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Dark Factory: The robotics revolution is changing what machines can do. Where do humans fit in?

Discussion in 'Business Models, Niches, Industries' started by vinylawesome, Nov 11, 2017.

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  1. vinylawesome
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    vinylawesome Silver Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    A.
    “As technology is making the work faster, more efficient, and more environmentally sound, the products are being created with far fewer workers. “Companies are obviously not sending out press releases saying, ‘We’re not hiring more people,’ but that’s what I hear on the street,” Kirkbride said. There are automated assembly lines, and robotic arms lifting tabletops that were once hauled by men.”

    [​IMG]


    B.
    Automation has also increased the amount of manufacturing in the United States, by making it more efficient. The most immediate way that it makes manufacturing more efficient, of course, is by requiring fewer workers. Still, when manufacturing that has been sent overseas comes back, it brings some jobs back, too, even if they are not the same complement of jobs, and not in their old numbers. Last year, for the first time in decades, the number of Americans employed in manufacturing increased—more jobs returned or were created than left—and automation-enabled “reshoring” is a big reason for that.”

    C.
    ““Blueberries,” Tellex said quietly, leaning against the window. “That’s my goal. People aren’t going to pay us to take petals off of daisies. But they will pay us to pick blueberries.” She looked down at the table and the bare daisy stem. “Did it just pick all of these? In order? This is awesome. This is not something I’ve ever seen a robot do. And that’s cool. And now we’ve figured some things out, as a result of doing this.”

    Harvesting fruit and other produce, which involves hours under the hot sun, is the kind of job that Americans are increasingly reluctant to do and that often goes to low-paid immigrant labor. Yet the implications extend beyond agriculture. A robot that could efficiently pick blueberries could probably do a lot of things that are currently the exclusive province of human beings. Potentially, it could advance on a frontier challenge of industrial robotics—not only picking a wallet out of a bin but riffling through it and pulling out a credit card.

    “I usually like to ask the question: How can this help make society better?” Tellex said. “What is something that people do now that robots might do?””


    [​IMG]
    D.
    “A Deutsche Bank research report estimated that Amazon could save twenty-two million dollars a year by introducing the Kiva machines in a single warehouse; the savings company-wide could reach into the billions. With such a powerful incentive, Amazon is on a quest to acquire or develop systems that can replace human pickers. When, in June, it announced plans to buy the Whole Foods supermarket chain, speculation quickly spread that the company intended to automate the grocer’s food-distribution centers as well as its stores.”

    E.
    Wong sat with his back to a wall of dozens of screens, which depicted various production metrics and live video of the manufacturing floor, where workers—and an increasing number of robots—were fabricating circuit boards. (I was there on a trip with a nonprofit called the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation.) He quickly demonstrated the lack of sentimentality with which many businesspeople in China approach the subject of automation. C.I.G. is trying to replace as many human workers with robots as possible, he explained. Three or so years ago, the company had thirty-five hundred people at work in the factory. Two years ago, it was twenty-five hundred. Today, it is eighteen hundred. Over the same period, he said proudly, the company’s output had doubled.

    F.
    China’s labor costs are increasing, or doubling, every few years,” Wong explained. “We are actually overcoming the difficulty by increasing our efficiency, through automation.” For Chinese businesses, Wong said, lean manufacturing must include industrial automation, and they couldn’t make it happen fast enough.

    Much of China’s economic power during the past two decades came from its position as the manufacturing engine of the world, but in the past several years its growth has started to slow. China was never a particularly convenient place for Western companies to have their sneakers and T-shirts and widgets made; the main allure was cheap labor. With Chinese wages increasing sharply every year, though, manufacturing there has become less attractive, and the Chinese government is devoting enormous resources to making the country the automation capital of the world.

    G.
    “Wong elaborated on China’s need for swift automation. There was a labor shortage, he said, exacerbated by the longstanding one-child policy. And, as the population has become wealthier and the cost of living higher, fewer people were willing to do manufacturing work.”

    H.
    ““There were thirteen people doing this. Now we have only one or two,” Hu said, gesturing at the two workers, one man and one woman, both young adults. “Before, we used people to solder. We used to have sixty-three people to finish one thing, and as of last year we need only sixteen people.”

    I.
    Finally, he put up a slide that said “The future: ‘Dark Factory.’ ”
    You don’t need workers, you turn off the lights,” Wong explained, chuckling. “Only when an American journalist comes in we turn on the light.”


    Source: Welcoming Our New Robot Overlords
     
  2. cmor16
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    cmor16 Silver Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    There has to be a balance, unless I'm missing something. Yes robots will eventually be able to do just about any labor humans can. But, if human labor is replaced by robots, how will humans earn income to buy the goods that robots produce?

