Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 the year of the robot?

Japanese firm Kawada Industries is on the leading edge of a growing industry that threatens to become a major disruptive force in the coming years: automated labor.
At a recent robot expo, Kawada showed off Nextage, a human-shaped robotic laborer the company says is intended to “work alongside” people. In actuality, the robot could end up replacing people whose job it is to carry out menial tasks on assembly lines. And at just 1,500 watts of power consumption while it is working — less than some hair dryers — the device or one like it could one day become a compelling alternative to sweat shop labor.
That much seems to be true for Chinese electronics manufacturer Foxconn, notorious for paying workers a pittance and demanding long hours. The company said earlier this year that it would build a robot manufacturing facility, and that it hoped to replace most of its workforce with automation in the next three years.
Read the rest at Raw Story (with video)
by Stephen C. Webster

Zombie banks and robotic workers. Where is this headed?


Matt Franko said...

"That much seems to be true for Chinese electronics manufacturer Foxconn, notorious for paying workers a pittance and demanding long hours."

Oh boy! now they can keep ALL the USD balances they acquire instead of having to share "a pittance" with their fellow countymen who can now at least afford rations of dog brain soup...


Laura said...

This was supposed to lead to more "leisure time".

Neil Wilson said...

This is the 'Paradox of Productivity'.

A system designed to churn out worker bees with a smaller and smaller hive for them to maintain.

And the only solution is more public sector workers. Whether they like it or not capitalists need Breast Feeding advisors.

Laura said...

The solution is to redefine work and 'entitlements', but I'm afraid many lives will have to be lost before those things are accomplished.

Mike Norman said...

This means there will be many more long term unemployed and unless government responds by creating demand for these workers or, increasing transfer payments and other types of support, poverty and social unrest will explode.

Clonal said...

The implications for MMT move from a JG to a BIG as discussed by Peter Cooper (Heteconomist) - The Transition to a Freer Society: BIG or JG?

Couple this up with this news item - Terahertz Pulse Increases Electron Density 1,000-Fold: Findings Point to Advances in Transistor and Solar Cell Development (H/T EconIntersect) and the only way out is a BIG, and steps taken to limit income disparities between BIG recipients and the much smaller work force needed to keep thing going. Work sharing would become necessary.

john f said...

This topic is something I think about especially IRT the JG proposals that some of the MMT thinkers support. In the future, with AI and robotics replacing human beings in many occupations that have routine tasks, what kind
of jobs would the federal, state and local gov'ts be creating. They have plenty of occupations that fit that bill too.

Frex, jobs that are traditionally done by gov'ts like road repair and construction are something that can be automated. I can see robotic landscapers, ditchdiggers, steamrollers etc definitely shrinking the manpower needs for infrastructure projects if these technological ideas come to fruition. Henceforth, the idea of using public works projects to siphon off unemployment during economic downturns
may not be as effective an option as it was as say during the New Deal or the building of the Interstate Highway System.
... The vast majority of the workforce has always been engaged in work that is fundamentally routine and repetitive. As various sectors have mechanized or automated, workers have transitioned from routine jobs in one sector to routine jobs in another. In many cases, skills have been upgraded, but the work has nonetheless remained routine in nature... And even if we somehow manage to do that, the jobs will be highly susceptible to offshoring, so we also have to require that the jobs be somehow anchored locally. I think this is somewhat analogous to having the agricultural sector mechanize and then expecting that everyone will get a job driving a tractor. The numbers don’t work. The problem with the conventional wisdom is that it underestimates the long-term impact of automation, and it expects too much in the way of occupational acrobatics from the average worker.

This is not just a trend effecting low and semi-skilled occupations ...
The thing you should know about cloud computing is that it tends to concentrate information, power and income. The information technology resources of thousands of businesses and organizations will increasingly “migrate into the cloud.” One immediate result of this is increased concentration and automation of jobs. Information technology workers are already seeing significant job losses as a result of the move toward cloud computing. Once artificial intelligence becomes integrated into the cloud, the effect will quickly be felt by far more than just IT professionals. Anyone with a knowledge-based job will be highly susceptible. Organizations will get flatter as more middle managers are eliminated. It’s also quite possible that AI tools will be used to amplify the capabilities of low wage off-shore workers—allowing them to move up the value chain and compete directly with professionals who have high skill and experience levels. And AI-enabled cloud computing isn’t just about direct job automation: it will also allow larger organizations to leverage economies of scale, perhaps as never before. Companies like Wal-Mart and the big box retailers will gain, while smaller businesses continue to lose...

Steve Roth floated the idea of a state guaranteed income as he anticipates issues with structural unemployment.
Although it's certainly an uphill battle selling.something like this idea in today's political terrain. Worksharing and a change to the 8-hour workday may be options also.