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Robotics United States

US Regaining Manufacturing Might With Robots and 3D Printing 475

Posted by Soulskill
from the finally-something-we-can-exploit-for-cheap-labor-again dept.
For years, the U.S. has been hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs to China because of the vastly cheaper labor pool. But now, several different technologies have ripened to the point where U.S. companies are bringing some operations back home. 3D printing, robotics, AI, and nanotechnology are all expected to dramatically change the manufacturing landscape over the next several years. From the article: "The factory assembly that the Chinese are performing is child’s play for the next generation of robots—which will soon become cheaper than human labor. Indeed, one of China’s largest manufacturers, Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group, announced last August that it plans to install one million robots within three years to do the work that its workers in China presently do. It found Chinese labor to be too expensive and demanding. The world’s most advanced car, the Tesla Roadster, is also being manufactured in Silicon Valley, which is one of the most expensive places in the country. Tesla can afford this because it is using robots to do the assembly. ... 3D printers can already create physical mechanical devices, medical implants, jewelry, and even clothing. The cheapest 3D printers, which print rudimentary objects, currently sell for between $500 and $1000. Soon, we will have printers for this price that can print toys and household goods. By the end of this decade, we will see 3D printers doing the small-scale production of previously labor-intensive crafts and goods. It is entirely conceivable that in the next decade we start 3D-printing buildings and electronics."
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US Regaining Manufacturing Might With Robots and 3D Printing

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  • by plover (150551) * on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:04PM (#40739083) Homepage Journal

    Imagine the size and strength of the nets Foxconn will have to install to keep their industrial robots from leaping to the streets!

    Too soon?

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      I enjoyed the irony of replacing "expensive and demanding" people with robots.
      Mostly because this is China we are talking about...
  • Goodbye jobs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RichMan (8097) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:06PM (#40739107)

    Say goodbye to a whole lot more mid-level jobs. This is the path we are going down, labor is expensive.

    But what is the cost of a large unemployed population ?

    • Re:Goodbye jobs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:11PM (#40739177)

      But what is the cost of a large unemployed population ?

      Historically, this has led to political instability and social unrest.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It just means we won't have to do jobs that can be done by robots, and those are tedious and repetitive jobs anyway so no biggie.

      People will be freed up for creative jobs, jobs that involve human intelligence which can't be done by machines. It's not robots writing Diablo III, inventing costumes for the Hobbit movie, writing screenplays, and so on. It will enable so much more human productivity, if we don't have to use valuable human minds on robot-like labour any more.

      • Re:Goodbye jobs (Score:5, Insightful)

        by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:18PM (#40739287)

        People will be freed up for creative jobs, jobs that involve human intelligence which can't be done by machines.

        And what are the non-creative idiots going to do for a living? Working in the environments that most of us /.ers work in, it's easy to forget that they're still the majority, you know.

        • Re:Goodbye jobs (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Githaron (2462596) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:32PM (#40739513)
          At first, there will be hardship. Eventually, no one will be doing the jobs that robots can easily do. Unless we find more stuff to do, eventually, the work weeks will shorten while the standard of living will either remain the same or get higher. Of course, 1984 could just happen where all the excess goes into perpetual war rather than the economy.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Genda (560240)

            Automation will ultimately replace everyone... there will be no job a robot can't do better, faster, more accurately and more repeatably, than a human being. AI will replace people in thinking jobs, and cheap mechanical muscle will replace people everywhere else (DARPA is investing in the next generation of robots as we speak.)

            The benefit of all this amazingly powerful and inexpensive labor COULD go to the general population, who could be issues stock at birth, whose growing dividends would keep them in fla

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:34PM (#40739567)

          And what are the non-creative idiots going to do for a living?

          They'll do what they've always done: Management.

        • Re:Goodbye jobs (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MiniMike (234881) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:40PM (#40739645)

          Don't agree with the use of the term 'idiot' for all non-creative people, but there's plenty of people working now who are in mostly "non-creative" jobs which are not on an assembly line. The entire service industry, the legal industry (i.e. not just lawyers, but all the other affiliated jobs), honest accountants, education, medical industries, etc. Many of those jobs also require some degree of creativity, even if that's not the primary focus.

          As for the actual idiots, who knows what they will do. Maybe we'll have to be creative to think of something for them...

