Ama­zon’s robots sig­nal a sea change in how the things we buy will be ag­gre­gated, stored and de­liv­ered. The com­pany re­quires one minute of hu­man la­bor to get a pack­age onto a truck, but that num­ber is headed to zero. Au­tonomous ware­houses will merge with au­tonomous man­u­fac­tur­ing and de­liv­ery to form a fully au­to­mated sup­ply chain.

We are in the early days of what might be called the phys­i­cal cloud,” an e-com-merce ecosys­tem that func-tions like the in­ter­net it­self. Net­flix caches the movies you stream at a data cen­ter phys­i­cally close to you; Ama­zon is build­ing ware­house af­ter ware­house to store goods closer to con­sumers. And the stor­age sys­tems at those ware­houses are look­ing more like the data-stor­age sys­tems in the cloud. In­stead of stor­ing sim­i­lar items in the same place—a help­ful prac­tice when hu­mans were fetch­ing the goods—Ama­zon’s ware-houses store mul­ti­ples of the same item at ran­dom lo­ca-tions, known only to the robots. Try­ing to find an In­stapot at one of Ama­zon’s ware­houses would be like try­ing to find where in the cloud one of your emails is stored. Of course, you don’t have to. You just tap your screen and the email ap­pears. No hu­mans are in­volved.

Amazon RobotAmazon Robot

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