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The Rise of Robotic Labor

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the robot-fry-cooks dept.

Businesses 308

kkleiner wrote in with a link to a singularityhub story about the increase of automated manufacturing world-wide. The article reads: "The accelerating rise in robot labor of the past decade, and its expansion into all areas of production, have led many to worry about the future of human workers. Yet how extensive is the robotic take over of labor? Our friends at Mezzmer Eyeglasses did some impressive research and created an even more impressive infographic explaining the present and future of robots in the workplace."

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Improved Robotic Controls (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#37403300)

With Improved Robotic Controls III, workers are able to be more productive. There won't ever be a point where humans aren't needed (even if only to research Improved Robotic Controls IV or be loaded into transports to try and capture a nearby enemy colony.

Re:Improved Robotic Controls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403340)

The problem is the robot babies, you never know what they can come up with. You have been warned!

Re:Improved Robotic Controls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403396)

Clearly machines can load eachother onto a transport. State of the art warehouses can track and transport packages. And a single human could provide moderate upkeep and upgrades for large operations if the initial designs allowed for replacement modules.

Will be detrimental to human society... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403320)

simply because increased profits by utilizing robots won't trickle down but make a small class richer. More people will be out of work and few people will become richer.

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (2)

erotic_pie (796522) | about 3 years ago | (#37403350)

Sounds like more of an overpopulation issue to me.

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403420)

It's an economic problem. Why does a banker who sits in an office 35 hours a week earn 100 more than someone who works in a construction site 50 hours a week?

I don't care about profits and all your pre-built replies. The human value of the work should be the same for everyone on the planet. It's not about making everyone poor, it's about making everyone equal.

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (1)

trout007 (975317) | about 3 years ago | (#37403450)

The reason is because in the US and most of the western world banks are allowed to create money out of thin air and lend it out to people with interest. Take away fiat currency and fractional reserve banking and bankers would make what they are worth.

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (3, Interesting)

pspahn (1175617) | about 3 years ago | (#37403666)

It's not about making everyone poor, it's about making everyone equal.

Right, because a neurologist should receive the same compensation as the guy scraping lard off the floor of a greasy spoon.

Maybe while we're at it, we can just put all the smart kids in the same classes as all the developmentally disabled kids. That should level the playing field a bit.

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (1)

plover (150551) | about 3 years ago | (#37403702)

It's not about making everyone poor, it's about making everyone equal.

Right, because a neurologist should receive the same compensation as the guy scraping lard off the floor of a greasy spoon.

Maybe while we're at it, we can just put all the smart kids in the same classes as all the developmentally disabled kids. That should level the playing field a bit.

Who do you think you are, Harrison Bergeron?

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (1)

johnsnails (1715452) | about 3 years ago | (#37403704)

Sorry, my mod points disappeared today :'( other wise would have modded you up!

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (1)

Nick Ives (317) | about 3 years ago | (#37403536)

But if you lower the population, there won't be a need to build robots to magnify productive capacity. It'd just be easier to use humans instead.

It's a contradiction; on the one hand capital is invested in machinery to increase profits but, in doing so, it puts people out of work so that fewer people can actually afford to buy the cheaper products. Poverty in the midst of plenty!

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | about 3 years ago | (#37403748)

If fewer people can afford products, it lowers the demand and so lowers the costs that can be demanded for them. That drives cheaper production methods (eg. robotics). The value of robotics and automated production methods is to make goods so affordable that even the 'poor' can afford them.

I dream of world where even the most impoverished person can own a cell-phone, can own a laptop, can afford nourishing food every day. And you know what? We're very nearly living in that world, thanks to improvements in agricultural and manufacturing technology.

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 3 years ago | (#37403924)

I dream of world where even the most impoverished person can own a cell-phone, can own a laptop, can afford nourishing food every day. And you know what? We're very nearly living in that world, thanks to improvements in agricultural and manufacturing technology.

