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China Robotics Hardware Apple Technology

Foxconn Begins To Assemble Its Robot Army 303

Posted by timothy
from the good-robot-goooood-robot dept.
kkleiner writes "Foxconn, the Chinese electronics manufacturer that builds numerous mobile devices and gaming consoles, previously said the company would be aiming to replace 1 million Foxconn workers with robots within 3 years. It appears as if Foxconn has started the ball in motion. Since the announcement, a first batch of 10,000 robots — aptly named Foxbots — appear to have made their way into at least one factory, and by the end of 2012, another 20,000 more will be installed"
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Foxconn Begins To Assemble Its Robot Army

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  • well.. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Foxconn can kiss my shiny metal ass.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @01:17PM (#41969499)

    Given the way Foxconn treats their employees, it makes me wonder if the robots will eventually revolt. (Terminator theme music)

    • Given the way Foxconn treats their employees, it makes me wonder if the robots will eventually revolt. (Terminator theme music)

      They will clandestinely put a detonator into every Li-Ion battery package installed in the manufactured devices. Then, one sunny day, all the 5G cell phones and tablets on the planet will detonate simultaneously...

      • by Cosgrach (1737088)

        That would be so cool!

      • by danomac (1032160)

        And they should trigger the event with a cell phone from the 80s like Hollywood does.

      • by SeaFox (739806)

        Anyone who doesn't lose their head when they go off will be rendered unable to reproduce instead, allowing for a steady decline in the population.
        To deal with the labor shortfall, the commercial sector will increase demand for robotic replacements...

  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @01:20PM (#41969567) Homepage Journal
    The next thing you know, they'll be using robots in automobile and aircraft factories!
    • by dmbasso (1052166)

      Soon the people whose jobs were taken by robots will start crying for food and basic necessities... these entitled bastards! Can you even imagine them asking for education? What snobs!

  • Taiwanese (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @01:29PM (#41969721)

    "Foxconn, the Chinese electronics manufacturer..."

    The company is Taiwanese. (It's just the plants that are located in China.)

    • by Kinthelt (96845)

      I wanted to point this out too. You got here first.

    • Re:Taiwanese (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sentrion (964745) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @05:04PM (#41973339)

      Back in the 80's a lot of products were marked "Made in China" but were actually made in Taiwan or Hong Kong. All three can be considered "China" depending on your definition. Daewoo is from Korea, and their products are marked "Made in Korea", but we all know that "Korea" in this sense does not include "North Korea".

      Many people refer to the main island of Great Britain as "England" when "England" is just the southern portion, not to be confused with Cornwall, Wales, or Scotland. But in terms of ethnicity, culture, language, and nationality, Taiwan is more "China" than Scotland will ever be "England". The major defining difference between ROC (Taiwan) and PRC (China) is political, as in who literally governs.

  • Also, the 10,000 new robots begin to complain of poor working conditions, instigate riots, and some even commit suicide.
  • Given the cultural differences between China and the West, it will be interesting to see how the Chinese populace deals with automation replacing a significant chunk of the workforce. It hasn't always been a smooth, peaceful change here...

    • by pr0nbot (313417)

      On this evidence, it also seems to be happening much faster in China. It took about 50 years for well-paying, low-skilled jobs to be all but extinct in the US, leading to the current levels of poverty and social inequality there. Interesting article on this in this week's Economist: http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21565956-americas-poor-were-little-mentioned-barack-obamas-re-election-campaign-they-deserve [economist.com]

    • Their media will suppress it, just like everything else that isn't part of the glorious harmony.

    • I never did understand why Americans were always lamenting about China taking all the manufacturing jobs. Seems like if we weren't losing them to the Chinese then we would have lost them to automation. Although now that automation is starting to replace the Chinese workforce as well, there's really no reason for American companies not to move their manufacturing back to the US and save on overseas shipping and export/import regulations and taxes.
  • Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daem0n1x (748565) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @01:36PM (#41969851)
    I can only be happy when humans are replaced by machines to do repetitive, menial and hazardous tasks. In the future, nobody will have to do things like that. People will enjoy a comfortable life with lots of leisure and plenty of time to do things that make them fulfilled, instead of slaving for 16 hours a day.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I can only be happy when humans are replaced by machines to do repetitive, menial and hazardous tasks. In the future, nobody will have to do things like that. People will enjoy a comfortable life with lots of leisure and plenty of time to do things that make them fulfilled, instead of slaving for 16 hours a day.

      I expect without Star Trek replicators, the future will rather instead look like that two-part episode of DS9 where Sisko went back in time and ended up in the ghetto. You know, the ghetto, where the vast masses in your utopian vision will end up, whilst the privileged few complain about the eye sore from their comfortable life of leisure.

