West Point Atlas of the Civil War. So naturally I dumped work (luckily I have an understanding boss: me) to peruse it. The first pages I turned to was the Gettysburg Campaign. Plunging in I ran across an analysis of July 1, “Lee had been overtaken by events at Gettysburg. His army was scattered across south-central Pennsylvania; Stuart, typically, was headed in the wrong direction …” [pg 84] and had to put the book down and laugh.

    That’s about the size of it.

  14. 14
    NotMax says:


    Dedicated Remote Universal I ndependentDelivery

    Mr. Bezos may send me the check when convenient.

  15. 15
    MikeJ says:



    quadcopter with package, meet me with fishing net.

    Or instead you could follow a UPS truck and see where they drop off stuff on the porch. This already actually happens, but there’s no outcry to ban delivery trucks.

  16. 16
    NotMax says:


    Dedicated Remote Universal Independent Delivery

    Mr. Bezos may send me the check when convenient.

    (reposted to fix errant spacing)

  17. 17

    I didn’t see the report — but from the promos, it basically looked like 60 Minutes was doing an extended ad for Was that pretty much it?

    Oh, and drones? Bezos, please.

  18. 18
    blueskies says:

    @MikeJ: Boy are you missing the fun of shooting at something for profit.

  19. 19
    Melissa says:

    Seems like a bad idea to me. I don’t want corporations with drones. Geez, they’re bad enough as it is.

  20. 20


    Mr. Bezos didn’t become rich by writing checks…

  21. 21
    Randy Khan says:


    “If it’s a high rise, then the UPS or FedEx person probably delivers to a central location, like the front desk, and that’s how a drone would do it. Deliver to the front door outside.”

    In a standard doorman building in New York (or anywhere else that has high-rise buildings), in most cases delivery to the front door outside is the same as not delivering the package at all. If you don’t solve the problem of getting into the building (which, let’s face it, is pretty tough), you can’t deliver to that kind of building. That effectively eliminates delivery to about 90% of the people and businesses in Manhattan and a very high percentage in other large cities as well.

    For that matter, a loading dock presumes that someone is going to use it to bring the package into the building, so you more or less have the same problem in those buildings, too.

  22. 22
    Susan S says:

    This is an open thread..right? So can I totally change the subject and RANT!!!! Check out “Think Advisor.. Ten Top Most Ridiculous Luxury Objects..” I don’t know how to link, and wouldn’t if I could..but Dan Berman…who I am sure is just a lovely, considerate man.. lists in ascending order what he considers “ridiculous”…a gold plated yacht, a limited edition Lamborghini…diamond studded Iphones… and then he gets to his #1, “most ridiculous”..and it is a Tampon holder disguised as a lipstick. My God…I have been in the securities business for over 45 years…I have never seen such puerile, bathroom humor, disgusting choice in all those years. There were the bikini clad ladies at a Mutual Benefit planning course in 1977… the abuse I got there stopped abruptly when they found out how much I made a year… and one of the guys suggested the next time they did slides they better include some men in jock straps. That’s funny…but for all the agonizing that my industry does about including and encouraging women… Mr. Berman just showed clearly why so many ladies stay away… they want to avoid the filth.

  23. 23
    Amir Khalid says:

    Delivery by drone sounds both hella expensive and full of obvious risks. I sincerely doubt Amazon will ever actually do it. I’m only prepared to change my mind if I hear tell of a successful trial somewhere.

  24. 24
    mdblanche says:

    @NotMax: Bezos really needs to lay off the hooch. The last time he got this blotto he accidentally bought the Washington Post.

  25. 25

    Two points:

    1) For my future 9 year old self, ‘hit the drone with a snowball, rock, slingshot, 6MW laser’ would be a daily game for us. And if you’re successful you get a prize. It might be a bra or copy of Atlas Shrugged, but it’ll also be most of the parts needed for a functioning helicopter. Kill 6 and build your own.