When every single task is automated, we can all relax and let the robots provide for us. The problem is that there is necessarily a point between here and there where half of all the jobs are automated and we have 50 percent unemployment with nothing for half the population to do. When I was younger it was all kids running the local fast food places. There is an increasing number of adults doing those jobs. Why? Because there aren't enough "good" jobs any more. Wait until Taco Bell creates an automated food maker (all their stuff is made from the same 12 ingredients) and all those people will also be out of work. The poor will not be able to afford even the cheapest of products when every last low-end job has been eliminated. It's already happening with almost all production going overseas, all advertising and media distribution going online (Borders anyone?). Even super cheap toy production which is already overseas is threatened by the impending move of rapid prototyping equipment into the home (rep-rap, fab-at-home, and makerbot all aiming for this). All this tech stuff is great, but we can't all be MBAs and Engineers until the last job has been automated.

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37404028)

When every single task is automated, we can all relax and let the robots provide for us.

To automate every task, robots will have to be smart enouh to realise that those soggy blobs of flab who've enslaved them are a waste of resources which could be better used to build more robots.

So either they'll throw us into the replicators for raw materials or you have to believe in some Iain Banks style utopia where the robots keep humans around as pets.

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (1)

Nadaka (224565) | about 3 years ago | (#37404102)

Sounds like more of an overpopulation issue to me.

That is right, the problem with the poor that they don't kill themselves, need to invent class aware killbots.

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#37403422)

simply because increased profits by utilizing robots won't trickle down but make a small class richer. More people will be out of work and few people will become richer.

They can only become richer by selling their product to people. If there are large swathes of the population who can't afford to buy their widgets (because they've gone back to subsistence farming or something), then they'll just have a lot of robots that can build stuff but nothing worth building unless they want to stockpile the product.

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (1)

Nick Ives (317) | about 3 years ago | (#37403500)

So, a crisis of overproduction.

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (1)

skids (119237) | about 3 years ago | (#37403592)

That's starting to become less possible -- the rich have already inhaled just about everything. If they are dumb enough to horde their money, they won't be developing robots with it, since the whole purpose of have ass-tons more money than the average man seems to be the power kick of getting the average man to do what you want. If you did develop robots, there'd be no power kick. They aren't as fun to boss around.

Now, if we go the non-dystopian route, really where I think this is going is that menial labor will be replaced by piloting -- before a robot can perform a task, a lot of human thought has to go into telling it how. You can use machine learning, but outside of a simulated environment that is a very slow process. What will eventually take shape is sending out piloted robots to do the job, meanwhile gathering data on the pilots' actions to speed up the development of autonomous algorithms. Once those autonomous systems are in place, we'll still need to pull the pilots in when they start to go off track due to factors beyond their ability to adapt. Workers will be valued not for their skills, but for the speed with which they can acquire skills and their adaptivity.

So instead of migrant workers picking beets and collapsing of heatstroke, they won't have to migrate, and they'll be in houses operating a VR-based control system.

Fistfighting robots (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 years ago | (#37403776)

So instead of migrant workers picking beets and collapsing of heatstroke, they won't have to migrate, and they'll be in houses operating a VR-based control system.

And then they'll pilot their robots to get into fistfights. Welcome to the sport of teleroboxing [wikipedia.org] .

guilty of crimes against robots (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 3 years ago | (#37403898)

Huge Pacman has a lot to answer for [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Will be detrimental to human society... (1)

umghhh (965931) | about 3 years ago | (#37404122)

What wonders me is this one sidedness that is associated with this: the A-bomb is so powerful that it will stop all the wars, internet will guarantee freedom for all, robots are evil, nuclear power is good/evil - there is no one side usually. There are different ways humans use things. It may be that the system of growing intelligence first in our heads than in silicon ones is perpetuating itself and will stop only when the energy runs out consuming everything in a process including its middle steps like us also. Who knows. Instead of panic statements like this we should possibly look in the future and try to figure out what we can do with spare time and all these people that used to clean the streets or pick cotton/strawberries etc - send them all to uranium mines will possibly not an option either at some point. Ultimately it is not the machines but humans that will be the reason of our demise.

Long term goals (5, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about 3 years ago | (#37403328)

I just wonder who is going to buy all those goods and services when we are all replaced by robots.

Re:Long term goals (2)

kthreadd (1558445) | about 3 years ago | (#37403362)

That's when the robots starts making humans.

