Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Global Robotic Future


Until recently, we have been hearing about the Great Leveling (of wages) as global labor becomes increasingly fungible. Now it is looking increasingly like workers are going to be going the way of the dodo as robots replace them.

Modern capitalism is based on innovation, and innovation, where means increased productivity. Japan and Germany are the productivity champions and run export economies. Is it because their workers work either harder or smarter, or because they have deployed more robots and have become more highly automated than other countries.
China still ranks low on the global robotic hierarchy, according to the state-run China Daily. Last year there were 21 robots for every 10,000 workers in China, compared with a global average of 55. Japan has 339 robots for every 10,000 workers; Germany has 251.
The Chinese apparently get that this is the emerging trend.
This is changing. The Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn has revealed plans to boost its fleet of industrial robots from 10,000 to 1m within three years. According to the company’s CEO, Terry Gou, robots will replace workers for tasks such as spraying, assembling and welding.
This is a development to be welcomed, since the first tasks to be robotized are those repetitive, mechanical tasks that are dehumanizing and the dirty tasks that only the disadvantaged can be persuaded to do.

This presents a tremendous opportunity for increased leisure, not just "hanging out" or "going fishing," but also more significantly for self-actualization and the creative development of an increasingly global civilization in which humans live unity and celebrate diversity.

However, this will require a revisiting of our whole concept of work and leisure and a fundamental restructuring of political economy.

The Raw Story
Chinese demand for robots increases as labor costs rise
The Guardian

10 comments:

Neil Wilson said...

The Paradox of Productivity.

What then for the Work = Income = Resources distribution model?

Tom Hickey said...

I think that this spells the doom of capitalism as we now conceive of it, at least In the long run. Since the advent of surplus societies, the factors of production were land and labor. With the rise of science and technology, industrial revolution resulted in capital assuming prominence as the chief factors.

I think we are now beginning to see that model being replaced with a new one and the outlines of it are only dimly visible. No one thinks that the old jobs are coming back, for example, nor is is it desirable. We are now faced with the necessity of reinventing ourselves or accepting on-going high unemployment. I don't see the later as feasible politically in a developed economy.

I would say that the direction of humankind is recognition that the chief need and purpose of human beings is self-actualization. This distinguishes them more significantly from other animals and it is what make them "human." This was recognized by the ancients and was eclipsed for time, but it is being revived chiefly by psychologists today.

The capitalistic economic model is based on insufficient and inaccurate biological and psychological models. But, as Abraham Maslow has pointed out, this has been of necessity historically since needs lower on the hierarchy of needs have to be met sufficiently before there is space, time and resources available for attending to higher needs.

As this newly development set of conditions materializes, political economy will adapt to it in ways that we can only make out dimly since they are yet to be developed. It won't be an immediate transition any more than the passage from the agricultural age to the industrial was.

Malmo's Ghost said...

THE ABOLITION OF WORK:

http://www.zpub.com/notes/black-work.html

frlbane said...

Those robots and other productivity increases have been financed with the stolen purchasing power of the workers they have replaced via loans from government backed credit cartels. So now, how will those unemployed be able to buy the products resulting from the increased productivity?

Tom Hickey said...

Those robots and other productivity increases have been financed with the stolen purchasing power of the workers they have replaced via loans from government backed credit cartels. So now, how will those unemployed be able to buy the products resulting from the increased productivity?

That's why capitalism as presently conceived is doomed. It is not supply-based but demand-based, and sustainable demand comes from worker income. Now capitalism is running on fumes of household debt rather than the fuel of income. As robots replace workers even the fumes fade away, since debt requires income to repay.

What can't go on, won't.

frlbane said...

But, as Abraham Maslow has pointed out, this has been of necessity historically since needs lower on the hierarchy of needs have to be met sufficiently before there is space, time and resources available for attending to higher needs. Tom Hickey

Industrialization could have been financed ethically. The common stock company, for example, invented no later than 1602, allows many small capital owners, including of their own labor, to consolidate it for economies of scale.

Matt Franko said...

Or you could run it as a Mutual Company/Non-profit and then we would at least eliminate the $NFA leakage to Corp retained earnings.... rsp

Dan Kervick said...

Better machines mean more productivity. But history shows that people always respond to increases in productivity primarily by finding new kinds of work to do so they can boost their prosperity even further. I think its naive to think there is some robot future of leisure awaiting us.

Tom Hickey said...

Better machines mean more productivity. But history shows that people always respond to increases in productivity primarily by finding new kinds of work to do so they can boost their prosperity even further. I think its naive to think there is some robot future of leisure awaiting us.

This is the modern view of leisure v. work. The traditional view is that leisure is the basis of culture. Virtually all the great contributors to high culture were people of leisure. "Workers" were neither educated nor cultured, and they contributed nothing but "work", that is servile work.

Dan Kervick said...

Virtually all the great contributors to high culture were people of leisure. "Workers" were neither educated nor cultured, and they contributed nothing but "work", that is servile work.

Yes, that is the aristocratic mindset of the elites in all of the unequal and exploitative societies that make up most of human society. Some play and enjoy and expend only those kinds of effort they find spiritually fulfilling; and others break their backs to support those elitists. But there is no real possibility of building a society in which we are all aristocrats. The just idea is that the work be fairly shared.