    2) This is the stupidest fucking idea ever. The end goal is noble, but a drone is a terrible solution to it. A smart solution to the problem would be self-driving delivery trucks. Shoving a package into your driveway is little different from dropping one from the sky, but a truck can deliver packages that weigh more than 11oz, are much closer to regulatory approval, and have much safer failure modes. The real problem that needs to be solved is a curbside standard for mail/package receptacles that can be automatically targeted. Then you can fully automate package and mail delivery which is a HUGE thing. USPS employs 200,000 letter carriers, and add in the same number of couriers for FedEx/UPS, etc. You can then deliver 24/7. Now, it’s a fuckton of lost jobs, but they’re inevitably lost anyway as they are non-value add. There’s nothing the letter carrier does that improves the quality of your mail.

  26. 26
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    The Navy has an autonomous drone that can successfully land itself on an aircraft carrier. I’d guess that drones delivering packages is well within our reach. Is it practical? No idea. I agree with Anne Laurie’s take that Bezos is at the moment taking steps to make sure that Congress doesn’t close off aerial and/or autonomous delivery in the future.

  27. 27
    Violet says:

    @Randy Khan: I’m sure a “drone entrance” can be installed, or the doorman can let the drone in–does the doorman let the UPS delivery person in now?

  28. 28
    NotMax says:

    @Randy Khan

    Easy-peasy. Rooftop delivery cubicle.

    Staffed by retired doormen, natch.

  29. 29

    Best idea since the Segway.

  30. 30
    srv says:

    RC aircraft enthusiasts have been playing with autopilots for quite some time and I gather they are pushing the FAA to finalize their reg updates in 2014.

  31. 31
    Joey Maloney says:

    @Karen in GA: Pretty much. Hardly a worker in sight, and certainly no mention of Amazon’s labor troubles. That would’ve been so impolite, it might’ve gotten Charlie Rose disinvited from some cocktail parties, and then where would he be? Paying for his own liquor at a bar like some commoner, that’s where. Not even 60 Minutes pays enough to cover that bar tab.

  32. 32
    Betty Cracker says:

    I like the idea of drone delivery (if it gets my stuff to me fast, uses less energy to do so, etc., what’s not to like? But yeah, I can totally envision people in my neck of the woods shooting at drones for sport if they happen to see one going by…

  33. 33
    NotMax says:

    Sugar company uses itty-bitty black drones to monitor the conditions in and pertaining to the cane fields here.

    Was a tempest in a teapot about them for a short while.

  34. 34
    cleek says:

    those delivery trucks don’t fly over my property.

    the first pizza-bearing drone that cuts through my yard is mine.

  35. 35
    Bobby Thomson says:

    Someone explain to me how an announcement that causes reactions ranging from guffaws to hysteria AGAINST THE ANNOUNCED ACTION pressures Congress not to prohibit or at least regulate said action.

  36. 36
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Susan S:
    I have no idea which Malaysian bought the gold-plated yacht. I can only assure you it wasn’t me (sigh).

  37. 37
    mdblanche says:

    @Karen in GA: If it was on 60 Minutes you know it must be true.

  38. 38
    cat says:

    Douchebag Charlie lifts content from reddit without attribution, but would have a fit if you lifted content from him.

  39. 39
    Ash Can says:

    I’m still in agreement with commenter BGK from this morning: I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Jeff Bezos is in stitches right now, saying to his buddies, “Can you believe how many people fell for this shit??”

  40. 40
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    Sigh. I see via Digby that I wasn’t the only one to notice this, I guess it was wishful thinking to imagine otherwise.

    Listening to NPR on a rare occasion the other day I heard someone the Administration’s HHS dept saying saying this:

    “While there is more work to be done, the team is operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness, and will continue their work to improve and enhance the website in the weeks and months ahead”

    Private sector what now? You mean the way that Medicare, not to mention oh, France, delivers health care efficiently at a fraction of the cost of US private sector insurance?

    Great, I thought. It was in the back of mind ever since, popping up now and then, wondering is it just me, or are others going to notice that this was was basically freeing the Republicans from at least half the work of capitalizing on the Web site bugs to claim “Government can’t do anything!” by just doing it themselves?

    Now I see that Chuck Todd and the other Villager Brain Slug victims are claiming that it’s an “admission” of exactly that, that it’s “an indictment on the whole idea of government as a solution.”

    With spokespeople like this, who needs an opposition party?