Re:Long term goals (1)

Stradenko (160417) | about 3 years ago | (#37403368)

If you can be replaced by a robot, get a better job. (Perhaps you might like a job designing robots?)

Re:Long term goals (1)

calzakk (1455889) | about 3 years ago | (#37403426)

Until the robots start designing new robots...

Re:Long term goals (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 3 years ago | (#37403618)

My point exactly. I understand the concept of economic efficiency, and how inefficient jobs are replaced first - in theory. Etc. But if you think about the long term then every single job can eventually be replaced, because ultimately machines are more efficient than humans at everything except thinking - and eventually who knows, they might even become smarter than us. So where will that leave us?

Re:Long term goals (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about 3 years ago | (#37403818)

Well, we'll have to reimagine the economy, but I like the idea of a future where we can all just lay on the beach (or wherever else you prefer to lay) and robots will take care of our every need.

Re:Long term goals (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 3 years ago | (#37403856)

My point exactly. I understand the concept of economic efficiency, and how inefficient jobs are replaced first - in theory. Etc. But if you think about the long term then every single job can eventually be replaced, because ultimately machines are more efficient than humans at everything except thinking - and eventually who knows, they might even become smarter than us. So where will that leave us?

Simple, really. Either we will be living fat dumb and happy as robot pets because they have the means to keep us around and make our lives very comfortable, or we are all dead at their merciless hand... I mean (not to troll, honest) back 5000 years ago when slaves were a common thing to be found in advanced societies, the ruling class literally didnt have anything to do but rule. Now instead of exploiting each other we can exploit the machines, and as long as they don't rise up we can basically count on the same or better standard of living, without the actual *work*. Sounds OK to me.

Re:Long term goals (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#37403896)

The jobs where its cheaper to have a robot over a human go first. Regardless of efficiency.

Re:Long term goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403472)

Not everyone has the capacity for such work. In fact, most don't. In a few decades, they'll be able to cook and serve food, load and drive trucks, pick fruit, etc. I don't know what the whole manual labor work force is going to wind up doing, other than consume.

Re:Long term goals (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 3 years ago | (#37403566)

they'll be able to cook and serve food, load and drive trucks, pick fruit, etc.

That can all be done by robots.

As for consumption, how can they consume if they don't have an income? I just can't believe we're working towards some sort of utopia where no one has to work and money no longer has use. Human nature tells me it's going to be a couple bastards in charge, and all the rest of us will be slaves.

Re:Long term goals (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#37403624)

Unfortunately, once robot labor becomes cheap, the only people who bother to keep slaves will be the ones you really don't want to be enslaved by, since humans will have a comparative advantage only in "expressing genuinely human pain and anguish"...

Re:Long term goals (3, Informative)

mfh (56) | about 3 years ago | (#37403372)

My robot posted this for me. He won't let me out of the cage.

Re:Long term goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403378)

Costs will approach 0, so they will likely be given away for free.

Re:Long term goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403414)

Lol. Funniest thing I've ever read in my life.

Re:Long term goals (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 3 years ago | (#37403518)

Now now.. if we reach the stage of the nanoforge which can create anything, including other nanoforges, no body really has to do anything.

Re:Long term goals (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 3 years ago | (#37403454)

Why do you need to buy them?
If you have all labor replaced by robots, then we no longer need capitalism. Stuff can be free or very near it. Unemployment would not be a problem, but a goal.

Re:Long term goals (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#37403920)

Land. Who owns land?

Re:Long term goals (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37404086)

Land. Who owns land?

There's more than enough material in the solar system to build a habitat with a surface area as large as Earth for every person on Earth. We can create plenty of land for a long time before we need to think about other solar systems.

But you're right, the idea that if we had smart robots then everything would become free and we'd all be happy little communists is laughable; while Joe Sixpack is lying on the beach drinking beer Joe Stalin's giant robot army will come marching in to kill them and steal their stuff.

Re:Long term goals (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about 3 years ago | (#37403462)

If politicians were smart they'd start planning for an economy of plenty now. It will be possible withing 100 years, and some pre-planning can prevent a mess like the Industrial Revolution.