        • Actually not (Score:5, Informative)

          by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:47PM (#40739729)

          And what are the non-creative idiots going to do for a living?... it's easy to forget that they're still the majority, you know.

          That's false, it's simply that so many have had the creativity stamped out of them by modern education. If you have any interaction with kids you'll find that in fact most people are creative.

          So what has to change is how we educate children, and fast.

      • It just means we won't have to do jobs that can be done by robots, and those are tedious and repetitive jobs anyway so no biggie.

        People will be freed up for creative jobs, jobs that involve human intelligence which can't be done by machines. It's not robots writing Diablo III, inventing costumes for the Hobbit movie, writing screenplays, and so on. It will enable so much more human productivity, if we don't have to use valuable human minds on robot-like labour any more.

        I know that this is a very un-PC comment to make, but it happens to be true: some humans don't have the intelligence to do jobs that couldn't otherwise be done by robots...

      • by vlm (69642)

        if we don't have to use valuable human minds

        What will the non-valuable human minds do. Say the bottom 75% or so. That is the mystery. Some of the bottom 75% might be trophy wives, actors and actresses, models, whatever ultra low paid retail remains. That leaves maybe 74% of the population unemployed. Whoops.

      • Re:Goodbye jobs (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mhajicek (1582795) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:25PM (#40739395)
        The creative jobs already tend to have far more applicants than positions. In order to be gainfully employed you have to be able to do something better than a robot of comparable expense, which is beyond a growing sector of the population. We're entering an ugly phase of economic reform, between scarcity and abundance. In the old way, the default state was lack, and if you could provide something it had value, and so could be traded for something else of value. In the future there could be abundance, in which case everyone can just take what they want. In between there's the point where there is enough for everyone, but those who have it won't share because (instinctively if not consciously) they're concerned about not having enough in the future. They also won't trade with you because you don't have anything that's of value to them.
      • Re:Goodbye jobs (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dcollins (135727) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:49PM (#40739753) Homepage

        "People will be freed up for creative jobs, jobs that involve human intelligence which can't be done by machines."

        This dogma over the last two decades or so has led us right to the edge of record-setting long unemployment and poverty.

        What if there are no paying jobs that can't be done by machines? Because current trends seem to point to this being the case.

        • Re:Goodbye jobs (Score:5, Insightful)

          by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday July 23, 2012 @04:39PM (#40741479) Journal

          This dogma over the last two decades or so has led us right to the edge of record-setting long unemployment and poverty.

          That's because we refuse to let go of the ancient idea that only those who work should be well-off, and those who don't deserve to be poor, and consequently consider unemployment as a temporary state that should necessarily involve hardship. This is not necessary [wikipedia.org] in a society which can be sustained with only a few people working solely as much as they want for their own self-fulfillment.

          What if there are no paying jobs that can't be done by machines?

          Then there are no paying jobs, and we ditch the current economic system (which, to remind, is ultimately just a way of distributing generated wealth) and move on to the next one.

        • Re:Goodbye jobs (Score:4, Insightful)

          by GodInHell (258915) on Monday July 23, 2012 @07:36PM (#40743531) Homepage

          This dogma over the last two decades or so has led us right to the edge of record-setting long unemployment and poverty.

          Its hard to unbundle the damage done by off-shoring and automation from the damage done by making markets more "efficient" by buying out and cutting down profitable companies to make them perform better.

          Since we started cutting taxes on investment income and income over $1,000,000 there is less and less incentive to make long-term investments (which defer income, and thus taxation) in favor of short-term high-risk high-yield gambles that get taxed at 15-20%. In the 1950s, the owner of a corporation wouldn't take a $5,000,000 buyout for his company, because that single sale event would be taxed at an effective rate in the high 80-percentile -- thus encourage owners and innovators to retain control, to treat their company itself as the source of wealth through operation, rather than treating the company as a commodity to be liquidated as soon as that made economic sense.

          Its been a long and brutal slide down to a 30% tax rate (easily avoidable down to 15% or lower) and the results speak for themselves. Tax policy and unemployment are inexorably linked.

      • Re:Goodbye jobs (Score:5, Interesting)

        by v1 (525388) on Monday July 23, 2012 @03:00PM (#40739959) Homepage Journal

        People will be freed up for creative jobs, jobs that involve human intelligence which can't be done by machines.