  41. 41
    blueskies says:

    I’m not sure how this activity will fit with the Federal Air Regulations (FARs), even if they’re rewritten. I presume that FAA will provide some separation services in Class B, C, and D airspace. But, the first time a small plane overtakes a drone in Class G airspace and the resulting ball of flaming metal takes out a classroom full of kids, there will be a reckoning (probably Class G will cease to exist since we couldn’t possibly hinder a massive corporation like Amazon/UPS/FEDEX/Etc. just to protect the rights of a few small plane pilots). The first time something untoward happens in controlled airspace, there be another sort of reckoning, what I don’t know, unless of course the drone was carrying a gun to its new owner. Then it’s a 2nd Amendment issue…

  42. 42
    NotMax says:

    @Amir Khalid

    Could have been worse. Could have been gem-studded.

    A ruby yacht.

    (Hat tip to Jay Ward.)

  43. 43

    Here are some of the challenges with a drone delivery system (beyond people shooting them down for lulz):

    1) Low payload. A large payload drone is going to be a much larger drone, and before long you need to shift from electric to some fuel source.
    2) Weather. These craft have low surface speeds. It doesn’t take much wind before they’re stationary at full throttle. Rain and snow are crippling. Cold weather drains batteries and reduces range drastically.
    3) Collision avoidance. This is a non-trivial problem in 3D space. Birds, pedestrians, other aircraft, other drones, trees, power lines, wind turbines and other towers. Toss in weather above, and the ability to respond to high gusts and the problem gets even harder. He mentions ‘high density areas’ as the target – which are full of swirling winds between buildings, and lots of vertical obstacles.
    4) Failure modes: how does a crashed/dead battery copter get recovered? What about the payload that was ordered? Who pays to get it out of my tree? How do I get my order filled if the copter mysteriously doesn’t arrive or does arrive but my neighbor kid grabs the package? Who repairs the dent on the roof of my car from the one that got knocked down by the hawk that frequents my yard? How much will that first lawsuit by a person being struck by one cost?
    5) How will Amazon’s notoriously low-margin business account for these expenses as the devices are presumably going to be delivering low-value items. No kayaks and table saws as he notes. Likely also no diamond rings and Rolexes either. Remember, the cost of the service needs to be covered by a single order. It’s not like a truck delivering 100 packages. It’s one flight, one package. That package needs to cover outbound and inbound costs, plus all of the above liabilities.

  44. 44
    Violet says:

    @Susan S: I’m confused. Is the author of that piece somehow affiliated with the securities industry? Or is it the website? What’s the issue? They’re making fun of a tampon holder disguised as a lipstick case? Doesn’t seem like that big a deal. And it’s a stupid listicle for click bait. Doesn’t seem that big a deal to me. What am I missing?

  45. 45
    Cassidy says:

    @blueskies: Not likely. We’ve already found out that the destruction of a classroom full of kids changes nothing.

  46. 46
    Bill E Pilgrim says:


    those delivery trucks don’t fly over my property.

    When I lived in New York City I’m absolutely convinced that some of them did. There’s no way in hell that amount of sheer racket came from the street up six floors and through closed double-pane windows, no matter what they say.

  47. 47
    BGinCHI says:

    I could barely understand Charlie Rose with Bezos’s dick in his mouth the whole time.

    Corporate shill much, drunken idiot?

  48. 48
    Violet says:

    @Cassidy: No, no. That’s only if someone shoots the kids. Guns are exempted from any oversight. If the government attempts to oversee drone flights somehow, and one crashed into a school after getting tangled up with a plane, then it’ll be the government’s fault for not letting The Free Market Take Care Of Things.

  49. 49
    TopClimber says:

    @MikeJ: Good one. About idiots driving down the road at breakneck speed–other comments not so bad either.

  50. 50
    Bill Arnold says:


    How do drones deliver to apartments or condos?

    I’m even wondering about suburban residential. In my semi-rural area, UPS leaves packages under an overhang at some entrance. A drone would have to fly to the entrance, deliver a package. The entrance is a people nexus, e.g. somebody could open the door and rush out and bump into one of these, unless it has reflex-analogs like a dragonfly. Also the closer to the wall/door the package is dropped, the better, since it is less likely to be soaked by rain. On a windy day deliveries close to a door would be risky.
    Any robotics people have an opinion?