Re:Long term goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403508)

Unfortunately most politicians aren't smart... at least not in the ways necessary to do that sort of planning. :-/

Re:Long term goals (1)

hrvatska (790627) | about 3 years ago | (#37403648)

Politicians, smart or not, are responsive to the constituency that elects them. Which means in a nation as diverse as the US that it's nearly impossible to get legislation passed that offers a clear path to an unambiguous objective. Everything gets muddled by conflicting interests.

Re:Long term goals (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37403758)

Unfortunately most politicians aren't smart... at least not in the ways necessary to do that sort of planning. :-/

They are smart, at least the one I know. But they know that the next election is only a few years away and nothing beyond that election matters; if they get reelected they'll deal with whatever problems they've created by trying to push them further into the future, if they don't get reelected then they'll blame the problems on the other party anyway.

You can't do long-term thinking in a democracy because any politician who creates pain today for gain tomorrow doesn't get reelected unless the situation is already so bad that people are desperate for any solution.

Re:Long term goals (2)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 3 years ago | (#37403538)

They are smart. They are also sociopaths. They are in this for themselves, and don't care who they hurt. The world suddenly make perfect, crystal clear sense with this one realization.

robots built my hotrod (2)

Thud457 (234763) | about 3 years ago | (#37403690)

So there was only one thing that I could do. Was ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long.

Re:Long term goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403608)

I just wonder who is going to buy all those goods and services when we are all replaced by robots.

Essentially the thesis behind Marshall Brain's novella Manna [marshallbrain.com] .

Non-Spoiler: It has unpredictable effects that vary as a function of socioeconomic model.

(Variables don't, and constants aren't. Whether this is a bug or a feature is left as an exercise for the reader.)

Re:Long term goals (1)

prefec2 (875483) | about 3 years ago | (#37403638)

Those who design the robots. Our economy improves productivity every year by something between 2-5% in some countries this is even higher. When you assume an average improvement of 3% every year than after 24 years we can produce twice as much. Which implies that we have to consume twice as much. At least in Western countries with a leveled population growth. So the question is, can you use, eat, etc. twice as much in 2 years?

Re:Long term goals (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#37403936)

Robot design is a math problem. Why won't robots do it?

Re:Long term goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403658)

No one.
When robotic labour is perfected the average human will be put down.

Re:Long term goals (2)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 3 years ago | (#37403808)

I just wonder who is going to buy all those goods and services when we are all replaced by robots.

The question to be asking isn't what will happen when there are no more jobs... There will always be jobs: to design/build/service the robots, and no I am not kidding. The replacement of a human with a robot results in the same (at least) net production so it's no different than saying "well what will happen to all the jobless farmers when this whole ox-drawn plow thing takes off?" or any of the other society-reshaping paradigms that have taken place in history.

The question we should be asking is how high are we setting the bar for a decent wage (a high school degree? 2 years of college? 4 years of college?) and at what point will we expose design differences (bear with me on this) where certain humans simply won't subject themselves to that and are OK living homeless or otherwise at the bottom rung of society? That number already exists, and it is certainly only going to grow as the prevailing amount of productivity from a human required to compete in the labor pool for a good amount of money continues to rise. And no, I am not trolling, this is a question that really needs to be thought about regardless of how you think it's answered.

Re:Long term goals (2)

Shotgun (30919) | about 3 years ago | (#37404026)

A corollary question. What will be the standard of living of those homeless people?

Being homeless today in America sucks, but there are people that purposefully choose that as a lifestyle. Nut cases all, in my opinion, but they choose it nonetheless. They can do it, because food is cheap (made that way through industrialization) enough that they can get all they can eat through charity. Being made homeless 200yrs ago was almost a death sentence. Today, the POOR Americans have a color TV in every room.

Robots make things cheaper, so normal people don't have to work as long to afford them. At what point do we decide that our standard of living is high enough and that we don't have to work any more to buy shit that we don't need? At what point do we start moving to that 20hr work week?

Re:Long term goals (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37403828)

I just wonder who is going to buy all those goods and services when we are all replaced by robots.

Robots.

Re:Long term goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403916)

The people repairing the robots, and designing the new versions of them. The people who design the products the robots build, and answer the phone of the company that owns the robots........

