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China Robotics Hardware

Foxconn To Employ 1 Million Robots 372

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-will-teach-them-sorrow-and-pain dept.
hackingbear writes "Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn will replace some of its workers with 1 million robots in three years to cut rising labor expenses and improve efficiency. Foxconn, the world's largest maker of computer components, which assembles products for Apple, Sony and Nokia, employing 1 million (human) laborers in mainland China, is in the spotlight after a string of suicides of workers at its massive Chinese plants. As labor regulations tighten up in China, human laborers demanding wage rises become replaceable."
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Foxconn To Employ 1 Million Robots

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  • Re:Well. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @01:44AM (#36937414) Homepage

    Many of us on the left have long argued that socialism was the only way to deal with the consequences of rising productivity and automation: that in a world in which we have permanently moved beyond labor scarcity, the current system is unworkable.

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @01:52AM (#36937450)

    it's still cheaper to maintain the robots in china, and it's still easier to dodge environmental rules in china, and it's still growing like crazy and the main target market for what you're making in the next few years.

    And the chinese don't have two political parties playing chicken with government spending over debt that could be easily raised, budgets that could be easily put on a path to remedy and so on.

    Oh and in china you don't need to provide healthcare, and wouldn't want to anyway, since if your employees die due to disease you don't need to replace them and no one will do anything if you don't try to help.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 31, 2011 @01:53AM (#36937454)

    Cutting corners on paychecks and forcing workers to work/live in squalid conditions carries a stiffer price when you do it at home. When it's brown people halfway across the world, even slightly less inexpensive brown people, if human rights groups go in and see problems you can at least promise "a full investigation" and to hold your supply chain "more accountable". In the end it's about separating yourself from your labor to maintain plausible deniability.

  • Re:Robots problems (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @01:59AM (#36937484) Journal

    statistically, working at FC is no more suicideagenic than being Chinese.

    Interesting, but irrelevant.
    "being Chinese" is not the peer group a reasonable study would compare Foxconn works too.
    You'd look at factory workers doing similar jobs.

    And unlike the general Chinese population, the workers at Foxconn are killing themselves specifically because of the shitty conditions at Foxconn.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @02:24AM (#36937576)

    Those "brown people" have never lived better in Chinese history.

    Westerners see anything less than their (current, RECENT) luxury as slavery. China was a smoking ruin within living memory. Warlordism, the Japanese invasion, massive famines, etc aren't ancient history.

  • by gl4ss (559668) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @02:32AM (#36937612) Homepage Journal

    almost all manufacturing is much better done if the workers are free to engineer the repetitive human work out of the equation. however, the number of "robots" is irrelevant, which parts they do isn't irrelevant though. unions for large parts try to stop this, as for many workers the aim is to just do the same shift over and over again until they die.

    I mean, you can pound metal with a hammer, or have a machine hammer pounding which is massively better way to do it than with human muscle. similarly you can solder with a machine massively better than by doing it by hand and place components on the boards with machines better and even the assembly stage you can do better if you automate it somehow. however what's good with human workers is that you can start assembling as soon as you get the parts, but you can in no way compete with a more automated, better engineered assembly line with them(this is one thing Ford never understood properly and one thing why gm has been repeatedly put on the brink of bankruptcy and beyond by Japanese and European manufacturers).

    humanoid robots would be for most things be just an intermediate solution, so saying "1 million robots" means actually pretty much nothing, and they don't know yet what they're going to manufacture anyways.

    anyhow, peak employment died when we started building tractors and created an abundance of food. only a very little slice of western society is in any way related to what's necessary for survival, the rest is just people trying to convince others that they're providing a service worth paying for and which could be called a job.

  • by blue trane (110704) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @02:34AM (#36937622) Homepage Journal

    Translation: China is anti-human rights while America is full of constitutionalists who protect self-evident unalienable rights.

  • by Arlet (29997) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @03:07AM (#36937736)

    America is full of constitutionalists who protect self-evident unalienable rights of Americans.

    fixed that for you.

