Happy humpday, folks! This week we’ve got a heavy one for ya… but it’s a story filled with hope! The subject today is camel racing, a sport as old as history itself.
According to wired.com’s article, Robots of Arabia:
“Robot camel jockeys. That’s about half of what you need to know. Robots, designed in Switzerland, riding camels in the Arabian desert. Camel jockey robots, about 2 feet high, with a right hand to bear the whip and a left hand to pull the reins. Thirty-five pounds of aluminum and plastic, a 400-MHz processor running Linux and communicating at 2.4 GHz; GPS-enabled, heart rate-monitoring (the camel’s heart, that is) robots. Mounted on tall, gangly blond animals, bouncing along in the sandy wastelands outside Doha, Qatar, in the 112-degree heat, with dozens of follow-cars behind them. I have seen them with my own eyes. And the other half of the story: Every robot camel jockey bopping along on its improbable mount means one Sudanese boy freed from slavery and sent home.”
Wait… What? Every robot means “one Sudanese boy freed from slavery and sent home” ?! Yes, it’s true. That’s the real problem with camel racing — the jockeys are often very, VERY young boys sold by the parents (or stolen) into slavery. Not only that, but these boys are often very underfed, in an effort to keep them as lightweight as possible. FURTHERMORE, this sport is DANGEROUS. These children, usually tied to their camel, are often knocked off and trampled to death. Or killed by a rival child jockey.
In an effort to combat this egregious violation of human decency, the United Arab Emirates officially banned the use of children jockeys about fifteen years ago, and THANKFULLY this practice of replacing the children with lightweight robot jockeys very quickly caught on.
According to the New York Times,
“The horrors of that human trafficking left a scar for the sport that lingers even now  years after the practice was officially banned in the U.A.E. Some owners said quietly that they still might prefer to have human jockeys –though none would say so publicly– but a majority, perhaps recognizing the troubling perception of having children ride animals that stand 6 feet tall and can run up to 40 miles per hour, unabashedly praised the technology now widely used instead: robots.”