        I believe you're severely over-estimating the number of such jobs in china. If you put every line worker in china out of a job and tried to get them something else higher-end to do, I don't think you could find enough employment in the world.

        But I think that's one of the reasons China is trying to slow down their population explosion. They know there's simply not going to be as many jobs in the future as there are now. All those people either have to have work or have to be state-supported. Communist governments like China are supposed to, in theory, spread the wealth, but there's usually not enough to take good care of everyone.

        This only works in the middle east, and only for a limited time, due to the vast amount the countries there are raking in from the world for their oil. A lot of their people don't have to work, or don't have to work hard. China's main export is "cheap stuff for the rest of the world" So although they have very high volume, the actual amount is a lot lower than you might think just due to the low cost demanded by the wholesalers like wallymart. (and they are sooo screwed when that oil runs out, although if they have half a brain and save a lot and invest seriously in their country as we're seeing them do now, they'll at least have a golden parachute)

        THIS is the only reasonable explanation for why manufacturers in China are saying that labor is expensive there. It's not. It's dirt cheap. But so is the product they are selling. The bottom line is that China as a country isn't bringing in enough money to provide good quality of living for its huge population. As long as they continue to specialize in supercheap export products and have a large population, this just can't change.

        All that's going to happen through automation is that walmart's prices might fall a nickel and a cityfull of people in china will hit the unemployment list. And it's hard to say who's to blame. Do you blame the consumer for not "buying responsibly", when they're just trying to stretch their paycheck and provide the best life possible for their family? Do you blame the retailer for not carrying only higher quality products, when they are better able to fulfill their responsibility to their shareholders by maximizing profit and volume? Do you blame the manufacturer in China for automating so they can shave a little off the cost of manufacture because their wholesaler is threatening to buy from another source? Or do you blame China for having a large enough population to allow manufacturers there to lowball the salary because they will still get all the warm bodies they need?

        China realizes all this. They can't control the world's consumers. They can't control the world's retailers. If they try to interfere with their local manufacturing it will cause them to fail. So they do the only thing they can, and encourage the population to have only one child. China's doing the only thing that really anyone in this entire process can to try to improve it. Increased automation is just going to make matters worse for China IMHO. It's going to drive the price of labor even further down just when the country is trying to prop it UP. This isn't a simple little issue, it's a part of a tightly interwoven issues, and is impossible to fix by looking at only one part of it.

        The immediate effect of increased automation will be a drop in the cost of labor in China, resulting in higher unemployment, heavier burden on state social services, and a drop in prices from OTHER manufacturers that didn't automate, because now labor is cheaper. The people of China are the first losers. We over here in Europe and America probably won't notice much of a difference for awhile, and I don't see any clear idea of how it will affect us in the long term. Prices in world markets are based on supply-and-demand when supply is low. But

    • I was thinking about this recently. At some point, robots will be able to handle almost all of the jobs out there including many service jobs, something that has been happening over the last couple of decades anyway as the ability to order things via touch-tone phone and then later the Internet has removed the need for many entry-level customer service jobs. As computers and robots become more common, the ability to gain the basic skills to perform the more advanced skills beyond the contemporary capabili

    • Re:Goodbye jobs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Belial6 (794905) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:24PM (#40739385)
      This is why at some point we need to accept that as some point in the future most of the population is going to be permanently unemployed. This can either be the dream of a paradise where everyone can live a life of leisure and self fulfillment, or it can be a horror where where the wealthy live in leisure while the teaming masses live in a perpetual state of starvation and poverty. We need to decide which way we will go, and move in that direction.

      We are not there yet for the general population, but we are far enough along that we would likely be better off if we accepted that some segments of our society have reached that point.
      • Re:Goodbye jobs (Score:5, Informative)

        by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:36PM (#40739601)

        If you want to get an idea of what this looks like in practice, just look at Brazil. The rich live in heavily-secured opulence, the poor live in abysmal poverty.

        • If you want to get an idea of what this looks like in practice, just look at Brazil. The rich live in heavily-secured opulence, the poor live in abysmal poverty.

          I live in Brazil and do not understand what you are trying to say.

          Where do you put the 54% of Brazilians that are middle class? [glaucocortez.com]

          And how did the 230,000 Brazilians (same link as above) that moved from the middle class to the upper class in 2011 get to heavily-secure their opulence? Surely, there must be a lot of trickle down jobs in security...