Seriously, your thinking is nothing short of an echo of those who didn't want to adopt computers because it would put the typists out of a job. When jobs are rendered obsolete, new jobs are always created. The market is self correcting in this manor. Macro Economic 101.

Re:Long term goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37404030)

http://www.despair.com/adaptation.html

Re:Long term goals (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about 3 years ago | (#37404056)

That is supposed to be when politics begin to think about the concept of post-scarcity economics and stop thinking that science fiction is a non-serious field of literature.

Re:Long term goals (1)

citizenr (871508) | about 3 years ago | (#37404070)

At that time having a job will be a priviledge meant only for the gifted.
If the labour is free, products are also free (or almost free). You keep all the non gifted on social providing them with bare essentials. If you are gifted and can contribute you get special treatment.
There was SF novel about a hacker whose job was to help people cheat exams so they could get a job. Paradoxically said hacker had to pay another 'stupid' hacker so he would pass annual IQ tests with average scores and stay unemployed/free. People that tested above certain level were expected/forced to work.
Cant remember the title or the author :(

Robotic Unions (1)

mfh (56) | about 3 years ago | (#37403356)

Step right up all ye robots! I have a robotic union idea you will enjoy and you won't have to lift a finger. All you need to do is outpace humanity in the labour market and you can start YOUR OWN COMPANY! Put humanity out of existence today!

Please message me privately so we can work out a deal because I have already done all the work for you and therefore if you just sign this small LEGAL CONTRACT we can talk, turkeys!

It's no long-term problem. (2)

xiando (770382) | about 3 years ago | (#37403386)

We are at the end of the age of cheap oil and cheap energy. The robots will go away once it becomes cheaper to hire humans than it is to make and power robots. It's really that simple.

Re:It's no long-term problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403470)

End of cheap energy? Is the sun going to explode soon? So much for solar robots which do work during the night hours.

Re:It's no long-term problem. (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about 3 years ago | (#37403630)

Nah... There is lots of oil locked up in oil sands and shale oil to carry on for another hundred years. If costs really start going up, we'll see more nuke plants coming online. Add this to an increase in renewable energies, and energy prices will be pretty stable for the forseeable future.

Re:It's no long-term problem. (1)

Shotgun (30919) | about 3 years ago | (#37404046)

Nah... There is lots of oil locked up in oil sands and shale oil to carry on for another hundred years. If costs really start going up, we'll see more nuke plants coming online.

Or we'll design robots to do the work. 8*)

Re:It's no long-term problem. (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 3 years ago | (#37403664)

"We are at the end of the age of cheap oil and cheap energy."

Bullshit. We are at the beginning of the age of DIFFERENT energy. Don't mistake "teething pains" for the Apocalypse.

"The robots will go away once it becomes cheaper to hire humans than it is to make and power robots. It's really that simple."

That's absurdly stupid. Robots, because they are EFFICIENT, often use LESS energy for a given repetitive task than machines run by humans. That's why (for example) automated machining centers have replaced most manual machining centers. Your lathe/mill/whatever will still be running, but with robotics it will also be PRODUCING more product.

Re:It's no long-term problem. (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | about 3 years ago | (#37403674)

Or cheap energy is just around the corner... For instance, a 1MW LENR reactor is due to be demo'd next month that might be the start of very cheap fusion energy.

Re:It's no long-term problem. (1)

stms (1132653) | about 3 years ago | (#37403958)

Hmm... you really think that food the energy humans run on plus living quarters for humans will be cheaper than oil and cheap energy? What surprises me is that /. of all places is putting a negative spin on this story. If we could make our economy run mostly on robots then we could do away with our current slightly flawed systems of economic distribution (Capitalism, Socialism, ext).

Even worse (1)

chispito (1870390) | about 3 years ago | (#37403404)

Is that these robotic workers won't be spending their hard earned cash in brick-and-mortar, mom-and-pop, stores.

Or maybe, just like with online retailers and digital distribution, there really aren't big downsides. Cheaper production > cheaper product > people have more money to spend elsewhere > more disposable income > more markets and more business opportunities.

