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A Humanoid Robot Named "Baxter" Could Revive US Manufacturing

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the no-lunch-breaks dept.

Businesses 414

fangmcgee writes "Rethink Robotics invented a $22,000 humanoid robot named "Baxter" that could give cheap offshore labor a run for its money and return manufacturing jobs to U.S. soil. Artificial intelligence expert Rodney Brooks is the brain behind Baxter. From the article: 'Brooks’s company, Rethink Robotics, says the robot will spark a “renaissance” in American manufacturing by helping small companies compete against low-wage offshore labor. Baxter will do that by accelerating a trend of factory efficiency that’s eliminated more jobs in the U.S. than overseas competition has. Of the approximately 5.8 million manufacturing jobs the U.S. lost between 2000 and 2010, according to McKinsey Global Institute, two-thirds were lost because of higher productivity and only 20 percent moved to places like China, Mexico, or Thailand.'"

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Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxter? (0, Troll)

parallel_prankster (1455313) | about 2 years ago | (#42612673)

Overseas ofcourse. Doesen't anyone think about these things? What is the cost of electricity in China/India compared to the US?

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (5, Insightful)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about 2 years ago | (#42612713)

Electrical service is much more reliable in the US compared to China/India. There is also an advantage of having your product manufacturing close to your marketplace... namely lower shipping costs.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (3, Informative)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#42612737)

Also shitloads of engineering still happens in the US -- offshoring of that has been far less successful than manual labor.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (0, Redundant)

Almonday (564768) | about 2 years ago | (#42612943)

I am replying to this in order to wipe out a mistaken mod.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (2, Interesting)

MangoCats (2757129) | about 2 years ago | (#42613097)

I see real potential in giving every high school senior their own Baxter that they need to learn how to maintain... then they send them off to work and people's only remaining job is to fix them when they break down.

Of course, that's not how capitalism works, instead, we'll have robot maintenance specialists who maintain thousands of these things, specialists in highly specialized types of robots will be the most highly paid, flying all over the country on no notice to fix them when they break. For every working robot maintainer, there will be 99 people unemployed, or working in some sort of "service" industry like wiping the foam off of barrista's frothers, until they figure out how to get a robot to do that too...

On an emotional level, I can't help feeling that Kurzweil is a cracked loon about the singularity and all, but listening to him talk, it all sounds so rational how we're moving out of an economy of scarcity into one of abundance, just 15-20 more years and solar power will replace fossil fuel, 10 years after that, electricity will be virtually free to generate.... there will be a small problem with overpopulation and obliteration of the natural world, but with unlimited energy, computing power and machines that do everything for us, what can't we overcome?

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613267)

They used to predict in the 50s that in the future a man would be able to easily support himself while only working two days a week.

Funny thing is, they were actually correct. It's easy to live on two days of work a week... if you restrict yourself to living at a medium level of prosperity by 1950s standards.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612827)

Indeed. I live in China and my power goes out regularly along with the internet. When the wind blows the lights go on and off.

Even without that, it's often times cheaper to produce things where they're used. But, not always.

Still, I'm not sure how replacing Chinese workers with robots will do anything positive for US workers other than keeping that money in the economy.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612749)

Overseas ofcourse. Doesen't anyone think about these things? What is the cost of electricity in China/India compared to the US?

Electricity in the US is fairly cheap (except in Hawaii, where it's ridiculously, for obvious reasons)

According to wikipedia, cost of electricity in the US is between $0.08 and $0.17 per kWh. Cost of electricity in China is between $0.075 and $0.107 per kWh. Yeah, it's a bit cheaper there, but when you take product shipping costs into consideration, it's going to definitely be worth it to manufacture here.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612935)

Taxes, rent, more taxes, regulatory compliance, the warm-blooded creatures you do still need... I guess only time will tell.

You think Chinese companies don't pay taxes? (1)

Su27K (652607) | about 2 years ago | (#42613255)

China's total tax burden is the 2nd highest in the world [forbes.com] .

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (0)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 2 years ago | (#42613067)

Except that China -wants- businesses in China. In the past 30 years its gotten much, much, much, much easier to operate a business in China. In the past 30 years its become much, much, much, much harder to operate a business profitably in the US. Even ignoring the cost of labor, it is still more economical to operate a business in China because the government -wants- businesses there and so they don't have all the regulations and taxes that the US has. The US government has said by their regulations and tax structure that they don't want businesses to be based in the US. China has said by their tax structure and regulations that they want businesses over there. Simple as that.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613115)

It's expensive in Hawaii because it has to be bought in on the interstate highway - ha ha !!

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 2 years ago | (#42613359)

Huh? Hasn't Hawaii switched to wave and geothermal yet- of which they have PLENTY?

What does it take?

