U.S. Senator Bans Funding for Beerbots That Don't Exist

Senator Flake of Arizona introduced the following amendment to the U.S. Department of Defense appropriations bill currently in Congress:

None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be obligated or expended for the development of a beerbot or other robot bartender.

The issue here is that Senator Flake is conflating a student demonstration of how research could potentially be applied (delivering beer) with the fundamental objective of the research (in this case, multi-robot planning under uncertainty). Senator Flake also does not make any reference to what the objective of the research actually was: solving real-world logistics challenges. Instead, he seems to think that MIT was using government funding to develop a commercial robotic bartender, and his solution is to amend the DoD budget to prevent something that wasn't even happening in the first place, from happening again. [...]

"This is unlikely to actually be a 'misunderstanding'." Instead, Levitan says, Senator Flake is most likely using this research as an opportunity to take on supposedly wasteful spending, by finding perfectly reasonable government funded research projects that can, says Levitan, "be made to sound ridiculous when put a certain way. He almost certainly does it on purpose, ignoring the true value of the research and counting on the public to not be well enough informed to push back. And no fact-checking happened because that would have ruined the bit."

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6 Responses:

  1. Violet Blue says:


    • jwz says:

      What I want to know is, how do we get our contestants research grants?

      • Rope in some grad students? Surely, the interesting logistical problems to be solved for mixed drinks dwarf those of simply sorting and delivering the correct can of beer, what with the measuring, shaking v stirring, etc.

        (And it's probably safe to disregard Flake's batshit opinions for any future endeavors at this point, isn't it? What with the whole "not seeking re-election"…?)

  2. Will says:

    I just think he's confused Fallout 4 with reality and really hated the Trouble Brewin' side-quest

  3. MattyJ says:

    Free as in asshole.

    • margaret says:

      if i'd have had coffee in my mouth when i read this it would have been all over my monitor. well done sir.

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