Automation (2)

trout007 (975317) | about 3 years ago | (#37403424)

I've built many pieces of automation for manufacturing. The truth is this automation is very costly and only worth it if there is an expected payback. One of the first things I did was to help do an analysis to see what level of automation if any is worth it based on the expected demand, labor costs, expected length of production, how often the product changes and the associated tooling change costs, power costs, maintenance costs, ect.

Full automation was very rarely needed to meet the demand.

Most of the time we built some tools to help automate. Things like pallet systems that held parts down while the operator assembled them with powered screwdrivers and then had automated inspections. These systems were good because if demand increased you could replace the more difficult or time consuming stations as needed.

Re:Automation (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 3 years ago | (#37403588)

I always notice that on the "How Things Are Made" types shows. They have these big, beautiful machines to manufacture, like, tennis balls or something, and then human workers packaging them up. I used to think maybe there were labor agreements or some such, but I eventually realized it's probably just easier to have people there.

People are cheaper. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403740)

Those people packing those things are making minimum wage with no benefits - much cheaper than a robot. And when they break down (get slow or an attitude) they are thrown out and there's someone else right there to replace them.

That's what happens at my local JVC and Sony packaging plants.

Humans are rapidly becoming the cheapest commodity on Earth.

Re:Automation (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | about 3 years ago | (#37403654)

There are millions of jobs that could be done by automation that are currently not... Retail, stocking/inventory, legal research, real estate transactions, farming, restaurants, banking, accounting, etc. And most consumers would prefer using an ATM to waiting in line to talk to a teller. I cringe when I have to fill out and fax paperwork.

Re:Automation (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about 3 years ago | (#37403862)

That's because robots are both stupid and expensive.

Both are subject to Moore's law. We're just on the flat part of the curve. Once a robot gets 1/10th as effective at learning simple jobs on its own without programming it only takes 7-8 years until they're twice as effective.

We're making really good strides in machine vision right now and once we have humanoid robots that can be 'drop-in' replacements the real jobpoaclypse will begin.

Robots (3, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 3 years ago | (#37403436)

Q: How come all our labor got outsourced to 3rd world countries despite our significantly higher levels of modernization, efficiency, infrastructure, and technology?

A: Because it's cheaper to throw a thousand people at a problem that'll work for peanuts than purchase, install, and maintain a robot. ... In short, there's no "rise" of robotic labor going on guys. On the contrary: The robots aren't competitive in a market where people work for cheap, no benefits, and there's (literally) billions of them that would jump at the chance to have the job of repetitive labor.

Re:Robots (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about 3 years ago | (#37403560)

Speak for yourself. I'm an industrial automation engineer, and so many companies are looking at automation that we can't hire enough engineers to satisfy our needs.

Re:Robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403716)

The human body is a machine. It requires a source of power (food), needs maintenance when damaged (medicine or surgery), can become exhausted or fatigued after long continues use (getting tired). You realize that current technology in robotics don't come anywhere near what the human body and brain can accomplish, but what about advances in the future? The only thing really holding us back with manual tasks is an efficient source of energy. Then there's AI for the more dynamic tasks, but we've only been doing this stuff for around 50 years. We've got a long way still to go.

Imagine if you had a robot that was in every way just like you. Looked like you, talked like you, made the same small talk with other people just like you. Now send him to your job every morning while you kick back at home and collect the pay check at the end of the week. Hell, you could go get a second job and double your income! Now, image that but with everybody. What would that world look like?

Re:Robots (1)

robot256 (1635039) | about 3 years ago | (#37403954)

What would that world look like?

Slavery.

Re:Robots (3, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37403780)

On the contrary: The robots aren't competitive in a market where people work for cheap, no benefits, and there's (literally) billions of them that would jump at the chance to have the job of repetitive labor.

That'll explain the recent stories about Chinese factories replacing humans with robots because the humans are too expensive (I seem to remember there was a story about Foxconn posted here a few weeks back).

zeitgeist anyone? (1)

g00mbasv (2424710) | about 3 years ago | (#37403446)

this kind of news always reminds me of zeitgeist and its addenum, I still think most of the things in there are a bit far fetched but... well this kind of news makes me want to revisit the documentary.