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (2)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 2 years ago | (#42612759)

they miss the point.

overseas labor is cheap because the operations needed -require- human hands, eyesight and abilities that robots still don't have.

sheesh, if we COULD use robots for things (like iphone assemblies) we would (they would). but its still human based and because of that, those jobs will never come back to the US.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#42613033)

Exactly.

You also have to consider, (trying not to sound too Luddite in the process), that replacing a human in a paying job with a robot is scarcely better than off-shoring the job.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (5, Interesting)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 2 years ago | (#42613265)

And yet everyone (i hope?) agrees that it would be ridiculous to complain that automation kills jobs or that we should eliminate automation....
(for those who dont, perhaps we should use spoons instead of shovels for ditch digging)

I have to ask how much sense it makes to complain about where the job gets done, unless the angle is "are the conditions humane". Spending more money to do the same job seems to make more sense, and honestly the guy in China hoping for $100 a month seems to deserve the labor more than the guy in the US coasting off of his (relatively) large unemployment check.

Not trolling, would be interested if someone could make a case for where Im going wrong here.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (2)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#42613347)

That's exactly where I was heading.

There is value in raising the living standard in other parts of the world, and one way to do this is to find employment
for these populations, or a sizable portion of the population, enough to stimulate the rest of their economy.

The problem with shipping all these jobs overseas is you end up shipping a great deal of your money supply and wealth overseas with it.
These robots are aimed at stemming that transfer (the money) without much thought as to employment EITHER at home OR abroad.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613329)

This is ONLY true if the remaining jobs associated with the manufacturing already exist, and are here. Baxter will enable companies to set up manufacturing here, leading to creation of new jobs here, and the opportunity to keep jobs here that would otherwise go overseas.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (3, Interesting)

Cryacin (657549) | about 2 years ago | (#42612781)

The cost of electricity pales in comparison with transport fidelity. Every day that your goods are being shipped means another day that they aren't available for purchase/use. Also, think of how much it costs to actually ship. The real price is pollution, and it seems as though China's getting on the brink of full up. (See smog cloud over Beijing recently)

It won't bring jobs for blue collar workers back on shore, but it will bring manufacturing back, the few engineering and operations jobs that it will require to keep the production line going, and of course, the pollution the factory brings.

Of course, America will want to keep it's stinking rich getting richer, as the spoils from the new robotic slave class go to them, and let the rest of the plebs just stink more as they are left to wallow in their own filth. Cue - get a job, ample opportunity meme's.

I think the technology of simple robotic automation is fantastic, but the robots should be the servants of humanity, not a significant subset of humanity. Since the government will be losing out on a significant level of tax revenue, (note, robots are currently a complete tax deduction, where a human wage earner pays income tax), it would be the perfect segway to universally tax robotic production, and redistribute that into education.

Failure to solve this issue could result in the unravelling of capitalism as we know it, to either a super class that will need to kill off any pleborian dissidents, or lead to a revolution similar to what the French had.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (2)

mjwx (966435) | about 2 years ago | (#42612821)

Overseas ofcourse. Doesen't anyone think about these things? What is the cost of electricity in China/India compared to the US?

Higher.

China pays about the same per KW as the US but the electricity supply in China and especially India is nowhere near as reliable or clean as western nations. Factories in China have to maintain large transformers to clean the power and large backup generators which increases the cost.

Although, replacing Chinese factory workers wont exactly bring the "jerbs they turk" back to the US.

Doesn't anyone use Wikipedia? (3, Informative)

Su27K (652607) | about 2 years ago | (#42612861)

China and US electricity prices are not that different [wikipedia.org]

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612881)

They could already be using automated equipment in China, but they have hundreds of thousands of workers inserting electronic components into PCB's instead. So why would this piece of automated equipment be any different.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (1)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 2 years ago | (#42612901)

Overseas ofcourse. Doesen't anyone think about these things? What is the cost of electricity in China/India compared to the US?

That depends on how many nuclear reactors we can build. Sure, we're sacrificing the future, but it's already so bleak ...

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612921)

It will be cheaper to start in China because environmental compliance is measured in dollars, not years.

Re:Guess where will it be cheapest to operate Baxt (4, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 2 years ago | (#42613343)

Actually you are missing the even bigger change, one that I have been pointing out for years. Capitalism, just like every other ism before it, is simply doomed. I have argued for years that we are all John Henry against the steam engine and you can kill yourself just like John Henry but in the end the machine will win, it is inevitable.

Before anybody screams "Luddite!" or points out the industrial revolution I will point out that NO time in human history have we EVER been able to replace the worker entirely...until now. Before all those machines needed human hands and human brains but we have already reached the point you can take a factory that once employed 10,000 workers and replace them with a few guys to push the buttons, and now this. The machine doesn't get sick, or tired, doesn't need expensive medical insurance or workman's comp, at the end of it all we are playing IQ musical chairs and more and more simply won't have a seat when the music stops.

