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One of Foxconn's new robots  (Source: singularityhub.com)
The electronics manufacturer will receive another 20,000 robots before the end of 2012

Foxconn plans to replace 1 million of its human factory workers in China with robots, and the first 10,000 have already been installed.

At least one Foxconn factory in China has received 10,000 robots for the purpose of replacing human workers. These robots, which were manufactured in house and are called "Foxbots," are capable of doing simple tasks like lifting, making selections and placing items where they belong. They will act much like assembly line robots.

According to Singularity HUB, each robot costs about $20,000-$25,000.

Last year, Foxconn President Terry Gou said he wanted to replace 1 million factory workers in China with 1 million robots. This was likely due to the number of problems Foxconn has had with human employees over the years. 

The company came under fire earlier this year when The New York Times published a massive article on the working conditions of Foxconn factories. Apple was also targeted because the report mentioned Apple's lack of action when receiving reports on these poor working environments and overtime/pay issues.

Foxconn gave employees a pay boost earlier this year and is cleaning its act up slowly but surely to comply with audits. 

But it seems Foxconn just doesn't want to deal with human employees at all anymore. While it will take a long time to replace all 1 million workers with 1 million robots, the electronics manufacturer will receive another 20,000 robots before the end of 2012 -- bringing its total to 30,000 for the year. Foxconn hopes to continue increasing this number over the coming years. 

Source: Singularity HUB



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RE: Building your replacment
By rdhood on 11/14/2012 3:51:20 PM , Rating: 5
This can't bode well for China or its workers. In the same way that the U.S. needs those jobs that were outsourced... to India and China, China needs those jobs that are being outsourced to robots. They already require growth of about 9 or 10% just to keep up with the population. As soon as jobs start going to robots, who among the unemployed in China will be able to afford the stuff that they make?

When robots are making everything in the world, to whom will the world's wealthy sell their products?

I am not trying to start an argument, I am just trying to see the logical conclusion to all of this. Worldwide, factories move to the lowest cost labor, ruining the economies of the previous-lowest cost labor. In many cases, this destroys the middle class just as it has wreaked havoc in the middle class in the U.S. The obvious conclusion of robot doing all factory labor is that very few manufacturing jobs are left (world wide). Decent paying manufacturing jobs have been the mainstay of the middle class for a couple of hundred years. The created a vibrant middle class in Europe and the U.S. When they left, Europe an U.S. economies have stagnated. They created a vibrant middle class in China (300 million people in the middle class in China!). What happens when those go away, too?


RE: Building your replacment
By sheh on 11/14/2012 4:49:50 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder if these worries aren't ultimately like 19th century concerns about horse manure filling the streets of the cities in the future 20th century.

When manufacturing is fully automatic goods will be cheaper. People can work in other things. In controlling, in thinking. If it's cheap enough, perhaps not work at all. Rise of the workless society, or at least optional work.


RE: Building your replacment
By Mitch101 on 11/14/2012 7:34:09 PM , Rating: 3
That is until these robots start jumping out the windows too.


RE: Building your replacment
By Ish718 on 11/15/2012 1:12:52 AM , Rating: 2
Yes! That is why we need robots with emotions.


By inperfectdarkness on 11/15/2012 2:24:24 AM , Rating: 2
i'm glad SOMEONE said it. i was about to ask if chinese robots come pre-programmed like marvin the paranoid android.


RE: Building your replacment
By Mr Perfect on 11/16/2012 12:34:54 PM , Rating: 3
That's why they're bolted to the floor. You can't do that with humans, even in China.


RE: Building your replacment
By drycrust3 on 11/15/2012 1:23:19 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
When manufacturing is fully automatic goods will be cheaper. People can work in other things.

The problem being there may well be no "work in other things" because that "other things" has become automated as well. The "fully automatic" doesn't just mean "fully automated welders" or "fully automatic production line" soon it will mean "fully automated management" as well. See those programs like MYOB? How long do you think it will be before these types of programs are doing all accounting?