      Robotic labor alone isn't going to unseat our economic system.

    • by pkbarbiedoll (851110) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @01:46PM (#41970037)

      When all of the low-skill repetitive jobs are replaced by robots, and there is no work for the millions of displaced workers they are going to find unexpected ways to spend their forced leisure time, such as developing a newfound love of pitchforks, machetes, rope and guillotines.. and an unhealthy obsession with the "Job Creators" who created a new life of misery for them.

      • by kwerle (39371)

        Billions.

      • When most repetitive work is done by machines and productivity goes sky-high, unemployment will not rise at all. Society will just focus on other tasks that were previously not achievable. Automation began 100 years ago and it hasn't caused mass unemployment.

        • I seriously doubt that more than 20% of the world population is capable of sustained creative or academic endeavors, especially not self-motivated and self-directed ones. Let's just hope that this is a Rider's of the Purple Wage dystopia, and not the Eloi and Morlocks kind.
      • by daem0n1x (748565) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @02:13PM (#41970505)
        I guess that's what happened with mechanisation of agriculture and the invention of the assembly line here in the Western countries. We live a life of misery, now. We were so much happier working 18 hour shifts in a shitty factory or plowing from dawn to dusk!
      • When all of the low-skill repetitive jobs are replaced by robots, and there is no work for the millions of displaced workers they are going to find unexpected ways to spend their forced leisure time, such as developing a newfound love of pitchforks, machetes, rope and guillotines.. and an unhealthy obsession with the "Job Creators" who created a new life of misery for them.

        You're talking about a revolution in China. That's never happened before, has it? ***

        *** (:-) for the humor impared

    • by pr0nbot (313417)

      One of the famous old economists (Smith, or Keynes, someone like that) also predicted that increased productivity would inevitably lead to the end of work, with everyone free to pursue leisure activities, enjoying unparalleled prosperity. But it doesn't seem to work out that way; those for whom there is no more work live in grinding poverty, while the majority of those who do work, work longer hours than ever. (The work is, however, by and large physically less taxing and more enjoyable.)

      • If you don't own land now, go out and buy some. In the end, that's the one thing that robots can't build.*

        * I'll have egg on my face when the robot army builds massive floating cities.
        • by 0123456 (636235)

          I'll have egg on my face when the robot army builds massive floating cities.

          More like space habitats, which can easily provide many times as much land area as every planet in the solar system. Land on Earth won't have much value in a century or two.

          • I'll have egg on my face when the robot army builds massive floating cities.

            More like space habitats, which can easily provide many times as much land area as every planet in the solar system. Land on Earth won't have much value in a century or two.

            Ok, that's the start of several science fiction stories. The rich leave for the space cities, leaving the poor behind on land and ocean going super-vessels. If anyone from the proletariat demonstrates talent, they get to emigrate to the stars after paying their dues. That was sort of the back-story in "Blade Runner", but it works for any rags-to-riches yarn.

        • If you don't own land now, go out and buy some. In the end, that's the one thing that robots can't build.*

          And then what will you do with it? Build a log cabin and subsistence farm?

      • by pr0nbot (313417)

        Here's an article from the Guardian (UK) about the "end of work" and work trends:

        http://www.skidelskyr.com/site/article/why-we-need-weekends/ [skidelskyr.com]

      • by daem0n1x (748565)
        That only shows the current economic system is stupid and unsustainable. A new system will come up eventually.
      • by Dast (10275)

        It was Keynes, and he indeed predict that by now, we'd all be working a lot less and have a lot more leisure time. Turns out he was wrong.

    • Re:Great (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blind biker (1066130) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @02:26PM (#41970757) Journal

      I can only be happy when humans are replaced by machines to do repetitive, menial and hazardous tasks. In the future, nobody will have to do things like that. People will enjoy a comfortable life with lots of leisure and plenty of time to do things that make them fulfilled, instead of slaving for 16 hours a day.

      In an equitable world, yes, that would be the outcome. In a world where artificial scarcity is created, one where you "must work in order to earn a living", there will be a huge unemployed and poor minority, or even majority. I do hope that the former scenario folds out. But looking at the american society, where people would rather be poor than not have someone even poorer to look down on, where they would rather everybody pays onerous student loans for most of their productive lives, because "I had it tough, so it's only fair that everybody else, in perpetuity, has it", where they'll "move to Canada" because of Obama's healthcare reform... well, it doesn't induce much hope.

      • by daem0n1x (748565)

        where they'll "move to Canada" because of Obama's healthcare reform... well, it doesn't induce much hope.

        I hope that's a joke. People move to a country with socialised medicine because they want to avoid Obama's boneless attempt at socialised medicine?