  51. 51
    lol says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    Nice to see our firebagger betters are back to nitpicking tone and language in place of actual complaints. Haven’t heard about the Overton Window in a long while either.

  52. 52
    Violet says:

    @Bill Arnold: My local mailman hides packages behind a pillar on the front porch so they’re not immediately visible to people who walk by. That kind of personal, thoughtful touch would be nice as well. Not sure if a drone could make that assessment for each house as easily and quickly as a human.

  53. 53
    Belafon says:

    Maybe Bezos should propose walking delivery bots. They could be spider shaped and armored. When they get to their destination, a smaller bot could come out with the package that it can take to the door.

  54. 54
    TopClimber says:

    So you keep your eyes on the drone buzzing around your head, and…you ignore the robots of the not-so-distant future who will replace your UPS and FedEx delivery guys.

  55. 55
    jheartney says:

    @👾 Martin: I’m assuming using this was a PR gimmick, especially since the braindead Charlie Rose was the presenter. But you’re right about automated delivery; once self-driving AI is robust enough, human delivery will go the way of full-service gas stations.

    Of course that’s just the tip of the iceberg for changes coming through self-driving AI. (Sample: at some point they’re going to realize that allowing all these human drivers is an unsupportable liability, and human drivers will be outlawed. With that, say goodbye to parking tickets, speeding tickets, and all the municipal revenues they represent. Etc. etc.)

  56. 56
    lol says:

    Or Amazon will deliver to those Amazon Locker sites that they’ve already been setting up all over the country. Add a landing pad to the location with a chute to slide the package into a locker before returning to base.

    People seem to have no imagination.

  57. 57
    jheartney says:

    @Violet: The delivery robots will have their own entrance, along with one-use digital keys. No need to bother with finding a spot outside.

  58. 58
    Alex in NYC says:

    @Violet: My building has no doorman, and has heavy doors (no way even with a key, the drone can open them) opening onto the city street. The UPS and FedEx guys find our superintendant (they are parked there all day delivering to various buildings) at some point during the day. So, I assume drones won’t work for me, but why does that matter? Amazon will know whether your building can handle drone delivery. If they can hit 80% of the public with drones, why would the 20% of us losers make that a bad thing?

  59. 59
    JGabriel says:

    Kevin Roose @ NYMag:

    By floating a teaser about the drone program, and allowing the public to freak out about it, [Bezos is] showing regulators how popular such a scheme would be, and how much backlash they’d face if they outlawed it …

    I think Roose is confusing popular with mockable.

    Or maybe Bezos is. I’m not entirely sure.

  60. 60
    lol says:


    I think the general expectation is that you make your order and less than 30 minutes later, you get a text saying your package is outside at which point you immediately collect it.

    If you’re ordering via drone and leave the package out waiting out there for more than a couple minutes, you’re pretty much doing it wrong.

  61. 61
    GregB says:

    The word on the street has it that Bezos was inspired by the Russian personal drone program created by Vlad Putin with technical assistance from Larry Flynt.

    Great for buzzing your political enemies at their press conferences of sending in some needed back-up to those in need of some stimulation.

  62. 62
    Violet says:

    Speaking of Bezos, he also said he had to be persuaded to buy the Washington Post.

    JEFF BEZOS: I didn’t seek to buy the Washington Post. I’ve known Don Graham for many years. Earlier this year, Don, through an intermediary, approached me and said, “Would you be interested in buying the Washington Post. I was very surprised. My first question was, “Why would I even be a logical buyer? I don’t know anything about the news business.” I said, “I don’t understand why I would be good at this.” Don thought that because the newspaper business is being so disrupted by the internet that someone who had a lot of internet knowledge and technology knowledge could actually be helpful.

    CHARLIE ROSE: And you believed that?

    JEFF BEZOS: I eventually came to believe that after having multiple conversations with Don.

  63. 63

    @Bill Arnold: The problem with automated delivery is the ambiguity of the endpoint. A person can decide if the package will fit in the postal box, or if it can sit behind the flowerpot, or if it needs to be handed to the person at the door. They are good at identifying what the ‘door’ is, and how to get to it past the kid on the bigwheel and trash cans and all of that.

