Skilled Work, Without the Worker

Description:  A new wave of robots, far more adept than those now commonly used by automakers and other heavy manufacturers, are replacing workers around the world in both manufacturing and distribution.

Source: NYTimes.com

Date: Aug 18, 2012

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Many industry executives and technology experts say Philips’s approach is gaining ground on Apple’s. Even as Foxconn, Apple’s iPhone manufacturer, continues to build new plants and hire thousands of additional workers to make smartphones, it plans to install more than a million robots within a few years to supplement its work force in China.

Foxconn has not disclosed how many workers will be displaced or when. But its chairman, Terry Gou, has publicly endorsed a growing use of robots. Speaking of his more than one million employees worldwide, he said in January, according to the official Xinhua news agency: “As human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache.”  READ REST OF STORY 

Questions for discussion:

1. Do you feel that this advancement in the use of robots is good for the economy as a whole?  Why or Why not?

2.  “The pace and scale of this encroachment into human skills is relatively recent and has profound economic implications,”  What are the economic implications?

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58 thoughts on “Skilled Work, Without the Worker

  1. Ruzaan du Plooy

    ABSOLUTELY NOT. This is a topic I feel very strongly about. There are a number of issues I would like to address when discussing this topic. The first is loss of jobs, which will be monumental if robots were to take over simple jobs originally designed for people. The products or service that was originally provided by skilled individuals and are now being supplied by robots lose their human touch. It loses the ability of the product or service to be personalized, loses that human interaction we need so much. As a society we already text and communicate through means of technology, and this has proven to have many unhealthy physiological effects on the human brain. And now we want to get rid of even more human interaction? In regards to the social aspect of things I think this is a terrible idea. In terms of economy, also a terrible idea. When all theses people lose their jobs, what happens to them? What happens to a family being able to put food on the table? Who is going to take care of these individuals? Our taxes? So now our taxes are increasing due to the mass amount of job loss, as well as the fact that consumer power is also flushed down the toilet. If people are able to make money, they are able to spend, and where does that money go? Right back into the economy. This isn’t possible if they are left without jobs. So overall, not a good idea in my opinion.

    Reply
  2. Courtney Williamson

    With the advancement in the use of robotics, many people will be laid off to be replaced with robots. With less people in the workforce, there will be less taxes going towards the government from earned income because these people will be earning no income to be taxed on. It goes without saying that with no or less of an income, people will be spending less if they are not earning as much. If people are not spending as much, then there is less capital being invested into the economy. To better the economy, people need to spend more. If people are earning less of an income because their jobs are being taken over by robotics, they will be trying to save more to prepare themselves for financially difficult times because they don’t have that same assurance of being financially secure as they once did. When people are being cautious with their funds and less capital is going into the economy, this could eventually lead to recessionary times.

    Reply
  3. Shannon Storey

    I think that the use of robots has its place in the work force but I don’t agree that we could start to rely fully on a workforce of robots. There are so many variables. What happens if the electricity goes out? It is true that even if the electricity goes out a human doing the same work may be delayed or stopped but it is a for-sure thing for a robot, unless they are all going to be run by batteries.
    We are a society of humans and to bring robots into society in ways that replace the human’s ability to give back to society is a slippery slope and I don’t think it should be happen. I believe that engineers will experiment with robots until the point where we have no recourse to back up the advance in technology.
    As for the economy, the expense of bringing in robotic systems is very high and not too many countries would be able to sustain that.
    Also the article mentions that these robots are replacing low-pay jobs and unskilled worker’s positions. What happens to the people that do not have higher education or those that are not able to work in a professional field for a particular reason? Are we now to take away the labor job that they can do and make it so that society has to carry their living expenses as well? While the “robotic” future is coming, I think we need to make sure that we don’t allow it to replace humans in their work. Humanity is too important for that.

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  4. Travis Cote

    I feel that this use of technological improvements is going to happen simply because it saves money for some people. do I think it is good for the economy as a whole? not really because with the mass amounts of people in this world we need more jobs for them, not less. if we take all the work and give it to robots then it will be hard for people to purchase things because they cannot get the money that they need. I am not against the use of robots but I think that using robots to mass produce things takes away from humans.
    The implications are that workers who are unskilled or just labour in factories are becoming obsolete and are being replaced. products are being mass produced witch could be good for the economy but only select places around the world can actually afford these products.

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  5. Brett Hempel

    I feel that no matter what we do, our world is going to go fully automated no matter what. It certainly does effect our economy, but this will not damper on advancements such as robots. It will affect the economy in employment and also GDP. Employment is ultimately going to decrease because of workers being replaced by these robots. At the same token GDP is going to go up because the production of these robots is far greater than humans. Based on what you believe in this can either be a negative effect or positive but in the complete long run the economy will go up because of better production and more exports an less imports possibly. I truly believe that entirely we are going to benefit as a whole because of these advancements. But undoubtedly we will suffer in the sound run as we find new jobs for humans to control and have. But while robots produce more and do repetitive jobs, they can still not develop solutions to problems like the human brain

    Reply
  6. Scott Slomp

    1. Do you feel that this advancement in the use of robots is good for the economy as a whole? Why or Why not?
    I do not think this is good for the economy. With the implementation of robots, more and more people are losing their jobs. When people lose their jobs, they can not afford to buy new things for themselves let alone the essentials needed to survive in today’s world. Prices are going up around the world for necessities and with people not having enough money to purchase these necessities, the economy will go down. I am not against robots for some of the more tedious jobs such as those in manufacturing, but people still have the brain power to out think robots when a problem arises.

    2. “The pace and scale of this encroachment into human skills is relatively recent and has profound economic implications,” What are the economic implications?
    Unskilled workers are becoming more and more obsolete. Some sort of skills are required in most jobs and that is good for the economy. With the advancement of robots, you will need more skilled labours to provide maintenance on these robots when they break down or require periodic maintenance. In the example given about agriculture and how the work force dropped form 40% to 2%, technological advancements have required less workers to do more work. With more crops planted quicker and easier, the more product for the market, which will benefit the economy.

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