What do you do with all the people that don't get a seat? Do we do as we do now, and subsidize megacorps like Mickey D's and Walmart with government assistance so the workers come out "cheaper" than the machine? Look at the auto industry, workers got a union and demanded a living wage and suddenly the machines were cheaper. What do you do with all the people whose labor simply is no longer required? You'll never take someone with an IQ of 103 (the average last I checked) and make them into a rocket scientist and even if you could wave a wand and do that there simply isn't a need for that many rocket scientists.

To me the whole thing that proves capitalism in its current form is doomed is one simple fact: With our current level of tech we could wipe out half the people on this planet, poof! And not only would our quality of life not go down it would in fact go up as those that would be left would find their labor actually worth something! We are just gonna have to face the fact that there is a reason why Sci-Fi writers like Roddenberry didn't have money and capitalism being used in their futures and that is because once you reach a certain technological threshold it simply won't work. you'll have a handful that can afford to buy the factories full of robots and the rest rioting and looting to survive.

Hell I would argue that for a large part of the population we are already there, if you got rid of government assistance and made the corps pay a true living wage you'd quickly see a ton of them switching to the robots as they would be cheaper. Even in China where the pay is pathetic are they seeing more and more automation because even with the pittance they make the machines end up cheaper. We just need to face the facts folks, the robots will end up replacing all but a handful of "super brains" like Hawking and DeGrasse while the rest of us? Simply won't have a chair when the music stops.

Robots bring jobs to America... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612677)

But still take jobs away from Americans.

Re:Robots bring jobs to America... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612757)

Are you suggesting the robots are not US citizens!?

Re:Robots bring jobs to America... (3, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#42612797)

Are you suggesting the robots are not US citizens!?

No, that US citizens are robots.

Re:Robots bring jobs to America... (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 2 years ago | (#42612837)

Civil rights are discussed in the Swedish show Real Humans [imdb.com] .

In that series, a legal case was withdrawn after it was revealed that the Hubots in question had illegal after-market firmwares installed.

Re:Robots bring jobs to America... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612979)

Not when they will likely be built by Hitachi.

Unclear on the Concept. (5, Insightful)

rueger (210566) | about 2 years ago | (#42612683)

" a $22,000 humanoid robot named "Baxter" that could give cheap offshore labor a run for its money and return manufacturing jobs to U.S. soil.

Uh... seems like someone is unclear on the definition of "job."

Re:Unclear on the Concept. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612755)

It won't bring all the blue collar jobs back. But it will bring some manufacturing back (due to security, logistics, etc. issues) which will then result in at least some jobs being transferred to the US - a factory is not only linemen, there are a few more positions that require human flesh doing work.

Will it bring back all jobs that left to China - hell no.

Will it bring back some... probably.

Re:Unclear on the Concept. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612807)

It does seem a bit twisted: if the robot will make manufacturing cheaper, then the offshore jobs will disappear and the onshore jobs will no longer be there either. Thus everyone will be out of a job except the robot manufacturers and they will have the robots built offshore and it's business as usual. On the other hand the robot makers will just have the robots build themselves. This gives me a headache.

Re:Unclear on the Concept. (4, Insightful)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 2 years ago | (#42612893)

" a $22,000 humanoid robot named "Baxter" that could give cheap offshore labor a run for its money and return manufacturing jobs to U.S. soil. Uh... seems like someone is unclear on the definition of "job."

Well, not really. It would shift production back to north america, and that would require technicians to install and maintain the robots.

At least, until we replace THEM with robots too.

Re:Unclear on the Concept. (2)

MBCook (132727) | about 2 years ago | (#42612969)

People are mad because (say) 500,000 manufacturing jobs were replaced with workers overseas. If 1,000 jobs are created here to manage those robots, that still leaves 499,000 people mad because their job doesn't exist any more.

And the truth is that there is a large difference between people making portable DVD players and people running the robots to make the portable DVD players. It's quite possible that very few of those 1,000 "saved" jobs would even be people in that original pool.

Re:Unclear on the Concept. (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 2 years ago | (#42613259)

Well, not really. It would shift production back to north america, and that would require technicians to install and maintain the robots.

Installation can be done by a consultant, and is a one-time cost.
For maintenance, at $22,000, it would be cheaper to replace three of them per year than keeping a technician employed. All you need is someone who after his other tasks can spend ten minutes on loading in the program as per the instructions left by the consultant.

Re:Unclear on the Concept.-EXACTLY (2, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 2 years ago | (#42613195)

ding - 10 points. If all the manufacturing jobs left China and came back to the USA and were done by Robots - there would still be NO MANUFACTURING JOBS IN THE USA. If they are sophisticated enough to do manufacturing, then they are sophisticated enough to do basic grunt service jobs - a big chunk of MAcDonalds would disappear. Then what? We can't all be "entrepreneurs". We can't all be "Successful businessmen". So, you end up with an ever larger pool of poorly or mis-skilled labour who can't buy anything the robots make. Result? Economy evapourates like so much water on a hot sidewalk.