  • by Znork (31774) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @03:24AM (#36937778)

    The easiest and least inequitable way to solve the problem is to simply reduce working hours (which would, incidentally, make it a lot easier to manage retirement problems as well, as it's easier to keep people working if they work a lot less).

    Ultimately, as production capacity vastly outstrips demand, you only have two realistic choices: divide the product of the labour or divide the labour. I'd certainly prefer the latter.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @04:28AM (#36937952)

    And now manufacturers in these nations are talking about increased mechanization in order to circumvent the desire of workers for better conditions of employment. In a lot of respects, it sounds like we (in the western world) just shot ourselves in the head: we shipped out the low skill jobs and we don't have the infrastructure for the high skill jobs needed in highly mechanized factories.

    You need to look a bit further back in history to see when we shot ourselves in the head. Back in the 70s and 80s when robotics first began to be introduced into manufacturing, there was considerable resistance to it in the West because it displaced blue collar workers. We prioritized their jobs over market efficiency. Consequently in the 90s and 00s when a certain country stepped forward who was willing to play hardball in the labor market, a lot of those jobs ended up moving over there.

    If we'd opted for efficiency over jobs in the 70s and 80s and pressed full speed ahead with automated assembly lines, the cost of robotic labor in the West might have been low enough to compete with human labor in China. Those manufacturing industries might have been able to stay here, along with jobs operating and maintaining those automated manufacturing facilities. This is the risk you take when you prioritize anything over efficiency - that someone else will swoop in with a less costly and/or more efficient process and steal all your business from you.

    Foxconn is now shielding themselves so another developing country cannot do to them what they did to the West. If they stuck with human labor as we did, as their wages rose another developing country could undercut their labor prices and steal business from them. To prevent this, they're getting the robots in place now. That'll make it difficult or impossible for another developing country to undercut their manufacturing costs, thus guaranteeing those manufacturing industries stay put in China.

    They see the writing on the wall when it comes to mundane, repetitive tasks performed by humans. The inexorable march of progress in AI and robotics means that long-term, blue collar manufacturing jobs worldwide are a dead end. It may take 30 years, it may take 100+ years, but the inevitable outcome is that all manufacturing labor will be done by machines, not people. It's simply a waste of our time to be doing such mundane tasks. This should have been obvious in the 70s. We should have embraced automation back then and set up re-education programs to teach assembly line workers how to operate and maintain the robots. Then maybe those manufacturing industries might never have moved over to China in the first place.

  • by Anonymus (2267354) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @05:23AM (#36938102)

    I agree with breaking the ties between the military-industrial complex and government, but if you CUT federal salaries I don't see how you can manage to keep any competent employees. You already make about twice as much by working in private industry.

    Members of congress make less than $200k per year. Their campaigns (admittedly not out of their own pockets) cost millions of dollars, and most of them were millionaires before running. And anyway, eliminating their salaries completely would pay for about 15 minutes in Iraq.

    Guarding your pocket change is pointless when big business has the key to your safe.

  • by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @05:52AM (#36938164)

    No, China is pro-business ... and America is pro-rich. No one is terribly interested in putting business out of business as a goal in and of itself, but if it drives 1% more wealth to the top 0.1% in the short term the US will do it.

    If you want to see socialism in action look at Sweden, if you want to see capitalism in action look at China, if you want to see money captured politics in action look at the US and the EU.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 31, 2011 @06:22AM (#36938244)
    I agree with everything you've just said, but I want to add something. The Luddites were faced with a similar situation when hundreds of craftsmen were replaced by tens of factory labourers, but there was a critical difference in that automation at the time could never entirely replace even a very low skilled worker. The tools were better, but there was still no prospect of humans being made obsolete. The Luddites were an organisation demanding that factory owners should be taxed to pay for supporting the craftsmen that had been replaced, and to pay for their retraining. Despite the reputation they got, they were in many ways a very forward thinking and modern organisation, seeing the need for a social safety net in a changing society. Some factory owners actually did do the retraining thing, and those factory owners didn't have their equipment smashed. They weren't solely made up of rabid anti-progress maniacs (although I'm sure there were plenty of those too)
  • by dvice_null (981029) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @07:11AM (#36938412)

    > Seems like there will always be a need for humans in the chain, no matter how technologically advanced things get.