    Automated delivery needs to automate that step, and it’s fucking hard to do. There is no database of front door coordinates, or even an image database of what each front door looks like. There’s no established standards for how the approach to a house should be designed, and there is no standard for where packages go.

    You can do automated cars because those standards exist. Stop signs are standardized. Traffic rules are. Painted lines mean specific things. Speed limits are in a massive database that you can read. Even parking lots follow a set of generally agreed-upon rules, and identifying an empty parking space is not a terribly challenging problem. Clearing all of those away means that cars only need to do the heavy lifting of obstacle identification and avoidance – which is pretty fucking hard, but is a lot easier in 2D, only in the confines of roadways, and without having to juggle all of the other bits. It’s why automated airliners are coming as well – a similarly rigid set of standards. But none of that exists for residential air travel. I’m not even sure how you build that up. Cameras aren’t going to be able to reliably identify power lines – they become almost invisible under the right lighting conditions. So you need a 3D database of those things. Who builds that? How do they build it? Trees in winter are similar. Who builds that database?

    The military doesn’t need to worry about these things. Their rules are vastly different, and when the fuck up and kill some civilians, they shrug their shoulders and give us an ‘oops’ and continue on. Amazon won’t have such luxuries.

  64. 64
    Violet says:

    @lol: Well, I guess that depends on how the program works. If the “drone delivery program” is for immediate deliveries only and the recipient has to be at the delivery location, then that would be one thing. If 80% of deliveries move to being by drone, then dropping packages in optimal locations for the recipient becomes more important.

  65. 65
    Elizabelle says:

    What happens to Amazon when the middle and lower classes cannot buy their products, no matter what the delivery system?

    I’m not so cavalier about the human jobs lost with this drones and AI-driving delivery scheme.

    Where does it end?

  66. 66
    Schlemizel says:

    The guy came off as a giant bullshit artist. Not as great as the asshole who convinced people to sink billions into the Segway but damn close.

  67. 67
    Violet says:

    @Elizabelle: The Matrix? Terminator films?

  68. 68
    Randy Khan says:


    To get the mail carrier/UPS delivery person treatment, the drone would have to ring the bell. (Mail carriers actually may have keys for a lot of buildings; drones probably won’t be so good at turning a key in a lock.)

    All the other answers assume a kind of infrastructure that doesn’t exist today, for a service that, let’s be honest, most people won’t find that compelling.

    BTW, I don’t doubt the drone technology would work to get the package to a specified location. It’s not like cruise missiles haven’t pioneered that technique.

  69. 69
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @lol: Wait, who’s a “Firebagger” in this one? Chuck Todd?? Me??

    Someone in the Administration says that the private sector is superior at delivering health insurance, the Villagers predictably jump on it as proof of what they believed all along, and you think it’s “Firebagging” to respond with a big “oy vey”?

    I’d make a bet with you that Barack Obama didn’t think it was a minor slip, he’s probably pissed off. You think this whole project with the ACA was done with the hope of making the point that “the private sector does health insurance better”?

    Talk about living in a fantasy world.

  70. 70
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Don’t even think about getting in our way. By floating a teaser about the drone program, and allowing the public to freak out about it, he’s showing regulators how popular such a scheme would be, and how much backlash they’d face if they outlawed it….

    Someone needs to share the shit he’s smoking, or I’m going to narc on him to…well, whoever gives a damn about smoking shit.

  71. 71
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    The Segway was/is such a colossal joke.

  72. 72
    rikyrah says:

    these are some low down no-good mofos


    December 02, 2013 11:00 AM
    CA Assembly GOP Puts Up Fake California Health Exchange Site

    By karoli

    California Republicans are desperate and shameless. In the past two weeks, GOP Assembly members have sent mailings out on what appears to be the state’s dime to their constituents about health insurance. Only, they don’t direct those people to to sign up. Instead, they send them to their own astroturf version with the url

    On their version, there are links to negative articles and twisted messages intended to sour people on signing up for health insurance before they ever land at the official health exchange site.

  73. 73

    I assumed Bezos was just another dumbass corporate CEO casting himself as an Idea Maker. The insurmountable obstacles are legion, technical and economic and apparently legal as well. None of that’s important when an executive is patting himself on the being a Galtian Genius, though.