    • Re:Goodbye jobs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alen (225700) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:40PM (#40739651)

      100 years ago 90% of the people in the US were employed on farms. today its 4%. why isn't 90% of the USA unemployed?

      new jobs open up and are created

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      Factory assembly hasn't been a mid-level job for a while.

    • Say goodbye to job-based globalised economy. Say hello to self-sufficient city communities. Being unemployed is not a problem when you don't need money.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      But what is the cost of a large unemployed population ?

      So what happens when we realize we've reached the point where there just aren't that many jobs that need doing? If 10% unemployment is going to be the new normal (and I believe it will be, if not higher), then we have to decide if we're going to try to maintain an orderly society using innovative approaches, maybe "job-sharing" or shorter work weeks, or we just have to accept that there will be a large portion of the population who needs to be supporte

      • I'll just leave this [wikipedia.org] here. We already have solutions which are proven to work. We just need to set aside the extreme right wing "trickle down" BS and start implementing them.

  • I wonder what will happen to all those Chinese hoping to get into the middle class when their jobs are being replaced by robots. It could be very bad news for the ones in power.
    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      I wonder what will happen to all those Chinese hoping to get into the middle class

      The same thing that's already happening to the U.S. middle class, I imagine.

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:07PM (#40739119)

    or years, the U.S. has been hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs to China because of the vastly cheaper labor pool. But now, several different technologies have ripened to the point where U.S. companies are bringing some operations back home.

    These two sentences don't mesh in the way I think you meant them to. The new technologies may allow companies to bring the OPERATIONS back home, but not the JOBS. If anything, they will allow many manufacturing operations still in the U.S. to cut even more jobs (though not send them overseas).

    • by FhnuZoag (875558)

      Yeah. After outsourcing internationally, we'll now have outsourcing out of the human race altogether.

      Moreover, why move your operations back to the US, in such a case? Freed from the need for workers, manufacturing can take place anywhere. Like, say, the place with the lowest local taxation and weakest safety regulations. I can't see much reason for optimism here.

      • Except dropping your robot manufacturing plant into Somalia means you will have to employ a very vast security force to make sure it isn't blown up, taken hostage, etc. There are still advantages to locating in modern, industrialized states.

        • by FhnuZoag (875558)

          Well, true. But nevertheless, I'd expect that the more mobile companies will be in a position of advantage in the years ahead, being able to demand increasingly favourable deals from countries in return for siting there, to everyone else's cost.

      • by vlm (69642) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:31PM (#40739497)

        Moreover, why move your operations back to the US, in such a case? Freed from the need for workers, manufacturing can take place anywhere. Like, say, the place with the lowest local taxation and weakest safety regulations. I can't see much reason for optimism here.

        Transportation. I buy electronic stuff direct from China (think like seeed studios but also PCB mfg houses, etc). Lets say they make my hobby custom microwave RF amplifier PCB $10 cheaper than local, but fedex 3-day costs $15. Right now the ratio is in their favor, but decreasing rapidly. I'm probably going to switch to US pretty soon. As for long term trends, I don't think oil is going to get cheaper. I don't think aircraft are going to get less capital intensive. I don't think postage and handling ever decreases. In the very long run I think PCB houses in China are inherently going away for US customers... there will always be Chinese customers of Chinese PCB houses...

        Doesn't mean someone in my hometown will get a job feeding rolls of SMD devices into a pick-n-place machine or cleaning the filthy wave soldering tank for ancient thru-hole designs, but maybe someone just over the border in .mx might get their job back. Remember the jobs did not go from US to China. They went from US done by citizens, to US done by illegal aliens, to just over the .mx border, to Taiwan, to China. We've got a lot of steps along the way, the return path is unlikely to be China directly back to USA. Look for more "made in taiwan" and "made in mexico" stickers at Walmart to build up and peak before you start seeing "made in the USA" stickers again.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      We've already had a jobless recovery from the recession.
      Why did anyone expect anything other than a future of jobless economic growth?

      Worker productivity has been going up for so long, the only way to really get more profit/dollar is with robots.

    • by c (8461)

      > These two sentences don't mesh in the way I think you meant them to. The new technologies
      > may allow companies to bring the OPERATIONS back home, but not the JOBS.