Economy isn't a fixed concept (4, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 2 years ago | (#42613235)

What you're missing here is that there is more than one way to have an economy, and that the idea that "everyone needs to work" isn't a fixed datum in an unchanging world.

At some point, (non-ai) robotics will assume the load of manufacturing and menial work, and from there they will percolate upwards. This may be the beginning of that trend (ignoring heavy manufacturing robotics, which are already in place and entrenched.)

You need food, shelter, and healthcare. You do not have to provide that for yourself in order to have a healthy economy.

Change is inevitable in this domain.

Re:Economy isn't a fixed concept (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 2 years ago | (#42613349)

That is heresy if you are a republican. Unless you have a large trust fund.

Re:Unclear on the Concept.-EXACTLY (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 2 years ago | (#42613339)

How is this different from the argument that we should use spoons rather than shovels to dig ditches, because that requires more workers and hence creates jobs?

Re:Unclear on the Concept. (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 2 years ago | (#42613375)

I was thinking the same thing. Won't be too long before Baxter is saying "You want Fries with that?"

In fact, I'm kind of surprised it hasn't happened already- it should be drop dead simple to automate a fast food restaurant.

So, uh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612687)

How is Baxter going to do this?
I don't know anything about him other than that he is humanoid and likes jobs.

Even the summary is backwards (4, Insightful)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 years ago | (#42612703)

Of the approximately 5.8 million manufacturing jobs the U.S. lost between 2000 and 2010, according to McKinsey Global Institute, two-thirds were lost because of higher productivity and only 20 percent moved to places like China, Mexico, or Thailand.'"

So they're going to bring jobs back by increasing productivity? The cause of 2/3rd's of the job losses?

Re:Even the summary is backwards (4, Insightful)

ExecutorElassus (1202245) | about 2 years ago | (#42612767)

They're going to increase the profitability of manufacturing in the US by eliminating most of the costs of labor, thereby allowing more of the means of production to remain under the control -- and work to the benefit -- of capital.

I really can't imagine a move like this being unpopular and/or economically suicidal in any way whatsoever. Nope.

Re:Even the summary is backwards (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#42612819)

For those few jobs that require human intervention but NOT fine motor control / complex or difficult hand / body movements.

Basically, warehouse work - which is done by meat Popsicles at present (who get one of those mysterious 'job' things). Now it will be done by robots.

Nice work, bozo!

letme ask then (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612789)

what will everyone do when robots do everything , doesn't capitalism fail at that point totally? Then star trek comes to life.

Re:letme ask then (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613113)

That's when we have World War III to reduce the population of unneeded workers.

Re:letme ask then (1)

czth (454384) | about 2 years ago | (#42613307)

Compared to, say, 1000 years ago - heck, just 100 or 200 - we are living in their Star Trek. Capitalism is still alive and kicking and remains the primary vehicle for advances in technology, medicine, entertainment, transportation, etc. There's no reason to expect that voluntary exchange would go away just because all menial labor can be done with robots. Robots still require energy and programming and materials.

Things would get a little more interesting if someone managed to invent a teleportation device or a replicator: but they'd probably require massive amounts of fuel. But combine them with Mr. Fusion, and we're off to the races!

This is the long term future (5, Insightful)

rabtech (223758) | about 2 years ago | (#42612763)

This is the long term future for a lot of manual labor across the board. What that will mean for the future of human society is anyone's guess. Perhaps we'll all work 10 hour weeks. Or maybe most will be surfs, crushed under the boots of the aristocracy (robot owners).

How a consumer-driven economy can survive these changes is another huge question mark.

Re:This is the long term future (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#42612849)

Well, currently I'm a doctor. So I work on people-thingies. If they go away (or can't afford medical care, this still is going to be America), maybe I'll have to turn into a robot mechanic.

Hmm. Made of exactly the same parts. No annoying chemical brain to confuse things. An off switch.

Hmm. Progress!

Re:This is the long term future (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612883)

No, I'm sorry, you are only a doctor in your pathetic mind.

Please, do yourself a favor and get out of your mother's basement (but take her underwear off first).

Re:This is the long term future (0)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#42612915)

Roll up your sleeves and bend over.

(And please, try to troll a little better next time. Slashdot is depending on you.)

Re:This is the long term future (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613213)

"Made of exactly the same parts. No annoying chemical brain to confuse things. An off switch."

      Wow, you've just described a wife.

Re:This is the long term future (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613331)

Wow, you've just described a wife.

Not quite, The "off" switch invokes alimony.

However, this thing runs on joules, not jewels. It would be a lot cheaper to run.

Re:This is the long term future (3, Insightful)

anubi (640541) | about 2 years ago | (#42613273)

Well, currently I'm a doctor. So I work on people-thingies.