  74. 74


    I’m not so cavalier about the human jobs lost with this drones and AI-driving delivery scheme.

    They’re already lost. It’s an almost universal economic law that non-value-add labor will be eliminated as soon as technologically possible. What value did the postal carrier add to your mail? The person who designed or wrote the letter added value. The person who determined that you should get it added value. The person who delivered it added no value. At best, they got it to you as intended, at worst they damaged or lost it. They have no capacity to make it better or more useful.

    Retail jobs started being lost as soon as the value-add nature went away. When the salesperson can’t help you solve a problem or teach you how to use the thing you buy, because they’re only there to take your cash, then they get replaced by a self check-out. (Take note that Apple and some other retailers have inverted this in their stores – there are no cash registers, only people to help you solve a problem and teach you how to use the thing you buy. Consequently, they add a lot of reliable jobs – they’re all value-add.)

    So, it’s inevitable that those jobs will go at some point. We can fight and delay it, or we can try and find some better economic utility for them.

  75. 75
    LanceThruster says:

    Sentient drones could kill humanity faster by delivering our own toxic fast food offerings – see: Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease

  76. 76
    Elizabelle says:

    Non-drone related PSA:

    Turner Classic Movies has great programming lined up tonight, newer stuff, yet:

    8:00 p Eastern The Hudsucker Proxy (the brothers Coen)

    10:00 p Gladiator. Ridley Scott directs, Russell Crowe and legions.

    12:45 a documentary: the Irish guy droning on about early days of digital moviemaking

    2:00 a The Piano, Holly Hunter, Sam Neill and Harvey Keitel in Jane Campion film

    4:15 a Reservoir Dogs. Quentin Tarantino’s Mr. Pink, Mr. White, Mr. Orange, etc. in a diamond robbery gone murderously wrong. Harvey Keitel again (Mr. White)

  77. 77
  78. 78
    StringOnAStick says:

    @👾 Martin: The whole delivery drone idea is so….. West Coast Cool; benign weather mostly. Weather is a huge part of the viability of such an idea. Santa Anna winds? Hmm, somewhat predictable. I live on the west side of Denver in a town notorious for unpredictable howling winds, and often it is raging here and not much of a breeze at the FedEx distribution center. Semi’s get knocked over here a few times a year.

    Bezos has to be trolling; between the technological and climatological limitations, plus what they’d have to charge to deliver even a set of weight-limited items, it just isn’t workable. There’s always someone willing to pay big bucks for a few seconds of fame I suppose, but that isn’t sustainable either.

  79. 79
    Robert Sneddon says:

    A typical quadcopter of the sort Bezos is promoting can stay in the air no more than ten minutes max before the high-capacity batteries they carry are drained by the very high-performance motors driving the rotors. Add a significant load like a kilo of books and packaging and the endurance drops like a brick (so to speak). Maximum range for a typical quadcopter is a kilometre, less if there’s a headwind of any noticeable amount (do you get bad weather in America at all?).

    Basically, not going to happen. What’s more likely is the idea of repurposing bricks-and-mortar stores as drop-offs and collection facilities — there was a report a few days ago that the London Underground system is closing all of its manned ticket offices in the next couple of years and it was suggested the premises would make ideal locations for Amazon to repurpose. Heck, they could even sell tickets.

  80. 80
    BubbaDave says:

    @👾 Martin:

    The person who designed or wrote the letter added value. The person who determined that you should get it added value. The person who delivered it added no value. At best, they got it to you as intended, at worst they damaged or lost it. They have no capacity to make it better or more useful.

    I think for a lot of people, a letter at their home is more useful than a letter sitting at a post office waiting for them to go collect it. That’s the value add. At the moment, pesky hominids are still better at that than robots. That will eventually change, but that won’t mean the humans aren’t adding value; it’ll mean the robots are adding the same value for cheaper.

  81. 81
    srv says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim: “Velocity” is in reference to the website performance and I don’t think it was said in the context of healthcare performance.

  82. 82
    The Dangerman says:

    The flaw isn’t the drone (although that’s a load of crap, too); it’s the number of distribution centers one would need to get 30 minute delivery even in the largest cities.