      Not as many jobs, granted, but someone's going to be doing maintenance on those robots. Someone needs to drop off raw materials. Someone needs to pick up finished product. Someone needs to be there to pull a tangled mess out of the feed rollers do the entire line doesn't shut down. Heck, someone needs to sweep the floor, mow the lawn, and

  • question mark and more question marks
  • by na1led (1030470) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:09PM (#40739137)
    At least those people working in China might spend some of their hard earned money over here. Robots won't earn any income.
    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:15PM (#40739241)

      By increasing manufacturing efficiency, lowering prices for everyone (including products that aren't produced with automation by increasing the available labor pool for other industries). If you care about giving people jobs more than you care about making products efficiently, why not just have everyone build a giant brick pyramid in the middle of Nebraska. Oh, and make sure they do it by hand, wouldn't want any pesky earth moving equipment costing people their jobs.

      • by na1led (1030470)
        Might as well live in a Zoo then! Robots and Machines will take care of all our needs.
      • by DM9290 (797337) on Monday July 23, 2012 @03:59PM (#40740871) Journal

        By increasing manufacturing efficiency, lowering prices for everyone (including products that aren't produced with automation by increasing the available labor pool for other industries). If you care about giving people jobs more than you care about making products efficiently, why not just have everyone build a giant brick pyramid in the middle of Nebraska. Oh, and make sure they do it by hand, wouldn't want any pesky earth moving equipment costing people their jobs.

        Why pay them to build useless brick pyramids? I could just as easily pay them to learn how to draw, eat nutritiously, write poetry, appreciate the wonders of the universe, and socialize with their friends. I could pay them to have a happy life. Oh wait.. that would be socialism.

        fuck it. let them starve to death.

    • by rgbrenner (317308)

      US manufacturing has NOT been losing to China. Look at the chart labeled "Real Manufacturing Output vs Real GDP" on this page:
      http://seekingalpha.com/article/602691-u-s-manufacturing-leads-current-economic-growth-as-it-has-for-15-years [seekingalpha.com]

      US manufacturing jobs have been lost to China and technology. It's the job loss that causes people to say US manufacturing is declining.. and robots and 3d printing changes nothing on that front. Fact is, US factories are already full of robots

    • by evilviper (135110)

      This is economics 101. First, products are manufactured less expensively, giving everyone a higher standard of living for less money. Second, there's now a number of higher-paying jobs, programming, servicing, and also BUILDING these robots, and also often there remain a number of human jobs in certain portions of the assembly line for tasks which the robots aren't good at, which get filled with more people to keep up with the new robots. Third, with lower manufacturing costs, there's more money availabl

      • by na1led (1030470)
        Yea, you'll need those HIGH-PAYING wages to support all those collecting UNEMPLOYMENT and WELFARE.
  • by ACluk90 (2618091) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:10PM (#40739165)
    What an irony when politicians are talking about creating jobs. Economy is not about creating jobs, but about eliminating the need to work and rising the quality of life. This is the way to the future.
    • What an irony when politicians are talking about creating jobs. Economy is not about creating jobs, but about eliminating the need to work and rising the quality of life. This is the way to the future.

      Perhaps; the problem is, with the approach our society is taking, the "rising quality of life" is no where to be found.

    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      eliminating the need to work and rising the quality of life

      To get that, you would need a permanent state-provided income for the entire population. And that's very unlikely to happen in the U.S.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        eliminating the need to work and rising the quality of life

        To get that, you would need a permanent state-provided income for the entire population. And that's very unlikely to happen in the U.S.

        I believe similar concerns were voiced upon the invention of the cotton gin and various farming tractors. And yet, with those inventions, the cost of food has fallen. Even when food is supposed to be expensive, it's not (at least not in the United States). If you can make everything automated enough where it costs pennies to provide food, shelter, water, electricity, etc. Then, no, it does not require "a permanent state-provided income for the entire population." This is progress and any comment otherw

    • by na1led (1030470) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:17PM (#40739269)
      People who don't work, are not happy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The phrase "this will create jobs" should be one of the most terrifying things your elected official will ever say. It usually means one of a few things:

      1) we will have a massive project that will demand a lot of temporary labor who aren't going to receive benefits or permanent employment. Hopefully after it's all over and they're unemployed again they'll all go... well, somewhere else.

      2) we have arranged for fund to dedicate 25 people full time to the goal of making some 300 other people completely unneces

  • 4 day work week? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Piata (927858) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:17PM (#40739253)

    All this automation is great and everything but when does it actually translate into a benefit for humanity in general?

