Thursday, December 13, 2012

Robots: On the Cutting Edge of Labor

Robots: On the Cutting Edge of Labor

By Dr. Meg

While CNN covered Susan Rice and “The Real Women of the CIA” on 121312, China Daily published this report on 121212: “Chinese robot wars set to erupt,” by He Wei. This author quotes a robotics entrepreneur, as he summarizes recent developments in the Chinese robotics industry:

“Sun Zhiqiang says the timing of China’s robot spree is perfect for his business. As managing director of Risong Group, an automation company in Guangzhou, Guangsong province that provides robotic systems, Sun’s company has cashed in on the robotics boom during the past two years. Although he declined to provide details, Sun revealed that the company is making almost 20 times the revenue it did when the business started 15 years ago. “

In short, if Hollywood could get off its Transformers kick, it might make horror films shouting: “The Robots Are Coming! The Robots Are Coming! The Robots Are Coming!”

These afterthoughts should accompany Wei’s announcement, which his article amply supports: Robots work more cheaply than humans. They’re never late. They don’t need health insurance, and they don’t expect day care for their offspring. They also show no interest in equality of any kind; in the labor market, robots are on the rise, and they provide the closest approximation of perfect slave labor which the world has ever known.

It’s critical to realize that Wei is not spouting science fiction. His data not only supports his claims, but it should give union leaders a nervous breakdown.

Wei already can report: “Given the context, it’s easy to calculate the tradeoffs of getting a robot. ‘In fact, industrial robots are already cheaper than workers in China’s eastern regions,’ said Wang Tianmiao, who heads the expert panel of robot technology under the State High-Tech Development Plan. “

Now, claims that training in technology will prepare workers for the jobs of tomorrow should also come under severe scrutiny. No matter how fast workers prepare for the so-called jobs of the future, how can they compete with a machine, once technology has fast-tracked human labor to the junk pile? The truth remains: Humans cannot out-robot a robot.

Modern history reveals that slave labor has never gone 
out of business. The Third Reich’s attempt to reduce Jews to slaves needs no repeating. More recent reports scandalized the world with stories of child laborers slaving for a pittance. China has been in the forefront of these developments, creating whole cities just for massive colonies of workers doomed to slave until they rioted for relief. The United States of America may like to believe that slavery is a political party issue, but robots labor under no such assumption.

Critical thinking requires restating the obvious, perhaps. Robots do not need people to be kind, to empathize, or to speechify on justice. But if people cannot work as efficiently and cheaply as robots, what can they do to justify their existence, and secure their place in cultures which are mechanized from top to bottom? Warnings that robots would replace human workers have been shrugged off as hysteria in the past. The latest news from China says otherwise.

Elders might advise: You’ve made your bed. Now lie in it. But the issue now becomes: When a robot makes your bed, who lies in it? Even poor Goldilocks might wish for bears to be her problem again. 

No comments:

Post a Comment