    This sounds like that bullshit vacuum tube transit that Elon Musk came up with a couple months ago; apparently, filthy fucking rich people can afford really good drugs because both these proposals are off the rails (unless the only point was publicity, because I’m sure there is somebody someplace that has never heard of Amazon).

  83. 83
    lol says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    I’d make a very easy bet that no one actually gives a shit because this is typical of the hyberbolic pedantry that the netroots has decided is the MOST. IMPORTANT. ISSUE. EVA! (until the next most important issue).

    If you don’t get that there’s a huge difference in how IT works in government vs the private sector, you’re an fucking idiot, much like Digby. It’s a statement of reality.

  84. 84
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Susan S: You’ve got that right. The filth. And the harassment. And the nasty attitudes. And the celebration of fucking the customer before all else. Fuck that noise, I’m outie.

  85. 85
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Joey Maloney: Drones don’t bitch or walk out when you make them work in a sweltering hot 103F warehouse floor.

    They just develop shorts and lose GPS and only make left turns until someone catches on and reboots them.

  86. 86
  87. 87
    PIGL says:

    @👾 Martin: nonsense on stilts. The letter/parcel has 0 value to you until it is delivered. The marginal cost of delivery is the question, not the value added.

  88. 88
    kc says:


    By floating a teaser about the drone program, and allowing the public to freak out about it, he’s showing regulators how popular such a scheme would be, and how much backlash they’d face if they outlawed it….

    Uh, if people are “freaking out” about the idea, how does that show that it would be “popular”?

    Yeah, I’m puzzled about that myself.

  89. 89
    PIGL says:

    @BubbaDave: You beat me to it, plus you are much nicer man than I.

  90. 90
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    “While there is more work to be done, the team is operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness, and will continue their work to improve and enhance the website in the weeks and months ahead”

    I think you (and Digby) need to work on your reading comprehension. The brag here is that the team working on the website is operating at maximum velocity and effectiveness to fix the problems with the website.

    Anyone who’s spent half an hour on the phone with Microsoft may have a problem with the claim that “private sector” speeds are faster and more efficient, but they’re not saying anything at all about health insurance itself, or health insurance companies being more efficient than government healthcare. They’re saying, We fixed this as fast as Apple did when their website got swamped because of demand.

  91. 91

    I can’t even get a flying car and this mook wants to use Skynet to deliver packages. Geez.

  92. 92
    liberal says:

    I think I posted somewhere about Bezos being a technophile and was going to include the bit about a quote from him saying that the Segway was going to radically change civilization (this was before it came out as to what it exactly was; it was refer to as IT, IIRC), but forgot the same “Segway”. Which is mildly ironic.

  93. 93
    TG Chicago says:

    @Robert Sneddon:

    What’s more likely is the idea of repurposing bricks-and-mortar stores as drop-offs and collection facilities

    I was thinking they could move items from an Amazon warehouse in Topeka to one in NYC — stuff like that. But your suggestion also makes sense.

    The idea that these things will make home deliveries is ridiculous. But it’s easy to see how they could be used to move things from Point A to Point B, as long as both Points are Amazon-owned, operated, and controlled properties. At that point it’s almost like a big system of pneumatic tubes.

  94. 94
    burnspbesq says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    Someone in the Administration says that the private sector is superior at delivering health insurance,

    No one in the administration said anything remotely like that, and if you believe they did your reading comprehension skills are off-the-charts bad.

    What someone in the administration said was that “the project” was proceeding at private-sector speed. In context, it’s obvious what “the project” is; it’s the revamping of

    Being addicted to taking gratuitous swings at Obama, you misread it in a way that allowed you to take a swing.

    Do try harder to keep up.

  95. 95
    TG Chicago says:

    @lol: So why did’s launch get botched so badly? Because of government or because of lousy private contractors and crappy private health insurance IT systems?

  96. 96
    TG Chicago says:


    Anyone who’s spent half an hour on the phone with Microsoft may have a problem with the claim that “private sector” speeds are faster and more efficient…

    But that’s precisely the point. Why promote the idea of “private sector = the awesomez” if it goes against your governmental philosophy and it’s clearly not true?

  97. 97
    Mnemosyne says:

    @TG Chicago:

    Oh, jayzus, you again?