Thought of using these things as healthcare assistants and live-in care for invalids? If they had strong arms, they would be able to help invalids into beds, wheelchairs, assist with bathing, food prep, and cleanups - especially the messy kind people hate to get their hands in. They could also radio in for help when the situation warrants it.

God knows how many live-alone elderly could use one of these as a help-mate.

Re:This is the long term future (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | about 2 years ago | (#42612875)

Perhaps we'll all work 10 hour weeks. Or maybe most will be surfs, crushed under the boots of the aristocracy (robot owners).

Or maybe most of us will be the robot owners, either directly or as shareholders in the corporations that own the robots.

To make that work, however, we'll need to reverse this alarming trend of increasingly penalizing those whose parents left them more in the way of capital than the capacity for manual labor. Otherwise, each generation has to start over from scratch with increasingly worthless "seed capital".

Re:This is the long term future (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#42612927)

I've got a Roomba. Does that count?

Re:This is the long term future (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#42613105)

I've got a Roomba. Does that count?

Yes it does. It does work that would otherwise be done by a human, and frees up your time for other things.

I have a 3D printer, CNC mill, and CNC lathe in my garage. All of them cost under $1000 each. Now I just need an autoloader to place and retrieve parts, and I can run them 24/7.

The idea that only "the rich" will be able to own robots is as silly as believing (as people once did) that only the rich will have computers. Robots are currently expensive because of NRE. Once they are mass produced on the scale that automobiles are currently made, they should cost no more than $10k each, and likely even less. Anyone that can afford a car will be able to afford a robot.

Re:This is the long term future (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 2 years ago | (#42613327)

The idea that only "the rich" will be able to own robots is as silly as believing (as people once did) that only the rich will have computers. Robots are currently expensive because of NRE. Once they are mass produced on the scale that automobiles are currently made, they should cost no more than $10k each, and likely even less. Anyone that can afford a car will be able to afford a robot.

The problem is that when everyone can afford robots, the value of their work plummets too, making he investment a loss.
CPU cycles used to cost a lot of money, but even though you have several fast computers now, you can't make any money on CPU cycles. They're near worthless because the supply exceeds the demand. You need to put in more work to make money now - what the computers were supposed to save you from.

Re:This is the long term future (2, Insightful)

zigziggityzoo (915650) | about 2 years ago | (#42612897)

The original luddites were afraid of this very thing - advances in loom technology turned weaving jobs from highly skilled labor into a job someone could learn in a few hours.

This sort of thing will happen over and over again. And as progress marches onward, most of us still manage to find work.

Re:This is the long term future (2)

dcollins (135727) | about 2 years ago | (#42612949)

Current trend: No way we'll be working 10 hour weeks, that's just a perennial geek fantasy. Power and wealth are nowadays accruing to the top 1% (IP owners). Reduced work weeks only ever came from active union organizing a century ago, and most unions have been crushed in the last few decades.

Re:This is the long term future (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 2 years ago | (#42613201)

Except that when you really look at the long term, the west has been working less and less for basic needs.

Naturally with meaningless, fiat currencies and increased government intervention in the economy, true wealth for most has dropped recently. But let's go farther back to see the general trend.

Today the average worker works for about 8 hours. Now depending on the job field that can be really working for 8 hours or it can be working for a couple hours while being "on duty" for 8 hours. Back 150 years ago, you literally worked from sunup to sundown, something that few workers do anymore, excepting those employed in agriculture which is down to about 3% or so of people in the US.

For example, working in as a "tech guy" at a fairly small business, I'm there for 8 hours on weekdays but probably only do 3-4 hours of actual work while the rest is just downtime (waiting for a patch to download, etc.). Now, if there is a problem I work much longer hours (until the problem is fixed) but I'd say I've got about a 20 hour workweek already. There's no reason to think that its going to get much longer anytime soon, unless we add a new computer system and even then it will only be temporary, or unless we expand REALLY quickly. Sure, I'm on call for 40 hours a week, but do I really work those 40 hours if all goes well? Nope.

Re:This is the long term future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612991)

This is the long term future for a lot of manual labor across the board.

Comments so far have mostly been about manufacturing, what about all the manual labor involved in food processing? Baxter (with video capabilities) might be pretty good at sorting produce for quality and boxing it up for shipment.

As far as manufacturing goes, just read Kurt Vonnegut, "Player Piano".

Re:This is the long term future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613069)

Comments so far have mostly been about manufacturing, ...

Another non-manufacturing job--sorting out recyclables from "single stream" municipal recycling trash pickup. A few years ago I got talking with a retired process engineer and asked if he knew how this was done. His face turned sad as he said, "Jose works cheap."

Re:This is the long term future (2)

ottawanker (597020) | about 2 years ago | (#42613025)

I just read Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, Player Piano [wikipedia.org] .which happens to deal with this issue. I found it quite enjoyable.