RE: Building your replacment
By FaaR on 11/14/2012 5:22:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
When robots are making everything in the world, to whom will the world's wealthy sell their products?

The people who work on the assembly lines of foxconn already can't afford much, so they aren't much of a driving force in the economy. Shit, you practically can't live on the salary that foxconn used to pay, now they've bumped up the salary a bit after all the suicides and such so maybe you won't go bankrupt anymore working for that company.

Robots are best suited for jobs that people aren't well suited for anyway; mindless, monotonous and/or physically demanding. It's better if robots take over these jobs, because a person working them for very long will wear themselves out, and that is a big cost overall to society (even though the owners of foxconn themselves may be making big bucks.)


RE: Building your replacment
By BifurcatedBoat on 11/14/2012 5:38:57 PM , Rating: 4
That's exactly right. You're better off building a robot to do the monotonous job, training one of the workers to maintain the robots, and getting the rest of the workers to do something else that the robots can't do yet.

That improves progress, efficiency, and ultimately quality of life for everybody.

Imagine if we were still trying to hang onto the the middle-ages blacksmith concept, and things like shovels and wheels were manually created individually using a forge for the sake of saving jobs. Yeah, you'd have more people having something to do, but it would be a waste of time and resources relative to modern mass production.


RE: Building your replacment
By Salisme on 11/14/2012 6:00:08 PM , Rating: 2
Absolutely! I was a contractor at a GM powertrain plant fresh out of college. Easily 80% of the plant was automated, and there was basically engineers that replaced down machinery. It was very efficient.

This idea is not a new concept. There will always be people needed to fix and replace the machines, that is unless skynet really does take over....


RE: Building your replacment
By Jaybus on 11/15/2012 1:32:20 PM , Rating: 2
The first industrial use robot was installed in a GM plant in 1961. They have slowly replaced human workers over the last 50 years and robots are now widespread. It is not surprising that Foxcon would automate. If instead of low wage workers, they were actually slaves, robots would still be cheaper. My father worked for a steel mill in the 60's and 70's. At the time, they had over 10,000 employees. Now they make almost twice as much steel with only 2,000 employees. None of these lost jobs were outsourced. They simply were replaced with robots. I consider it a good thing, because the place is a hell on Earth and many people were killed or injured there in really dangerous jobs. Likely you couldn't even find anybody who would dare to do those jobs now. That was a much tougher generation.


RE: Building your replacment
By Tony Swash on 11/14/12, Rating: 0
RE: Building your replacment
By bupkus on 11/15/2012 1:30:51 AM , Rating: 1
Give it a rest. You don't need to defend Apple about Foxconn anymore. Simply said, considering the problems here we truly don't care about worker problems in China.


RE: Building your replacment
By Tony Swash on 11/15/2012 6:46:29 AM , Rating: 1
I note you don't challenge any of the points I made. You just don't much like the truth.

Industrial workers in China are a lot better off than their parents. Fact

The Foxconn suicide rate is below the national average. Fact

Foxconn wages are about twice the average industrial wage. Fact

It may be galling but 'dems the facts' :)


RE: Building your replacment
By YashBudini on 11/15/2012 12:29:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It may be galling but 'dems the facts' :)

You can be in the the best most humane torture chamber in the country, doesn't make it a good place to be. Chew on those facts for a while.


RE: Building your replacment
By testerguy on 11/16/2012 5:09:18 AM , Rating: 2
A torture chamber which you have a choice whether to enter, or stay in?

Right... OK.


RE: Building your replacment
By bupkus on 11/15/2012 1:45:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It may be galling but 'dems the facts' :)

Uhh... it may be galling but 'who cares' :)

Fact is, I don't see myself buying anything Apple in the next forever. I wouldn't change that if Foxconn gave their employee "guests" conjugal visits.