    Sorry, I’m not feeling up to another 200+ comment thread about what the definition of “is” is. Maybe later.

  98. 98
    Eric says:

    The goal is to make terminating human jobs sound coolly at the service if a technological marvel. pr with a purpose.

  99. 99
    Xecky Gilchrist says:

    It would probably inspire far less paranoia if they called them something other than “drones.”

  100. 100
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    West Point Atlas Shrugged.

  101. 101
    evodevo says:

    As a rural mail carrier who has left about 50 million notices somewhat like these around my route over the last few years, I find this HILARIOUS…. Thanks for the good laugh – at this time of year I really really really really – uh, sorry, what was I saying?

  102. 102
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Eric: It doesn’t hurt that the workers whose jobs you intend to nuke are Teamsters or APWU.

  103. 103
    Anne Laurie says:


    Personally, I think Bezos is trolling all of us, because otherwise the scheme makes no sense. How do drones deliver to apartments or condos? What about my workplace, where everything goes to a loading dock?

    It’s extremely kewl in the context of “the drone will bring a pack of ciggies/ounce of bud/pound of Kona coffee/sixpack of boutique beer to my mansion at 3am Tuesday and with no eye-rolling or sniggering, either.” I doubt Bezos bothered to think any further along the demand chain, because that’s what minionsMBAs are for, amiright?

  104. 104
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    My book order arrived and it included the West Point Atlas of the Civil War. So naturally I […] had to put the book down and laugh.

    West Point Atlas Shrugged.

  105. 105
    fuckwit says:

    What happens when Silk Road gets drones? Will people be able to get pot brownies delivered via drone? In, say, Colorado and Washington, for starters?

    If so, Domino’s Pizza wil need drones too, because the amount of really hungry people with munchies will explode.

  106. 106
    fuckwit says:

    @TG Chicago: A SERIES OF TUBES!!!! At last, Ted Stevens was right.

    Also, this

  107. 107
    danielx says:

    “Oh yes, and we also want a blanket release from liability on the infinitesimal (read inevitable) chance that one of our delivery drones goes haywire in some fashion and does some light damage to persons or property. Almost forgot – we’d also like preauthorization to provide the output from our drones’ sensory devices – hey, they have to read addresses, right? – to local, state and Federal law enforcement agencies on a fee-for-service basis. Might as well throw in preauthorization for said agencies to place other…devices….on our drones as well. It’s a win-win – we get paid, and they get surveillance of all and sundry without having to worry about those nasty constitutional issues, because it’s not them doing the surveillance, it’s us! Don’t worry about those civil liberties ACLU pussies, our attorneys will have them tied up in court for decades, and in the meantime we’re rolling in cash and the adulation of law enforcement….bada bing! Just to simplify matters, here’s some model legislation drafted by our contacts – er, a committee – at ALEC, with which you’re very familiar. Now, Mr. Chairman, how big a check would you like written to the nonprofit advocacy group of your choice? We know you’ll see these funds are put to good use…I hear Paris is lovely at this time of year.”

    Jeebus, if I had a strong enough stomach and a total lack of morals and scruples, I could do this shit tomorrow.

  108. 108
    LosGatosCA says:

    I’m thinking of the frictionless e-commerce synergy of Amazon drones launched from Elon Musk’s SuperTrain guided to ultimate customer fulfillment and satisfaction by signals bounced off Google balloons.

    Either that or self-driving Google cars will collide with Elon Musk Supertrains after they are derailed by Amazon drones falling from the sky like Obamacare applications.

    Ahh, it’s just like 1997 and I feel some IPO’s coming on.

  109. 109
    marshall says:

    I think Kevin Roose has been hitting the eggnog a little early in the day.

  110. 110
    Al Swearengen says:

    For all the hype around this, Bezos sees drones as another way to line his pockets by finally cutting workers out of his business. He truly sees himself as the only human working at Amazon, the hundreds of 1,000s of workers are just organic robots waiting to be replaced by better, mechanical robots.

  111. 111
    sad says:

    It’s just possible to deliver bombs with drones. But not accurately.


    You guys are just repeating this for humor’s sake, right?

    Of course you are. What was I thinking.

    Nevermind. …sad

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