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Robotics China Technology

Noodle Robots Replacing Workers In Chinese Restaurants 531

Posted by timothy
from the nothing-can-go-wrong-nothing-can-go-can-go dept.
kkleiner writes "Recently developed noodle-making robots have now been put into operation in over 3,000 restaurants in China. Invented by a noodle restaurant owner, each unibrow-sporting robot currently costs 10,000 yuan ($1,600), which is only three months wages for an equivalent human noodle cook. As the cost of the robot continues to drop, more noodle shops are bound to displace human workers for the tirelessly working cheaper robots."
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Noodle Robots Replacing Workers In Chinese Restaurants

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  • And it begins (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 50000BTU_barbecue (588132) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:50AM (#43524907) Homepage Journal
    Hopefully, since China was the last big pool of cheap human labor, can we please finally now get on with dealing with the fact that we don't need 100% employment anymore? How can we ensure a quality life for everyone now that we know machines can do a lot of the work? By all means, people should still be able to work, but why yank away everything from someone who'd rather do something else?
    • Re:And it begins (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Githaron (2462596) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:53AM (#43524927)
      How would you decide who gets a pass on having to work?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:00AM (#43525005)

        I'll take one for the team.

        • Idle = Trouble (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:50PM (#43527251) Homepage Journal

          There is some truth to the saying, "An idle mind is the work-shop of the devil". Too many idle people is a recipe for mass social problems: drug abuse, crime, depression, gaming addiction, etc.

          It may be better to split up work and have shorter work-weeks, but more participants in the work-force.

          However, Republicans would have a hissy fit over such an idea. Reality has to bite them in the ass a hundred times before they even consider the possibility it's not 1780 anymore.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        How about we let people decide?
        • [taps on keyboard, looks at screen] Computer says no....
        • by JeanCroix (99825)
          Ooh, game theory!
          • So let's not even try. In the 19th century the average worker's week was 100 hours. We managed to get that down to 40 hours a week with weekends off with early 20th century technology. Then we stopped?
            • Re:And it begins (Score:4, Insightful)

              by femtobyte (710429) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:55AM (#43525687)

              The masses bought into the propaganda narrative that growing working-class prosperity mid-20th-century was the result of capitalism, instead of counter-capitalist workers' movements (unionization, fights for minimum wages and improved working conditions). So, by the Regan era, advances for the working class were brought to a halt (even as the overall economy grew, the amount going to the masses stagnated while all the gains in productivity were given to the rich), and now thrown into full reverse (so the working class is seeing their remaining sliver of the economy trickle away into the pockets of the rich). Total economic productivity has continued to grow plenty to support a continuing trend of decreased work with higher standards of living, but the overwhelming majority of gains are captured by the top 0.01% instead of being distributed to the populace.

      • Re:And it begins (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:24AM (#43525329)

        Fairly simply. You can survive on your allowance. Want more than survival? Get a job!

    • One small problem - most (not all, *most*) humans require doing useful pre-directed work as a precondition of having a quality life.

      If you're not doing something useful for your family or society, well, you're not going to enjoy life all that much.

      I spent a lot of time at my last job sitting idle a lot (mostly in meetings, waiting on people to supply the things I needed, waiting on clients to make up their minds, etc)... long story short, I got so damned bored that I wrote a 450pp book on the hypotheticals

      • by JDevers (83155)

        I agree with you for the most part, however your specific example doesn't illustrate your point very well. Your JOB was boring for great stretches of time, but you were AT work. If on the other hand you worked from home and only had to "work" when you had work to actively do, you could have spent that "wasted" time doing more productive things which you picked. Since you were actually at work, you were limited in what you could do.

        My job is very similar, in a typical week I work less than half of the hou

    • Re:And it begins (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WillAdams (45638) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:10AM (#43525141) Homepage

      I believe the science fiction story you want is:

      http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm [marshallbrain.com]

    • Re:And it begins (Score:5, Informative)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:16AM (#43525221) Journal
      FYI China isn't the last big pool of cheap human labor. All the really low-skilled jobs, like textile manufacture, have already moved out of China into southeast asia, etc. Africa and Latin America are waiting in line as well, if they ever become stable enough. The Philippines and India are other potential sources of labor.
    • Re:And it begins (Score:5, Informative)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:20AM (#43525259) Homepage Journal

      We need to first let go of the perverse idea that work is itself virtuous. Especially in the US, the more productive people get, the more they're working (and the less they're making on a real-inflation-adjusted basis). For a decent chunk of time, as people became more productive, their workload decreased and their leisure increased, but that trend stopped in the early 70's.

      But, heck, according to the video somebody else posted here, the property taxes I have to pay are alone more money than a noodle chef makes in a year in China and they keep going up, so the total picture isn't just as simple as "so then just work less".

