I’ll Replace You With Machines: Robot Jockeys On The Horizon?

In England, and often in America, horse racing is referred to as “the sport of kings.” Some Gulf nations, also, have their royal sport: camel racing.

However – just as issues have been raised in recent years about the widespread incidence of anorexia and bulimia among champion jockeys – human rights groups have criticized the widespread use of child labor in camel races. Soon after all, though there’s nothing inherently wrong with a line of four-legged animals racing each and every other to the finish, an individual has to train and race those animals – a person light. In countries with already-minimal human rights standards, sometimes those people are not provided much of a selection.

From ancient times, in reality, the most frequent age for a camel rider was 4 – and these 4-year-old boys had been often kidnap victims sold to camel owners, in whose hands they had been topic to starvation, beatings, and sexual abuse. The continuing need for them led to an active slave trade. Simply because of these depredations, international protest mounted against the organizers of camel races in recent decades. Human rights groups claimed (according to a single USA These days story) that at least 40,000 of these boy jockeys were victims of kidnapping or human trade. Legislative efforts to supply far better oversight failed to eradicate kid abuse from the sport.

So such Gulf states as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates identified themselves beneath enormous stress to abandon what was, in impact, a sport as ingrained in their culture as Thoroughbred horse racing is in the lives of several Americans and Europeans. Their resolution?
In Qatar, their answer is robots.

Ruling sheiks in that nation charged a Swiss developer, Alexandre Colot (of robotics giant K-Group), with developing a prototype for a robot camel rider – at a reported expense of $ 1 million. The prototype, named Kamel, created his debut in April 2005, where in the course of a practice run, wearing a purple jersey, he drove his hugely educated racing camel at speeds of up to twenty-5 miles per hour.

Kamel’s relative competence as a camel driver allowed Qatar to institute a ban on all use of child jockeys in 2005, projecting that robotic jockeys would be prepared to take over the country’s racing circuit by 2007. That was in spite of early hurdles, like camels’ reported fear of their new robot drivers and the turbulent circumstances of racing. Developers overcame the 1st problem by adding humanlike components to Kamel’s design – racing garments, traditional perfumes, and so on. (Initially they had mannequin-like faces, but these had been removed by order of the country’s prime minister, who believed they may possibly violate an ancient Islamic prohibition against making representations of the human form.) The robots are remote controlled (the operators maintain up with their man by way of SUV), and they give their remote “drivers” up-to-the-second information about the camel’s speed and heart price. The remotes have a range of half a mile.

With the United Arab Emirates facing continued scrutiny over the use of child jockeys, stress could continue to mount for the country to comply with Qatar’s lead, regardless of the expense of building the jockeybots. As AP reporter Eric Talmadge writes, an early-2006 lawsuit – filed in Miami, exactly where numerous of the UAE’s top sheiks maintain horses – named rulers of the United Arab Emirates as defendants against the charge of “enslaving tens of thousands of boys for the duration of 3 decades and forcing them to perform as camel jockeys. The lawsuit claims the boys were taken largely from Bangladesh and Pakistan, have been held at desert camps in the UAE and other Persian Gulf nations, and forced to work. It also contends some boys had been sexually abused, given limited meals and sleep and injected with hormones to avoid their development.” The far more things change, the much more they remain the exact same.

But – as Thoroughbred racing fans who read the globe-news web page need to by now be asking themselves – what about US and European horse racing? Soon after all, becoming a jockey is a terrible physical strain, as many previously-unaware readers discovered a handful of years ago, when Laura Hillenbrand’s unlikely bestseller Seabiscuit introduced thousands to the ancient art of horse racing – as nicely as its unsavory side. Hillenbrand’s book will inform you all you’d ever want to know about the dietary depredations self-inflicted by jockeys – the anorexia and bulimia, the 900-calorie-per-day diets, the constant physical pain, mental fatigue and irritability brought on by slow starvation the courting of diarrhea and intentional ingestion of tapeworms.

But there is a important difference – jockeys in Europe and America choose these hardships. They respond to the glory and heritage of horse racing – or the combination of talent with the possibility of excellent winnings. Like boxers and college wrestlers, or pc programmers (keep in mind those tech-boom-era 26-hour workdays we employed to study about) and filmmakers (George Lucas suffered stabbing chest pains and debilitating pressure in the course of the generating of the original Star Wars), even writers (novelist John Gardner once did a 20-hour writing stint, although in the hospital recovering from colon cancer), jockeys leave behind convenience, even (for temporary periods) health, in their pursuit of excellence.

Undoubtedly such suffering should be self-selected, uncoerced – but in the absence of external force, we recognize such behavior as dedication, challenging operate, sacrifice. It is symbolic of some of the finest human qualities. Jockeys as effectively as racing fans instinctively comprehend this.

Combine that with the truth that Qatar’s robojockeys do not however seem to have accomplished fairly the nuanced handle over their mounts that human jockeys can attain, and it really is unsurprising that there’s been no outcry thus far for American robot jockeys. Nevertheless, the possibilities are intriguing. At least the post-race interviews would be enjoyable to watch: “That query does not compute, Keith”.