    I learned for the 1st time in "Unscripted" that Henry Ford reduced the work week from 6 to 5 days (48 to 40 hrs), so the working man had time to consume. 5 days of work and 2 days of consumption. Without income (and time), people cannot consume.

    I really hope I'm right here.


    Otherwise we are heading for a real life "Matrix" situation.
     
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  3. vinylawesome
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    vinylawesome Silver Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    The solution I keep hearing about is some sort of a universal basic income. This would be paid for by a tax on automation. For instance there was a BCG perspectives report that stated that a human welder today is paid around $25 an hour (including benefits) versus the equivalent operating cost of around $8 for a robot. “In 15 years, that gap will widen even more dramatically,” the report states. “The operating cost per hour for a robot doing similar welding tasks could plunge to as little as $2 when performance improvements are factored in.”

    Thus, the tax would be sliced from that savings and possibly a tax of $10 per hour would be assessed which would still result in a $7 to $18 per hour savings for the company.

    There is also the belief that new industries will rise and workers can be shifted into more creative roles. Of course, as with any industrial revolution there will be some people who fall through the cracks and suffer.
     
  4. WJK
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    WJK Bronze Contributor Speedway Pass

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    This has been happening for a long time. Many years ago, when computers first came into small offices, I had to have several secretaries and assistants to produce my real estate appraisal reports and expert work. I also had a photo lab to develop and print my pictures, which were sorted and glued onto the pages, that were printed on forms via a dot matrix printer. By the time I retired, I had 0 secretaries. It was me, my computer, my printer and my cell phone. All the photos were digital, even when I went to court to present my reports.

    In 1988 , my ex worked for a major oil company in downtown Los Angeles. They occupied 54 floors in a large office building. With the advent of voice mail and laptops, they sold that building, and ended up constructing another building on the wrong side of the freeway, in a cheaper area, and they occupied 2 floors of that space. That's 54 floors compressed to 2 floors due to computerization.

    Everyone used to keep 60 days of products in their warehouses. With on time delivery, now they keep around 3 days of inventory on hand. That was a huge disruption in the warehouse real estate market.

    There is nothing new about any of this... The question is -- what are we going to do with all those people who used to have jobs????
     
  5. ColbyG
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    ColbyG Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    These kinds of 'revolutions have happened so many times in history and everytime it happened there was no great depression or mass unemployment. For example, when computers were invented, all the people that were 'calculators' were out of a job. But does that mean they couldn't get another job? No. They could then apply their skills to programming or computer technicians. Or when cars were invented, did that mean every single horse and cart driver was out of a job? No. The jobs that these people transitioned into, did not exist prior to the technology being developed.

    The other aspect is that these robots will be implemented over a long period of time, say 20 years. Its not like every single factory and labouring job in the world is going to disappear overnight, and this period will allow people to transition into new jobs. The jobs these people will move into, don't exist yet. We don't know what they're going to be. Perhaps there will be 'AI Humanisers', or 'AI teachers', nobody knows what these jobs will be, but new jobs will be created.
     
  6. ColbyG
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    ColbyG Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    But what about the fact that an entire industry was created in computers, programming, cyber security, word processing etc? The list could go on forever. While those jobs were lost in that location, many jobs were also created in a different location as a result of the new technology.
     
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  7. vinylawesome
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    vinylawesome Silver Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    Autonomous trucks built and operated by the startup Embark have been shipping refrigerators, with a human in cab, from a warehouse in TX to CA since October. Source:


    "Since early October, autonomous trucks built and operated by the startup Embark have been hauling Frigidaire refrigerators 650 miles along the I-10 freeway, from a warehouse in El Paso, Texas, to a distribution center in Palm Springs, California. A human driver rides in the cab to monitor the computer chauffeur for now, but the ultimate goal of this (auto) pilot program is to dump the fleshbag and let the trucks rumble solo down the highway."



    A Self-Driving Truck Might Deliver Your Next Refrigerator
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017 at 4:15 AM
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  8. MidwestLandlord
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    MidwestLandlord Legendary Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    The industrial revolution brought an explosion of growth in the arts and creativity, which created entire new industries to support it.

    My theory is that the robot revolution will do the same, but the new "arts and creativity" will be in the realm of virtual reality and the like.

    In other words, entire virtual worlds with their own financial markets using a form of crypto currency that can be exchanged for real life currency.

    Virtual businesses that sell virtual products or services in exchange for virtual currency.

    We've already seen this in MMORPG's where players buy and sell in-game merchandise for real money.

    So yeah, basically the matrix haha.
     
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