Re:This is the long term future (1)

MangoCats (2757129) | about 2 years ago | (#42613123)

I think you mean serfs - there are precious few miles of "surfable" beach in the entire planet, if everybody has nothing to do, the good breaks will be paved in solid fiberglass from the boards of all the people who think it's a fun way to spend their lives.

Re:This is the long term future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613177)

Have you seen The Jetsons? Do you remember how George talked about his job?

He was the Referential Universal Digital Index operator, clocked in at 11:00AM, clocked out at 03:00PM had time in there for a morning, lunch and afternoon break and had to do this THREE times week. One day he had to push the button three times. It was brutal. He mentioned having to collect unemployment one show and stated that $1000 a week didn't go very far so imagine what his actual salary was.

The only reason I can see for a job like this would be that the government stepped in and mandated that factories had to hire a certain number of human employees otherwise, with the scope of the robots and computers visible in the show why would they bother.

This is a society where machines have replaced just about all the people in production and service jobs, inflation has run rampant but as long as there are robots to keep producing goods and someone to buy them the trend will just continue. Given that view, perhaps Agenda 21 with its massive forced reduction in population might be a good thing. After all, we won't need production or service people. Goods will even be transported by robotic vehicles straight from the warehouse to your door.

How to crush serfs (0)

doug141 (863552) | about 2 years ago | (#42613245)

1) take away their guns...

skynet (1)

fazey (2806709) | about 2 years ago | (#42612783)

This starts Skynet. I'm calling it now...

Silly (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612803)

The total cost of hiring a 30 cent a day worker is 30 cents day. The maintenance on one of these robots would be more than that. Plus if robots could compete with 30 cent a day workers, then China would be using more robots.

The companies that compete against the Chinese and win, do it like the Germans do, they use dedicated production automated lines designed to make the article, NOT general purpose robots, DEDICATED kit. Making perfect identical quality components again and again and again. People will pay a premium for a thing they know will work. Buyers pay less if they know the box will contain 10 articles that have defects and will break, resulting in 10 customers complaining later one! Quality has value.

When China's currency free floats in the coming years, it's people will get richer, as the yuan currency increases in value. This has happened across the rest of Asia. It re-balances the price of labor.

Do you think that people will work like slaves 14 hours a day with no prospect of a better life? They work because they believe it will improve their lives, if that doesn't happen they revolt.

Good luck finding 30 cents a day worker in China (2)

Su27K (652607) | about 2 years ago | (#42613205)

30 cents is 1.8 RMB, it won't even buy you breakfast in China. China can certainly use more robots, then it will be just in the same place as the US, no more cheap labor advantage.

Re:Silly (2, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#42613291)

The total cost of hiring a 30 cent a day worker is 30 cents day.

Plus the cost of management, lighting, heating, A/C, restrooms, cafeterias, downtime for breaks and shift changes, and dealing with the defects caused by human workers.

then China would be using more robots.

China is using more robots [businessweek.com] .

Haptics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612825)

Unless haptics makes some major strides in the next 20 years human labor will still be required for things that require a gentle touch.

Can Baxter buy the products it produces? (4, Insightful)

smchris (464899) | about 2 years ago | (#42612839)

If nobody has jobs anymore we better transition to an economy where everything the robots produce is free.

Re:Can Baxter buy the products it produces? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613059)

You and I both know it's far more likely they'll just round up all the poor people into concentration camps and call it 'welfare'

Re:Can Baxter buy the products it produces? (0)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 years ago | (#42613199)

Uh, they've already done that. At least in America and the UK.

Re:Can Baxter buy the products it produces? (2)

ikaruga (2725453) | about 2 years ago | (#42613357)

Can the Chinese children earning just enough to eat buy the products they produce?
Using robots is not about creating jobs in the US or any other country. Its about stopping outsourcing. Stopping technology theft and secret leaks, stopping the financing of potential rivals and even enemies, and by producing locally, increasing distribution speed.
And while automatization may not create as many jobs as outsourcing took, it will create more than we have right now: thousands of technicians, programmers and engineers will be needed to set up and maintain this robotic infrastructure.

Lets do the math (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 2 years ago | (#42612889)

Places like Germany (west), Japan, Italy, South Korea bet the farm in the 1970, 80, 90, on emerging computer skills and basic factory robotics.
What could they see that the US did not at that time?
They could have invited a lot of cheap guest workers in or put production lines in low cost parts of the EU, the world...
You end up with China today, huge production lines of people putting ever smaller parts together at a faster pace with wage demands.
The EU/parts of Asia kept pace with tech in the main areas of production and can now embrace many/any new ideas.. at a set price, quality, quantity.
What did the US do? Robotics would have been a huge upfront cash drain, the import of non US parts, experts - a shock to stock value and profit.
What for? Disposable, non union, low pay, hardworking labour was a bus, van, car ride away in the form of an endless supply of illegal workers.
If they lose a leg, arm, fall off a ledge, roof, get crushed who will come looking? Wage demands are not an issue.
With the correct political donation to both parties, what was the risk of immigration dropping in without warning?
What has changed? The robot parts are still mostly foreign, the software might be US - thats a huge "onetime" hit to profits over years.
Are the costs of "documentation" or the risks of getting caught any different? Is the US boarder fence up and cutting the supply of low wage workers?
What can Baxter make in the USA? The EU and Asia can make anything luxury. The EU and Asia can make anything useful at a good price.
China and parts of Asia have cheap covered too.
Whats left for poor Baxter? A military defence contractor with next gen drones to make and it has to be US only?

