Already retired, about to retire, wish you could retire or smart enough to plan far ahead? Adopt a robot to protect or generate your retirement income. Take one into your home as a companionable child surrogate if you are retired or younger DINKs [a Double-Income-No-Kids couple]. It will be one you can put to work without running afoul of any child-labor laws. It’s an idea.

The challenge is in the details. So, let’s get started.

Let’s say you’ve lost your job because of “superannuation”—i.e., you’ve reached your company’s mandatory retirement age, physically can’t work any longer, or maybe you simply want to retire. You feel you need to supplement your retirement income, but want to do it without coming out of retirement. Sure, you can day-trade stocks—but that’s risky.

The Adopt-A-Bot Retirement Strategy

Your children are grown and gone, with financial and family challenges of their own. So, you’re facing a double-whammy of empty nest and undersized nest egg for your retirement future—what I’m calling the “empty nest egg” syndrome: The Golden Goose has gone gray and is laying fewer golden eggs or parachutes in an empty nest.

At the same time, you’re nostalgic and miss hearing the patter of little feet, two at a time, when the cat simply isn’t enough. You also miss your full income. Ah—if only there were something you could do to fulfill these two desires.

There is. Adopt a robot.

Yes, “Adopt”

I say “adopt” rather than “buy”—for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that at some point in the reachable future, artificial intelligence will advance to nearly perfectly human, and probably super-human levels of performance. That’s when the Robin Williams “Bicentennial Man” scenario will become a real-life political issue, rather than a fanciful theme of a crusade for full citizenship for a family bot.

Another rationale for the “adopt-a-bot” terminology is that robots have long been surrogates for kids or pets. Recall Sony’s “Aibo”, the now-shelved Japanese robot companion dog that’s been around for more than a decade [shown “playing” with a cat in this fascinating video].

For now, in general, these surrogates are bought, not adopted—but it’s just a matter of time. [Even now, because the Aibo line has been discontinued, the phased-out Aibo is already likely to be an orphan product looking for a new home.]

As for robot kids, regarding a family bot as a child surrogate immediately suggests a major difference between them and real kids: You can put them to work and even make them the main breadwinner—or at least top off your other income sources, such as pensions.

How would that—or they—work for you not only in your home but as a family provider? One way would be to be hired out as a domestic companion for shut-ins, as a surrogate child or grandchild,  or, later down the road, as a full-service home robot. If your robot can clean your house, it can clean other people’s homes—homes of people who don’t want to spend as much as you will to get a first-class service robot. A couple days a week, your bot cleans your home; the rest of the time, it’s rented out as a “Rent-A-Bot”.

No, Not Science or Engineering Fiction

Sound fanciful and too futuristic? In fact, there already exist a number of commercially available humanoid robots that could pay for themselves on a “Bot-For-Rent” basis and eventually earn you additional retirement nest-egg income while filling your empty nest.

While a number of them are currently available for research and institutional purposes, others can be purchased by anyone with the cash. How much cash for your own robot?  

For about $16,000 to $18,000, you can get the baby-sized NAO Next Gen—created by France’s Aldebaran Robotics, if you are a university researcher, have your own school or perhaps if you are a really smooth talker.

Check out this amazing video of the NAO Next Gen in action and pinch yourself [until your own robot can do that for you], in case you can’t believe this is the real deal.  

It won’t wash your dishes or nail shingles to your roof, but as a “Rent-A-Bot” and “Adopt-A-Bot” companion/child-surrogate robot, its potential is huge. Here are just a few among its many capabilities:

  • Soft-voice humanlike conversation
  • Facial recognition
  • Voice recognition
  • Grasp a ball and play catch
  • Get up after tripping or falling
  • Visually track moving objects and people
  • High fives
  • Squat like a yoga instructor, stride like home-run hitter

This kind of robot is a perfect income-generating machine in the niche demographics of empty nesters, divorcé[e]s without child custody or visitation rights, singles fed up with dating, shut-ins, retirement-home residents and only children with animal dandruff allergies.

For the cost of a no-frills new car, this robot has a capability that most family cars don’t: It can be a family unit rented out on a daily basis to constantly changing clientele. Assuming a modest rental charge of $50/day, in less than a year—320 days, to be exact, it will have paid for itself. After that, it’s all profit gravy, potentially generating another $16,000 per year in income while allowing one day per week for owner use at home.

If companionship really matters, the rental scheme could be reduced to, say, 4 days per week—which would generate a very decent $10,400 per year, a portion of which could be cover maintenance and programming costs [for owners who are not skilled programmers] and applied to an upgrade to a newer mode, while still satisfying the desires of empty nesters and other [grand]child-surrogate shoppers.

For the seriously cash-strapped, there is the Romo, the kind of spy-on-wheels favored in Hollywood movies, for only $149. Requiring little to no programming skills and operated through an iPhone or Android app, this buggy-baby will pay for itself in about two weeks, if rented out at $10 per day. After that, it can generate $3,650 extra income per year.

Literally Adopting a Bot

Alternatively, there is the prospect of literal adoption of home bots—especially as two things happen: the artificial intelligence capabilities advance and models become obsolete. Then, you should be able to get one free, either at a scrap yard or through a “robot orphanage”.

Unfortunately, the one robot orphanage I was able to locate, aptly named “Adopt-A-Bot”—and self-described as “the world’s first robot orphanage”, is currently on hiatus. The other problem is that the bots offered are toys and models, and require an “adoption fee”.

But, just be patient in your wait for an AI-enriched “roborphan”. They’ll be plentiful soon enough.

High-End “Rodoption”

Finally, for those with a bankroll too bulky and heavy for even a robot to lift, there’s the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) HUBO-2, which can open your car’s doors, operate a gear shift, do pushups and hold nearly 7kg of weight.

With ‘individually actuated’ fingers that work to adapt to the shape of anything this robot is holding, it probably can open your wallet and pinch the cash required to pay for it. Price tag: $400,000.

Even an expensive bot like this can quickly pay for itself in a timely way; if, for example, you rent it out at $500 per day, the cost will be covered in only 2.2 years. Otherwise, if you are willing to break even only when you retire 30 years from now, but enjoy virtually guaranteed rentals every day until then, renting it out at $36.50 per day will accomplish that.

So, what’s the bottom-line for robot adoption? It’s this: The solution to the twin challenges of empty nest and empty retirement nest egg is…

…a line of bots.


Note: Although I initially fancied myself to be the progenitor of the “Adopt-A-Bot” concept, Delaware-based “Adopt-A-Bot” artist, blogger and “orphanage” founder, Brian Marshall, can claim the credit for that—or at least has clearly preceded me as a pioneer in this application of fanciful thinking.

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