    I'm so glad some business can now churn out more crap to purchase at cheaper prices. When are we going to focus on shortening the work week or making housing more affordable? What about investing more time in expanding humanity's presence in the solar system? Or reducing our environmental foot print?

    • by Urza9814 (883915)

      We're going to focus on all the important stuff...as soon as people start focusing on the important stuff. So go do it.

  • by bytestorm (1296659) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:18PM (#40739279)
    We should use humans only in the jobs that robots refuse to do.
  • so we put some robots in your robots to make robots
  • Having really cheap (relative to world prices) natural gas is a huge factor in domestic manufacturing. If you have any energy intensive operations, you are immediately given a big advantage. Natural gas is also used as a feedstock for the chemical industry in America, so you get a huge advantage there as well.

  • Player Piano (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano comes to mind, with all of its meanings and implications.

  • *inserts Linux LiveUSB, downloads schematics from PirateBay physibles
    "Now printing "Apple MacBook Pro - By 1337 Warez Group." Approximate cost: materials only.
  • To me it appears to be a straightforward application of the idea: "Why isn't anyone trying to make a desirable electric car? Why don't we make an electric sports car? Fuck the people who say it can't be done, let's do it and see what happens!"

  • Soon enough, we won't need any humans!
  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:26PM (#40739421) Homepage

    So you are telling me that we are getting back our manufacturing plants, but are not going to see any more jobs or other benefits, just the negatives?

    • So you are telling me that we are getting back our manufacturing plants, but are not going to see any more jobs or other benefits, just the negatives?

      Not at all. The positive is that the rich people who own the companies will make more money.

      There should also be some domestic jobs taking care of the robots I would think, though of course nowhere near the number of jobs being phased out.

      There's going to be a period of pain between the point where there are enough jobs and the point where robots can do enough that people will not have to work.

    • by Urza9814 (883915)

      Producing goods with higher efficiency is itself a benefit. That's why our work day is now 8 hours, instead of 12. And if things keep going at their current rate, it may soon be 6. Maybe 4. Actually it would probably make more sense to shorten the week, but you get the idea.

      • That is not what normally happens when there is a surplus of workers, normally workers rights and wages just go right out the window when there are too many workers.

  • Yeah, right. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jawnn (445279) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:39PM (#40739631)
    When I start to see a significant number of items on the shelves of the Mega-Lo-Mart with "Made In U.S.A." labels, I'll agree. Until then, "increase in domestic manufacturing" is just useless spin.
  • by dcollins (135727) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:45PM (#40739713) Homepage

    "For years, the U.S. has been hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs to China because of the vastly cheaper labor pool. But now, several different technologies have ripened to the point where U.S. companies are bringing some operations back home. 3D printing, robotics, AI, and nanotechnology are all expected to dramatically change the manufacturing landscape over the next several years."

    So now we can have manufacturing without jobs. Sweet! (But thanks for the disingenuous reference to "jobs" in the first sentence to try and trick people into thinking that this development provides a solution for that.)

    Frankly, the only answer to advancing intellectual property and automation is socialism.

  • by ZonkerWilliam (953437) on Monday July 23, 2012 @02:58PM (#40739911) Journal
    The company I just started working at is a huge retailer of clothing. Interestingly enough we are working on an automated warehouse due to be finished within a few months and then expanded over the next couple of years. The execs just don't like telling the industry what we are doing. I imagine other companies are doing the same thing.
  • It's simple. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alex Belits (437) * on Monday July 23, 2012 @03:54PM (#40740783) Homepage

    There is one absolutely unavoidable consequence of this -- for most people it will be absolutely pointless to do any work they don't want to do. Better yet, any attempt to "motivate" people to do anything would result in damage to the economy because their work will be unneeded, unwanted and worse than anything done without them.

    What means, Capitalism as an economic system will be over. Sure, there will be "capitalists" eager to enforce their "property rights" over things made by robots, but wide availability of robots would strip those people of any power to dictate who can build and control more robots, so society will eventually acknolwedge that it does not matter who owns what when anyone can build a device that will build devices that eventually will build a kingdom. Preservation of natural resources will be a much more fundamental problem, and solutions will have to deal with that -- obviously not through distributing "ownership" of natural resources to random assholes.