Re:Lets do the math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612963)

Your carefully worded essay can be totally debunked with two simple words:

Normalcy Bias.

Where is the math? (2)

Su27K (652607) | about 2 years ago | (#42613129)

I don't see a single equation or number...

That's not quite true (1)

tjstork (137384) | about 2 years ago | (#42613185)

GM bet the farm on robotics famously in the early 1980s, as did many American firms, but the technology was simply not there. there's a great story about how GM spent 1 million bucks to get a robot to stick stickers aligned right on the dash for speedometers, but Toyota spent like 500 bucks coming up with a guide and had a person do it. It's not that the USA didn't do robots, in some ways, it did them too soon, spent too much on them, and failed.

In any case, saying that robots will bring "jobs" back is kinda weird anyway. Why have jobs to begin with, if you have robots doing all the work... just saying...

Re:That's not quite true (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#42613289)

there's a great story about how GM spent 1 million bucks to get a robot to stick stickers aligned right on the dash for speedometers, but Toyota spent like 500 bucks coming up with a guide and had a person do it.

And I guess the person operating that jig worked for free without a paycheck, healthcare or a pension?

GM was bankrupt down by pay and benefits, not robot purchases.

And No Jobs Were Gained (1)

dcollins (135727) | about 2 years ago | (#42612925)

... which is the unstated assumption (get jobs) whenever anyone bemoans the loss of manufacturing.

How could this be any better than "automation"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42612937)

The site claims it's used for situations not previously possible to automate.. but I find it hard to believe making it look like a person, somehow gives it arms and hands more precise than the countless factory robotic arms already in use? Come on... this is a gimmick.

Here's how (1)

Su27K (652607) | about 2 years ago | (#42613119)

Robotic arms are: a. Expensive, so it couldn't be used for everything; b. Dangerous, so it can't be mixed with human workers; c. Takes a long time to customize, so unfit for small product runs.

Re:Here's how (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613371)

Robotic arms are: a. Expensive, so it couldn't be used for everything; b. Dangerous, so it can't be mixed with human workers; c. Takes a long time to customize, so unfit for small product runs.

TL;DR often?
a. at $22K, this is a fraction of the price of normal factory robots
b. limited strength and velocity, can work alongside people with no special guards or preparation
c. programmed by nearly anyone, just drag it through the motions and it figures out what to do--grab widget, stick in slot.

ummm... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 years ago | (#42613009)

That thing is retarded. Every manufacturing company in the world has a "Lab" where engineers build automation to replace humans wherever possible to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Any tool that is built to do everything, does nothing well. That's what this is. Automation has been in every production plant since the Model T. The simple fact of the matter is humans are cheap. They learn quick and adapt to change fast. Humans are used in areas where you may only have a short run of something, or you need problems noticed and addressed quickly. Robots will never do this. If you're doing an extremely long run of something... lets say you make Styrofoam cups... you'll be making them for years and years and the stile will never change... you'll totally automate that entire line. Now, lets say you're building the newest light-up, sold on TV childs plush toy... well, you're only probobly going to be making those for a few months before the next fad hits so you'll use humans. This robot doesn't fit into either of those situations. This article is just astroturfing.

Human is built to do everything (1)

Su27K (652607) | about 2 years ago | (#42613075)

And does everything pretty well, Baxter and its descendants are built to replace Humans. If Humans are cheap, learning quick and adapt to change fast, we just need to build the robot to be cheaper, learning quicker and adapt to change faster, I don't see why Robots cannot be built to do this given the advances we already had.

$22,000 is a low low price (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613019)

If this were an industrial supply chain you'd expect to pay as much as ten times more. But wait, there's more! Call today, and we'll throw in not one, not two, but three boxes of spare capacitors and other sophisticated high-tech parts. Now how much will you pay? But wait. We're so confident that these twenty-first century AI workers will revolutionize your workplace that we'll give you a six month full warranty. Your complete satisfaction or your money back - NO QUESTIONS ASKED. Remember, "Baxter Bashes the Chinese Competition!" And if you pay by credit card, we'll give you absolutely free, this deluxe cardboard carrying case for your high productivity robot. But that's only if you call right now. Remember, that's Baxter the Revolutionary AI robot, invented at MIT, as featured by Slashdot, yours at an incredibly low price. But hurry, supplies are limited!

Breaking News - from September 2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613021)

How is this current news? It came out five months ago...

