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Bret Hartman/TED

Robots are coming for your jobs, regardless of what Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin thinks. As evidenced on the TED stage Tuesday morning, robots are already capable of maneuvering around obstacles, trudging through snow and even getting themselves into college.

Boston Dynamics' Marc Raibert showed off his company's latest creations, inviting one on stage to autonomously bring him a soda. If that wasn't enough, the next speaker, Japanese AI expert Noriko Arai, showed off her effort to create a robot that can pass the top Tokyo university's rigorous admissions standards.

The future: Robots will soon be able to go into dangerous places, deliver packages and help take care of the elderly.

But: Robots still aren't much for human reasoning and conclusion-drawing.

On the physical side, robots are advancing quickly. Raibert noted that a humanoid robot that could lift 100 pounds weighed 375 pounds not too long ago. Now, that has been slimmed down to a 165-pound body.

Arai's talk was probably the more instructive on just how smart the robots have become. In preparing to apply to college, her robot managed to write a 600-word essay on the rise and fall of maritime trade in Southeast Asia in the 17th century, while taking into account the countries' various trade policies. "It wrote a better essay than most of the students," she said.

But, despite being able to pass the math test and write a decent essay, it couldn't pass the English tests and others that require reasoning,

"It doesn't understand any meaning," Arai said. But don't breathe too easily: the robot did get into several other Japanese schools.

Go deeper

Scoop: Trump tells confidants he plans to pardon Michael Flynn

Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

President Trump has told confidants he plans to pardon his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts, two sources with direct knowledge of the discussions tell Axios.

Behind the scenes: Sources with direct knowledge of the discussions said Flynn will be part of a series of pardons that Trump issues between now and when he leaves office.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
4 hours ago - World

Remote work shakes up geopolitics

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The global adoption of remote work may leave the rising powers in the East behind.

The big picture: Despite India's and China's economic might, these countries have far fewer remote jobs than the U.S. or Europe. That's affecting the emerging economies' resilience amid the pandemic.

Trump gives Biden access to presidential intelligence briefings

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Trump White House on Tuesday gave President-elect Biden access to daily presidential intelligence briefings, a source familiar with the matter tells Axios.

Why it matters: Trump has refused to share the briefs until now, as he continues to challenge the result of the election and declines to concede. The president's acquiescence comes as another sign that the transition to a Biden administration is taking place.