    And you know what? It does not matter what you will try to do. It does not matter what kind of society you, or your masters will try to build. What I have described is the inevitable result. And I welcome it.

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  • by hherb (229558) <horst AT dorrigomedical DOT com> on Monday July 23, 2012 @07:12PM (#40743311) Homepage

    "The world’s most advanced car, the Tesla Roadster,..." .... really? I guess you both understand bugger all about cars and never left the USA.
    To begin with, most of the Tesla is based on the European Lotus Elise, only the electrical drive train comes from the USA. Admittedly a very good one, but the car as a whole is nowhere near as advanced as let's say the BMW 750 LI compared to which the Tesla looks a bit primitive, and yet they are even in the same price class. Throw more money at your car, and the Europeans and Japanese both have even far more advanced options to that. The US has remain a backwater of car development for the past 2 decades, and is only getting worse.

  • by Pfhorrest (545131) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @01:00AM (#40745707) Homepage Journal

    As everyone else in this thread is saying, the way we have society organized today, increases in automation are only going to amplify the gap between the rich and the poor, as the haves have more and the have-nots have nothing. We either have to radically reorganize the way we distribute the wealth generated by this automation (and make no mistake about it, automation is increasing wealth overall and is in and of itself unquestionably a good thing -- its the distribution of that good and the making "expendable" of many people that's a problem), giving us some utopian paradise where everybody works only on whatever they feel like and a paltry few people tend to the machines which provide for everybody's needs... or we end up with some dystopian nightmare where a tiny wealthy fraction of the people live that fabulous life while the rest are left to toil on the margins of the rich's personal empires, scampering insects under their boots.

    Allow me to present a third, and I think probably most likely (but not most ideal), alternative. Even as the percentage of people who are relatively poor grows, the standard of living for the poorest of the poor continues to rise. That is, there are more and more "poorest of the poor", but they are no longer living in holes in the dirt eating non-nutritive leaves off trees just to feel something in their bellies. They are kept fat with cheap sugary and fatty foods, and distracted by heaps and heaps of ever-flashier entertainment. I predict that as automation makes more and more people "useless" and dumps them into the ever-growing vat of the "destitute", the standard for "destitute" will rise to something of a comfortable powerlessness, where people are unable to really do or accomplish anything of note with their lives, but where they can sit in idle squalor fat, stupid, and happy -- except those few wise enough to realize what's become of them -- until that entire segment of the population dies out of old age. Currently the poor reproduce at a higher rate than the rich, true, but all that's required to "solve" that "problem" is the invention of machines that provide better sex than their human counterparts -- why would you want to fuck another fat poor slob when you could fuck a sexy supermodel-bot? Eventually the poor just die of old age (and diseases associated with the idle lifestyle used to sedate them), and the surviving upper class are left in an underpopulated world serviced by their legions of robot minions, in an ironically egalitarian post-scarcity economy (now that everybody [who's left] has their own personal robot servants).

    Of course, the first issue that comes to mind is: by that point, why wouldn't the rich also prefer to sleep with robots designed for that purpose instead of each other, but I imagine issues of "legacy" and "lineage" and other euphemisms for immortality-by-proxy would motivate enough of them to breed inheritors for their empires.

    Then again, the second issue that comes to mind is: if you're rich and have a legion of robots servicing your every whim, of what use is money? Money is useful because you can buy stuff with it and get people to do stuff for you. When you can just have stuff made and done for you at your whim without having to pay someone else for it, why do you care about money? Give it a generation or two of such a post-scarcity economy, with the aforementioned bread-and-circuses keeping the "redundant" masses from tearing it all down meanwhile, and I see no reason why the grandchildren of the first robot-owner overlords would have any motive to withhold anything from the teeming masses, especially if it will make a world full of beautiful and interesting people to play with instead of a bunch of fat morons.

    So maybe in the end, as we move toward a dystopian nightmare, my "dystopian paradise" might only be used to forestall the downfall of civilization, until such time as we realize we have a utopian paradise at our fingers just waiting to be unleashed on the world.

    • by Pfhorrest (545131)
      Or, it occurs to me now another alternative: the rich themselves breed themselves out of existence thanks to sexbots, leaving nobody but the poor to inherit their wealth. The question then is whether the ex-poor in turn fuck themselves to death, leaving only robots to inherit the Earth...

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