    Perhaps, but that need is decreasing all the time.

    Few hundred years ago pretty much everyone was working in farming and forest industry. Now one man with a harvester can cut down a whole forest. And a couple of people with fully automatic milking robots can take care of hundreds of cows.

    And when I was a kid I used to buy train tickets from a person. Now I buy those from a machine.

    When programming was just born profession, programmers had assistant to write the code to a punch card. Nowadays those assistants are not needed as code is typed directly into computers.

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @08:19AM (#36938634) Journal

    lolll...is compartmentalized capitalism focused on advancing the interests of the state. The PRC has this trick: You can make yourselves wealthy, but if you attempt to make yourself wealthy at the expense of the state as they do in the U.S. and E.U., then you're fitted with some of that uniquely Chinese jewelry: A bullet behind the ear.

    It would seem that exploitation knows nothing about language, the state or economic systems.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Sunday July 31, 2011 @08:50AM (#36938762) Journal

    As WrongSizeGlass pointed out I was lumping those in with Libya as "collateral actions" which is how they are written off on the budget, with missiles at 1.5 million a pop on average being shot like left over bottle rockets on July 5th.

    But if you want to see where we are blowing money like shit through a goose it AIN'T the poor, who haven't be given a cost of living increase in years and I wouldn't be surprised if they never get one again. No it is the military industrial complex with their friends the teabaggers and their "give teh rich more MONIES! Nom nom nom" demanding ever lower taxes like it is a God given right even while they cheer three wars. Apparently wars are great as long as THEY don't have to pay for them and can profit nicely from their stock in Raytheon.

    But I figure a few more factories get sent to India, a few more demonstrations of the illegals burning the flag and demanding the non Mexican people get out of the west coast, and we'll be having us a nice race and class war. Most folks are barely hanging on now, and when the bubble bursts on the education and retirement mess you will have teeming masses of starving pissed off people. As the Mexicans have shown the melting pot no longer exists, it is "fuck you gimmie what I want" and frankly most folks in the flyover states wouldn't piss on a rich person if they were on fire.

    Things are gonna get ugly folks, I figure we have less than a decade before the hyperinflation hits from the presses cranking 24/7 and when folks have to pay $50 for a loaf of bread the shit WILL hit the fan.

  • by publiclurker (952615) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @09:55AM (#36939084)
    Why this teabegger wasn't modded as funny, I'll never know. I've yet to see one of the over aged children who can demonstrate that they've actually read the constitution, let alone understand it.
  • by publiclurker (952615) on Sunday July 31, 2011 @09:58AM (#36939106)
    I take it you don't know anyone who works in Government. All of the ones I know have had wage freezes foe years. Or did you just hear this while inspecting FOP news's colon with your head?
  • by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Sunday July 31, 2011 @12:26PM (#36940002) Journal

    Haven't you noticed, that is the answer to EVERYTHING according to the right wing, it is like the number 42 to them. No jobs? Give teh rich more MONIES nom nom nom! People can't afford healthcare? More MONIES for teh rich nom nom nom! Budget crisis, multiple wars, factories sent to India, illegals burning the flag and overloading the hospitals, inner cities falling apart, infrastructure failing? Why to cure ALL of those problems all you have to do is....give teh rich more MONIES nom nom nom!

    What amazes me is how many people buy their bullshit. You should come to the south sometime, where you will see McCain signs in front of tarpaper shacks, it really is fucking amazing. it would be like black folks giving money to the Klan, here is a group that has done their damnedest to screw poor folks at EVERY opportunity, yet those same same poor folks will go "please sir, will you kick me again?". I just don't get it. Here we have the teabaggers trying to RUIN the credit rating of this country, which will cause rampant inflation, yet I still hear poor folks saying "It is Obama's fault".

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