Now, before you call me a hater, it's not because I hate Apple, I just prefer the Google way of open sourcing Android. In addition, I would only purchase Nexus devices with repeated Android updates; it's like Christmas every 16 weeks.


RE: Building your replacment
By Twistedbro5 on 11/15/2012 11:51:22 AM , Rating: 2
China doesn't even care about China, their workers can die their people can suffer, they have the money,the military, the numbers, the goods. They will win as the U.S goes over the fiscal Cliff. WW3 comin in the next 20 years max


RE: Building your replacment
By TheSlamma on 11/15/2012 2:39:29 PM , Rating: 2
Have you been reading up on China's economy lately? They are not looking that great and they are losing jobs left and right now. They need money from something also to support their government, we'll see how they hold up.

What goes up... must come down.. spinnin' wheel... you finish it!!


RE: Building your replacment
By Ringold on 11/15/2012 2:01:23 AM , Rating: 2
Don't know why that's -2. In this instance.. He speaks truth.

China, pre Deng Xioping's 1980s reforms, had nothing but rice paddies and cow dung. Now look at it. Swash is right. Only an idiot would think those hundreds of millions of people that've swarmed the city don't obviously consider the city and its factories preferable to the rice paddies. For a lot of legal reasons, it'd even be easier for them if they did go back. But they choose to stay. Consumer spending in China is booming; do you see Apple stores, legit or not, sprouting up all over what is the equivalent of pre-Deng China, North Korea? No, you do not.

I know a lot of my fellow pampered Westerners would like if, somehow, a country could go straight from cow dung and rice paddies to a wine-sipping 30-hour work week, iPhone 5 in every pocket, metrosexual-filled society afraid to gets its hands dirty. Stalin and Mao both tried it, millions died. Just doesn't work that way.


RE: Building your replacment
By YashBudini on 11/15/2012 12:32:24 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Building your replacment
By Ringold on 11/15/2012 3:57:50 PM , Rating: 2
What does that have to do with anything? If anything, it reinforces Tony's point. He's selling a body part, like an idiot, not for food, housing, or anything else necessary for a basic standard of human living. He sold it to acquire a 100% luxury item.


RE: Building your replacment
By DaSHinVegas on 11/16/2012 1:17:52 PM , Rating: 2
What you have hit upon is precisely what Keynes understood. One of the last aspects of his theories of economics was the 15 hour workweek. He theorized that this would occur by the beginning of the 21st century. Why? Obviously during the course of his life, he saw huge strides in productivity caused by machining. When he was born in the late 1800s things were largely done by hand. By the time of the first WW, factories were common, and even more so by the time of the second War. He understood that eventually productivity would drastically exceed the demand for labor, and that the only way to prevent the huge unemployment this would cause in the long run would be to shorten the workweek, thereby spreading the demand for labor across the available workforce.

Obviously this presents a problem. If a livable income is based on a 40 hour workweek, and you shorten the workweek to spread the demand out, then suddenly the costs of labor go way up. The only way to afford this is to take the money from other places, ie the management.

Unfortunately, the 15 hour work week has not come to pass. This is due solely to greed of the business class in this country. Rather than deal with lower incomes themselves, the 40 hour workweek is kept, along with the unemployment it causes.

As your correctly surmised the problem is only going to get worse too. Advances in robotics and such are only going to increase, in turn, demand for labor decreases, and unemployment increases as labor is no longer needed. Imagine if we actually did have autonomous robots that could actually fully replace a human, it would wreck humanity because the whole system of economics would collapse.

If you strip the bottom of the pyramid away, the whole pyramid will collapse. The only way to prevent this in the long term is a shorter work week to spread the demanded labor out across the available workforce. Unfortunately capitalist wealth redistribution such as that would be is just as unpopular as any other wealth distribution. I suspect that we will continue to force the 40 hour workweek despite the obviousness that it is no longer feasible in the 21st century.


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