Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., want the Defense Department to stop using federal funds to develop beerbots and robot bartenders.
The REDUCE Government Waste Act, a bill introduced by Flake and Masto, aims to "eliminate some of the most bizarre examples of wasteful spending" like robots that can serve beers or concoct drinks.
"The Department of Defense and National Science Foundation recently gave grants, with one worth nearly $175,000 to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that was then utilized to work on robots that served beer," Flake and Masto wrote in a release loaded with puns.
"It's just nuts to shell out millions of dollars to subsidize surplus piles of peanuts, bug-based foods, and robobartenders," Flake said. "With $1 trillion being added to the national debt every year, it especially bugs taxpayers that all they hear from Washington about cutting waste is crickets. The REDUCE Government Waste Act gives Congress a starting point by saving millions."
The provisions in the bill also come as there are growing worries about robots and other machinery taking jobs from humans. Automation is expected to reduce human jobs by the millions over the next couple of decades.
In 2015, MIT designed a network of cooperative robots engineered to share information with each other. The robots were tasked with entering rooms, taking drink orders, and then sharing that information to a central robot that packed a cooler with beers. Researchers have said that the programming methods used in the MIT beerbot demonstration can be applied to other situations involving a network of robots.