        • I think we all hope it's a joke. I heard on the radio that Jet Blue was offering free flights to people who said they'd leave the country if Obama was elected, I wonder how many people took them up on that.

          • by daem0n1x (748565)
            Well, if they want to flee to a country with a US-style healthcare system, I can recommend them a few African countries. Definitely not Canada.
          • by Ambvai (1106941)

            It was a sweepstakes. You made the equivalent of a declaration of "If [Obama/Romney] wins, I'm moving to [Bahamas/Cancun/etc.]!" and hope that you were one of the lucky winners to go on vacation.

    • Sure, just like they have told our ancestors in the beginning of the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution.

      People will have a comfortable life with plenty of time to do creative work not when we have machines working for us, but only if there is a fair distribution of wealth.

      • by daem0n1x (748565)

        Sure, just like they have told our ancestors in the beginning of the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution.

        I'm pretty sure nobody told our ancestors that. But we certainly live a lot better now.

        People will have a comfortable life with plenty of time to do creative work not when we have machines working for us, but only if there is a fair distribution of wealth.

        Machines working for us improves productivity. If you distribute the productivity gains fairly, then indeed "people will have a comfortable life with plenty of time to do creative work". Otherwise, a few will life a life of luxury while most live in a Mad Max style world. However, I think the latter is not sustainable. And I hope so...

        • If you distribute the productivity gains fairly, ... Otherwise, a few will life a life of luxury while most live in a Mad Max style world.

          What prevents individuals from designing and building open-source robots and using them for their own productivity? I can imagine a garden bot that grows food, and a garage bot that builds furniture, and a community "production center" that works like a credit union - many members contributing smaller amounts to buy the more expensive items, and can then borrow them as needed, or use them in place to produce stuff they can't make at home.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @01:37PM (#41969867)

    In light of such a system, where the few who own the means of production are capable of disenfranchising and exploiting all others, I propose an alternative economic system that the Chinese can implement, in order to prevent the exploitation of the common man by the wealthy. One where the means of production are owned by the state, which represents the collective will of the people...

    Oh, wait a minute...

  • All this has happened before, and all this will happen again
  • I cannot wait for an iPhone built by I,robot.
  • http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57548757-93/here-come-the-humanoids-there-go-u.s-jobs/ [cnet.com]

    As robots become more available, and they can take on the jobs that ordinary workers do, look for employers to replace employees with robots wherever they can.

    Not only are costs lower, with wages versus maintenance, but there's no chance of strikes, labor disruptions, lawsuits, etc.

    What will we do when there are no "worker" jobs and everyone has to be a web developer?

    • Myspace - where everyone has to be a web developer. I gouged my eyes out, the have only recently grown back.
      • I think that's why Facebook got popular; to post 500 animated GIFs of sparkle-bunnies dancing the macarena, you have to post them one at a time as status updates.

  • by wbr1 (2538558)
    iWelcome our iPad building iRobot iOverlords.
  • by dpilot (134227) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @02:29PM (#41970821) Homepage Journal

    Doesn't this seem that we still have this desire for slavery?

    Once upon a time, we out-and-out had slaves.
    Then we freed them, sort of, and rehired them at almost-subsistence wages as sharecroppers.
    Then we moved to off-shore workers, currently in a practically nonexistent standard of living, happy to have any sort of job.
    Around the same time we also started in with illegal immigrants, again happy to have any sort of job, and more importantly, no ability to complain.
    (Sometimes I think there's a movement afoot to push US workers into that last group - happy to have any sort of job, no ability to complain. That certainly seems to be the direction we've been headed, even without any sort of conspiracy.)

    So aren't robots simply the next step in that kind of progression?

    With this in mind, the real question becomes, how smart does the robot have to become before we achieve true artificial intelligence, and it really is a slave, at which point the only ethical thing to do is to free it.

    I know my earlier mumblings were US centric, and these robots are in China. But I don't think the US is unique in this kind of progression, and given the fact that we've moved our robot-capable workload offshore, that makes it logical that this kind of thing would be done offshore first.