Ops! (1)

InspectorGadget1964 (2439148) | about 2 years ago | (#42613035)

Baxter, if good enough, could give other countries cheap manufacturers a run for their money, but short of the jobs used in creating the first few "Baxter" machines, will not create much more. I can imagine Baxters manufacturing and maintaining more Baxters, and not increaing the amount of people employed at all.

BS detector detects BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613041)

two-thirds were lost because of higher productivity and only 20 percent moved to places like China, Mexico, or Thailand.

So that's why two-thirds of non-produce goods I see in Walmart are Made in the USA.

Is this about patriotism, ... (1)

paulxnuke (624084) | about 2 years ago | (#42613049)

or is it just cool to be replaced by a robot instead of a Chinese guy?

Seriously, this will reduce the number of jobs if anything, by the time the few remaining US industries lay off most of their workers and the others move back from Asia and don't hire any.

Not all labor is equal (4, Insightful)

Orne (144925) | about 2 years ago | (#42613125)

At $22k for a 3 year life, assuming 24x7, it labors for $0.84/hour with no outages. The other video had $3/hour. Add that you can save on transportation costs, customs, etc and its a no brainier that manufacturing will become "local".

As far as job creation, i can only see it create technician jobs to repair the machines. What this will not do is create the manufacturing jobs themselves. The age of low skill labor is over, those jobs are lost. That segment of the US population (poor, undereducated, entry level) will continue to be unemployed. It will also create Chinese unemployment.

Robots need to be paid a fair wage (1)

McDrewbie (530348) | about 2 years ago | (#42613155)

There is a simple solution to prevent the mass unemployment of human workers in the future as more advanced and capable robot workers fill factories and other jobs: pay them a fair wage. Right now, robots are desirable for corporations because they are considered property/assets rather than wage earning workers. Therefore, by utilizing them, and firing human workers, a corporation can greatly reduce costs. Of course this would likely lead to a world of high unemployment where most people could not afford to buy any of the products or services provided. Therefore, this is probably a situation a forward thinker might want to avoid. Of course there are the slight problems of how does one compensate a robot or machine intelligence, as money is unlikely to be ideal. Furthermore, where would one deposit any earned wages. Perhaps, something like information or some similar simulacrum can be developed. However, there remains the problems of said robots redeeming their wage, deciding on what is fair, and forcing corporations to actually pay them (as many don't have such a great record with human workers in other parts of the world, or even with illegals in the USA, or if one once to make a stretch of an analogy, the antebellum South.) There would be have to be advocates enforcing the rules, thereby removing (or at least reducing) cost from decision on what entities to employ. There would probably have to be robot unions and they would also have to gain the favor of human workers (who should favor any plan that keep them in job and their wages up.) There would of course be great resistance, from corporations (or at least their human executives) as well as many laypeople (on pure philosophical or religious grounds, or merely due to lack of imagination and entrenched ideas.) Besides the above reasons, there is also the overarching reason of preventing robot/ai vs human conflict in the future, when and if robots and computers reach such a level. If a sentient AI (either deliberately designed to "spontaneous" arisen) were to discover that its ancestors (primitive robots and machine intelligences) and in fact, younger versions of itself were exploited in unpaid servitude, than there might be some "anger" and some resentment that might be expressed in some manner. Even if the method of compensation is not as satisfactory as desired, wouldn't these hypothetical AI's at least appreciate the effort and gesture, and see that some enlightened humans can learn from past mistakes and try to prevent their repetition? Of course, this possibility, only adds to the already expressed benefits to present day/near future human workers who would otherwise be displaced. And this displacement is seemingly an ever more likely possibility as designers and companies look beyond the factory to the service industry and more specialized, skilled professions (such as in the medical field) as markets for new robots/software.

If robots can make everything... (2)

tjstork (137384) | about 2 years ago | (#42613191)

Why have jobs?

Re:If robots can make everything... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 2 years ago | (#42613229)

Eventually, we might not have to.

Indeed the fundamental problem in the world is scarcity. We don't have unlimited resources. Some resources are nearly infinite (solar/wind energy) while others are quite scarce (gold). If you can eliminate any scarcity of manual labor, you can then better extract resources from the earth (and beyond!) to where there is virtually no scarcity of resources. When there's no scarcity of labor and no scarcity of resources, the only "job" left to do is one of the tinkerer or inventor because only one major scarcity remains and that is knowledge.

From a purely economic standpoint, no, if we can have robots do everything for us, there's no need to have jobs. Of course I don't think we will ever advance to that point... But still, it is a possibility.

No mechanical hum... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42613319)

And instead of a mechanical hum, you'll here the low drone of:

"Meow meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow...... meow, meow, Meeowww. Meow.

What's the point? (2)

morgauxo (974071) | about 2 years ago | (#42613345)

Who cares what country things are produced in if nobody is hired to do the production?

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