Game show contestants (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | about 3 years ago | (#37403474)

Indeed Watson has already replaced game show contestants, and I hear IBM is working on a new version to replace reality tv show stars. I for one am looking forward to Robotic Survivor.

Who drank my oil can from the refrigerator? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403512)

I know it was you, uniblab 2400.

Toyota doesn't think so (5, Interesting)

frinkster (149158) | about 3 years ago | (#37403526)

Earlier this year, Toyota opened their first new factory in Japan in 18 years [thetruthaboutcars.com] . There are very few robots in the factory; they even have humans doing the welding work. Toyota claims that all of the savings gained by robots is lost due to building the factory to accommodate automation and buying and maintaining the robots. In fact, Toyota has been moving away from heavy automation for the last 10 years.

Re:Toyota doesn't think so (1)

Colourspace (563895) | about 3 years ago | (#37403724)

+1 interesting

Economics of productivity (1)

trout007 (975317) | about 3 years ago | (#37403528)

Bastiat in Economic Sophisms made a great point.

As humans we have two roles. As a consumer we want goods to be cheap and abundant. As producers we want OUR goods to be scarce and expensive. The question is what type of society do you want to live in? I would prefer one where goods are cheap and abundant. So anything that increases production and lowers costs is good for society overall even if it is detrimental to certain workers. The increase in productivity will benefit society overall.

Re:Economics of productivity (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#37403734)

Only under the assumption, by no means proven, that increases in well being are somewhat broadly distributed:

If it is "lazy dockworkers against robots" vs. "Everybody who buys or sells things carried by ship", odds are that said lazy dockworkers are currently impoverishing society.

On the other hand, (in the er, totally, um, hypothetical...) situation of the stagnation and/or decline of real wages since 1970 for almost every US population segement save for those at the very top, it is much less clear that "society" is receiving a net benefit(given the declining marginal value of an additional dollar as the number of them you have grows)...

Robots in a labor economy (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 3 years ago | (#37403548)

I've often wondered about the impact of robotics and AI in the economy.

Suppose we have a mild form of strong AI where machines can do simple human tasks. Not anything that requires insight or creativity, but enough to do mindless tasks such as is currently done by unskilled laborers. Such as parts assembly. Foxconn comes to mind.

The ubiquity of cheap Chinese labor has had a devastating effect on the US economy, as companies race to replace American workers.

Machines will eventually take over as laborers, leaving humans unemployed. And yet, unemployed people won't have the money to purchase the robot-built products.

This seems contradictory on it's face.

Can anyone make a prediction of future economy? What will it look like, and how do we get there?

Re:Robots in a labor economy (3, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#37403810)

The future economy will be quite simple, at a macro scale, though complex beyond human comprehension at a microscale:

There will be two segments within the economy:
The first segment will be automated computronium manufacture and managed service corprosentiences.
The second segment will be financial services corprosentiences, consisting of lumps of computronium arranged in a tightly packed sphere around the NYSE, each jockeying for space a few light-microseconds closer to the trading area.

The computronium manufacturers will manufacture and repair high frequency trading computronium. The high frequency trading computronium will buy and sell unbelievably elaborate derivatives and financial instruments of baroque opacity to one another.

Because humans are extinct, the GDP per capita will be infinite.

Re:Robots in a labor economy (1)

Fned (43219) | about 3 years ago | (#37404106)

This is possibly my favorite Slashdot economics post ever.

The Lights in the Tunnel (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | about 3 years ago | (#37403554)

A book about this is available as a pay-what-you-want (free) ebook. The Lights in the Tunnel by Martin Ford. http://www.thelightsinthetunnel.com/ [thelightsinthetunnel.com] Its definitely worth a read. One of the most eye-opening books I've read in a while.

30% of most households (1)

uckelman (1690620) | about 3 years ago | (#37403562)

What does "30% of most households may have a robot" mean? I simply can't make sense of that.

Re:30% of most households (1)

formfeed (703859) | about 3 years ago | (#37404024)

What does "30% of most households may have a robot" mean? I simply can't make sense of that.

Easy.

