Vin Crosbie's Personal Blog

For his business blog, visit http://www.digitaldeliverance.com

The Oncoming Labor Storm

The rise of ‘right-wing’ politicians in post-industrial countries — politicians such as Donald Trump of the United States of America, Marie Le Pen of France, the late Jörg Haider and his successors in Austria, and others, and similar movements, such as the Tea Party movement in the U.S. — are only the beginning of what will probably be a 20 to 50 years of reactionary protests as major countries (indeed, all countries eventually) now transition from the Industrial Era into the Informational Era. The 2020’s will likely be a particularly tumultuous decade. The Informational Era denotes a period in human history when most economies are based upon performing services rather than manufacturing products. The U.S. have now entered that period and become ‘post-industrial’. Part of that transition has involved low-skilled manufacturing and industrial jobs (such as manufacturing thread or clothing, electronic devices, or simple furnitures and supplies)  migrating to other countries where lower wages are paid. That part of the transition has been occuring during the past 40 to 50 years. However, another major and often overlooked part of this transition from Industrial to Informational involves robotics. For examples, very many manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have been replaced by robotics. An industrial robot controlled by someone who has a master’s degree in engineering can replace anywhere from several to a dozen or more manual laborers. These machines pay for themselves in only a few years. This revolution in robotic has transformed manufacturing in many countries. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than a million, industrial jobs in the U.S. have been lost due to robotics replacing workers, yet industrial manufacturing output in the U.S. has risen to record levels, exceeding output during the Industrial Era. Another reason why this new era is being called Informational is that technology has developed machines that can now use information (i.e, their programming) to create actual products in ways light years beyond what the simple Industrial Era mechanical loom could do. Moreover, that robotics revolution has begun to invade those countries were industrial jobs have migrated due to low wages.  Earlier this year, the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong reported that one factory in China’s Jiangsu province used robots to replace 60,000 workers, and that 600 other companies in that province were drafting similar restructuring plans. In Taiwan, Foxconn, which manufacturers computer products for Apple, has spent a total of $500 million on robotics, […]

May my Robot Mix a Drink for You?

This amazing documentary from the Japanese TV network NHK (which someone on YouTube mistakenly labelled as from the BBC) details  how advanced technologies about humanioid robots have become. Because I think NHK erred by starting the documentary with an artist’s robot, rather than with something more interesting, feel free to start this video as 4 minutes 15 seconds.  This clips ends unexpectedly after 48 minutes, but continues (with a bit of overlap) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrBWsSFgNsM Expect to see these robotic being around town in 2020. I’ll then be asking you if my home robot recognize who you are, greet you at the door, escort you to me, then get us some tea, coffee, or some other beverage?

Mass Replacement of Workers by Robots Will Cause Massive Chinese Unrest

Here’s an technology story that portends civil unrest in China during the this and the next decade: SHENZHEN, July 29 (Xinhua) — Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn will replace some of its workers with 1 million robots in three years to cut rising labor expenses and improve efficiency, said Terry Gou, founder and chairman of the company, late Friday. The robots will be used to do simple and routine work such as spraying, welding and assembling which are now mainly conducted by workers, said Gou at a workers’ dance party Friday night. The company currently has 10,000 robots and the number will be increased to 300,000 next year and 1 million in three years, according to Gou. Foxconn, the world’s largest maker of computer components which assembles products for Apple, Sony and Nokia, is in the spotlight after a string of suicides of workers at its massive Chinese plants, which some blamed on tough working conditions. The company currently employs 1.2 million people, with about 1 million of them based on the Chinese mainland. For more than 60 years, the Chinese Communist Party has been carefully (some say dictatorially) trying to grow the Chinese economy without creating civil unrest resulting from first industrialization and lately a conversion to a capitalistic economy. How to keep the country fed when farmers are tempted to quit the plows for higher paying factory work? How to keep the factory workers happy without slowing down production or causing economic inflation? Etc. The bloody Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 showed just how close to boiling over social unrest is in the People’s Republic of China. If Foxconn, whose workforce is already anxious (some suicidally so), plans to replace a large number of workers with millions of robots, how soon before other Chinese factories similarly replace their own workers. What will such conversions means to the hundreds of millions of factory workers in China. Unemployment. Perhaps there employee retraining programs will be offered, but for hundreds of millions of workers? And to do what? During the early 1800s in Britain, textile workers who were replaced by machines protested and rioted. They were called Luddites, after a figure from English myth. I wonder what will we call the Chinese software factory workers who will be replaced by robots and who will surely protest and riot?