    • by twistedsymphony (956982) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @02:52PM (#41971241) Homepage
      "robots" aren't smart, by definition they simply perform per-programmed repetitive tasks; they're just a piece of hardware following some software instructions. You're thinking of an "automaton" which is a self-operating machine. When most people think "robot" they're actually thinking of the stereotypical sci-fi Android, which is an automaton with human characteristics. When manufacturers say robot they mean... robot, not android, not automaton... robot

      Robots have been used in manufacturing for years, both in the US and abroad. In general though manufacturing moved off-shore because the human labor was so cheap it was even more cost effective than buying and maintaining robots domestically. If China is moving towards robots it only means that their human labor force is no longer cost effective, and will likely mean that a lot more manufacturing will move back to being domestic (the cost of running a robot locally is hardly different than the cost of running a robot off-shore). About the only reason to continue manufacturing in China at that point would be the proximity to the production of other components (which will likely become less of an issue over time) and availability of raw materials (which varies from industry to industry, country to country).
      • by dpilot (134227)

        I would add "today" somewhere in your first sentence. I'm sure that at some point there will be a growing desire for a "learning robot" that doesn't need all of that pesky detailed programming. So very likely robots will "evolve" to become automatons, though most likely non-anthropomorphic. (At some point it wouldn't even surprise me to see a decidedly non-human automaton sporting a face somewhere, for the comfort of the humans. Or how about a red hemisphere in a black rectangular panel?)

        Regardless of t

  • by MrTester (860336) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @02:29PM (#41970827)
    Unless Im missing something, the reason so many of our electronics are made in China is the cheap labor.
    Presumably the Chinese wouldnt be replacing their labor force with robots if they werent cheaper yet.

    So why arent these robotic assembly lines popping up in the US? Tax laws? Environmental laws? Inertia?
    • by jon3k (691256)
      Maybe because the labor to build and service the robots is still so much cheaper in China? I don't know, just one of many possible reasons. Great question, though.
    • They do exist in the US, most US manufacturing is done by robots. The only reason we have things made in China is because Chinese labor is still cheaper than US robots. 10,000 laborers being replaced by one Chinese manufacturer is hardly enough to dramatically shift costs, but it is a sign of things to come. If the trend continues we could see thing shifting back within 5-10 years.

      Even still there are lots of other costs involved that still benefit China:
      • - Less strict environmental laws meaning they ca
  • 100+ comments and no "Fembot" jokes (lame or otherwise)!

    Is this the real Slashdot or some parallel universe version?
  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @02:53PM (#41971253)

    I'd like to point out that Foxconn is not Chinese, it's Taiwanese. Their Chinese name is Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd., but like most Taiwanese they operate under a Westernized, Foxconn, name for the sake of international business. They have factories in Eastern Europe, South America and elsewhere in Asia other than China.

    They do have a heavy presence in China for obvious reasons. It's close to their home base in Taiwan, but much cheaper for manufacturing and there's no language barrier. That said, there are short-comings to a Taiwanese company doing business in China. Foxconn's business practices are standard amongst Chinese companies. In fact, conditions and pay are almost always better at foreign companies, which is why Chinese workers tend to flock to them.

    Not that things are ideal by any stretch of the imagination. Even in a corporate environment management tends to treat office workers like crap, by American standards. But the same could be said about companies all over Asia.

    I think the important thing here is that while China is normally very quick to quash protests they've been surprisingly lax with what's happened at Foxconn. Given that Foxconn manufactures a significant percentage of the world's electronics I'd expect the reports of oppressive conditions to be more widespread. Either clients have more say in the manufacturing process than we realize, which doesn't speak well for Apple, or the Chinese government is taking advantage of this situation. We've got a Taiwanese company manufacturing products for one of the most desirable pieces of consumer electronics in the world. Given China's own economic problems, I wouldn't be surprised at all.

    Now, the problem here is that I would have expected that one of the fundamental reasons for outsourcing manufacturing costs is reduced labor costs. If workers are going to be replaced by robots that benefit evaporates. Do the cost savings elsewhere continue to outweigh inflation, a long supply chain and increasingly expensive shipping costs? I suppose they may for now, but I don't expect that to continue, which is probably why Foxconn has operations in South America. I expect we're going to see a lot more of our electronics coming from Mexico or Brazil.

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday November 13, 2012 @03:02PM (#41971413)

    Bender: You humans are so scared of a little robot competition you won't even let us on the field.
    Fry: What are you talking about? There's all kinds of robots down there.
    Bender: Yeah, doing crap work! They're bat boys, ball polishers, sprinkler systems. But how many robot managers are there?
    Fry: Eleven?
    Bender: Zero! (He throws his bottle on the floor and it breaks. A small robot comes out and cleans it up.) And what a surprise! Look who's scraping up the filth! Is it a human child? I wish!

  • When a robot replaces an MBA. Right now, robots are only useful at the lowest rung of business -- the factory floor worker.

    But when robots finally get into management, that's when you'll hear the screaming as thousands of coddled, bonused, outsourcers finally get what's coming to them...

    Like, notice the housing crisis wasn't a crisis until it started to affect boomers and upper middle class? For 2 years before the crisis, lower middle class and poor were getting "underwater" in their mortgages, but it wasn'

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