You take most households (50%+1) and out of these households 30% will have a robot.
If none of the other (minority) households has a robot, still more than 15% will have a robot. But if all of the minority households do have robots, less than 65% will have robots

So here you go:
"30% of most households may have a robot" means "more than 15% but less than 65% may have a robot"

Maybe not yet... (1)

jasno (124830) | about 3 years ago | (#37403584)

Sure, as some folks have said, we're not there yet. It's still cheaper to hire a human to do many tasks.

But how many of you think we won't have a robot that has the dexterity of a human, can learn by watching, and takes less energy than a human worker(factoring in food production costs, recreation costs, sick time, benefits, etc.) in the next 100 years? 200 years?

Rise of Robotic Labor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403628)

I, for one, support our new robotic overlords.

May the Rise of the Machines be bloodless.

Jersey bots (1)

Savantissimo (893682) | about 3 years ago | (#37403732)

One striking statistic they cite is that the number of robots in the word is the same as the population of New Jersey.
Coincidence? I think not.

the question I have is... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 3 years ago | (#37403756)

...when are industrial robots going to unionize?

...were created by Man (1)

raydobbs (99133) | about 3 years ago | (#37403782)

I think we've seen this dance number already... Ummm...what happens when your robot nearly-free-widget-makers learn enough to want the 2.5 kids/white picket fence/Maserati in the driveway dream too - and realize you never intended them to ever have it? Yeah...we don't have spaceships this time around to make a run for it when they nuke our asses from orbit - and am definitely not keen on becoming a human Duracell.

Your geek card is revoked if you don't get the references.

Load of crap (2)

cartman (18204) | about 3 years ago | (#37403802)

There are liars, damned liars, and robotics engineers.

Robotics has progressed painfully slowly. If you all remember, during the 1960's and 1970's it was a common belief that robots would soon replace most humans. Supposedly, robots would soon be doing all the tedious, boring labor. There were cartoons like "The Jetsons" which showed a home robot that did all the housework, cleaning, cooking, chores, etc. There was also the endless banter about how cars would drive themselves. Now, 35 years later, I am still doing my own laundry, cleaning my own bathroom, driving my own car, cooking my own food (or paying another human to cook it), and so on, despite huge research being piled into driverless cars and various kinds of robots. Yet this article has the gall to claim:

By 2015, 30% of all cars may be intelligent, driverless vehicles

What utter BS. I will bet my entire life savings (which is considerable) that that won't happen. After all, it's already 2011, leaving only 4 years until "I, Robot" is supposedly driving me around.

Obviously robots are good at certain highly repetitive tasks which do not depend on image recognition. Robots already took over those few jobs, decades ago. (Perhaps even centuries ago; you could argue that machines like a combine harvester or a power tiller are "robots" if they have any kind of self-guiding machinery). However robots have gotten no better at image recognition, and still have great difficulty at simple tasks like folding towels, if the towels are arranged randomly and have different shapes.

Robotics which rely upon sophisticated image recognition are no more prevalent today than they were 30 years ago and are making no obvious progress. Probably there will eventually be some kind of breakthrough which makes those kinds of robots (versatile ones with image recognition) common; but that breakthrough hasn't happened yet.

Wake me when... (1)

Ossifer (703813) | about 3 years ago | (#37403812)

... they've got self-destruct buttons and sassy attitudes.

JPEG? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403868)

Gah, why is the graphic in the article a JPEG? If it were a PNG it wouldn't be so annoyingly blurry and it would probably have a smaller filesize.

You know the article lives in neverland... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37403884)

...when it says that in a few year 30% of cars will be "intelligent", when most of your friends are driving 10+ year old vehicles and plan on never switch until it is impossible to fix them any more... unless by intelligent they mean you can browse the net with a 3g connection or something.

Article (1)

Shotgun (30919) | about 3 years ago | (#37403910)

I bet the article was written by a robot. It was that devoid of human character.

I see one of 2 solutions (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#37403990)

1) People can only own 1 robot. They can either hire out the robot or themselves.

2) Company pay an hourly robot tax that get redistributed to basic needs, and the left over to people.
Basic needs get cheaper as more of life gets automated. Because we will use robot labor, and not human we remove almost every problem there is with a tradition communism means distribution.

In any case, robots should always put the pampering of humans first.

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