    • Well, there are jobs that need to be done that nobody really likes doing. The current mode d'employ is simply to force people to do them. By giving them the option to do it or starve. This doesn't work if you give them what they need to survive.

    • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

      can we please finally now get on with dealing with the fact that we don't need 100% employment anymore?

      Consider what you are proposing; it sounds like an economy not based on monetary exchange for human labor. That's all well and good however whats the plan for purchasing goods people consume? Electricity, food, entertainment, internet access... those costs do not magically go away just because a robot is shoveling coal, growing corn, topless dancing or programming a switch. Besides, employment drives innovation as well as providing mental and social benefits which people do need. Even a Basement Dweller use

    • by alen (225700)

      as machines take over jobs to produce products and services people NEED, the jobs will migrate to products and services people WANT. like leisure.

      not like the money just vanishes. the unspent money of noodle worker salaries will go into some leisure type business

      • Re:And it begins (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @12:09PM (#43525865) Homepage Journal

        People aren't commodities. They're humans that have skills that they have acquired and (hopefully) chosen their skills to acquire based on their unique talents and abilities.

        If you want to rush head long into the future that's fine, but if you are a humanist then you have make provisions for the people you are going to make permanently obsolete. Hell, maybe humanist isn't the right word, maybe REALIST is more correct, because if you make classes of people obsolete you're spreading the seeds of revolution.

        You're right, but right now we have a ruling class that would just like the people who don't fall into the schemes to DIE. That's dangerous in the long term.

    • by dcollins (135727)

      "How can we ensure a quality life for everyone now that we know machines can do a lot of the work?"

      Fewer humans?

    • These concerns have been around forever, and gave rise to the term "Luddite".

      What makes you think that this new advance will kill off the need for human employment any more than the last zillion improvements that obsoleted various types of menial labor?

    • by phaggood (690955)
      > since China was the last big pool of cheap human labor

      Guessing there's a lot of Sub-Saharan Africa that would both disagree with you and welcome even the dirtiest of factories
  • YouTube link (Score:5, Informative)

    by psergiu (67614) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:54AM (#43524943)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukNkCnNJuR8 [youtube.com]
    YouTube link with the robots in action.

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:00AM (#43525019)
    Nothing says savory noodles like an army of robots with glowing eyes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:04AM (#43525065)

    It's not really a robot. It's simple kitchen appliance with dummy head.

    • by gtall (79522)

      That's what you think. It is actually an acolyte of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Expect to bow down under their fearful, wrathful gaze 8 and 1/2 times a day.

  • Not A Robot! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:04AM (#43525073)

    This is basically a simple Kitchen Appliance with a face attached. I don't consider this a 'proper' Robot.. If this is a Robot then me super-glueing a Barbie head to my washing machine makes it a "Washing Robot".

  • What now? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What do I do now with my Masters degree in noodle slicing?

  • by schlachter (862210) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:07AM (#43525119)

    Robot uses it's noodle to make...noodles!

  • Capital vs Labour (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:08AM (#43525127) Homepage Journal

    Whenever Marxists talk about economy they like to overstate the importance of labour and understate the importance of capital. They are of-course completely wrong, there is always a cost associated with labour and a cost associated with capital, the more labour costs the more it makes sense to use capital to decrease cost of labour and that's why we get labour saving devices.

    The first shovel displaced people from digging holes with their bare hands and sticks.

    The first excavator displaced thousands of people with shovels.

    Computers displaced untold numbers of individuals, millions upon millions obviously that's because computers are labour savings devices.

    In the process we make the operators of the labour saving devices so much more productive because they command these tools. Notice however that without capital (savings used as investments) no person can increase his productivity in any significant manner, you can't just dig with a shovel fast enough to be as productive as a guy operating an excavator.

    You can't count numbers with your ruler or an abacus or just a piece of paper and a pen as fast as a computer that runs a program. The person that operates the implement is now much more effective, much more productive than all the manual workers were, but of-course the number of workers that are needed go down dramatically.

    It's interesting to hear people talk about "productivity of the economy going up while employees who grow the productivity aren't ripping the reward, instead the owners do". Well excuse me, the owners created the productivity, not the employees.

    Employees are not adding to productivity, it is the owners, the investors, the capitalists that are improving their productivity. In case of the noodle restaurants the productivity of the owner (investors) of the restaurant is going up, he can serve more noodles with fewer labourers doing manual work, but it costs him the original investment into the labour saving device - the robot.

    People displaced by the robot are not increasing their productivity, they lost all of it, now they have to find a different job. However from POV of the market this is a very good development - the fewer people we need to do things that we do already now, the more supply of labour exists and so prices for labour go down and more businesses can be created because it takes less capital, less investment to hire people at lower prices to do things that were uneconomical while the cost of labour was more expensive before the labour saving devices were added to the economy and replaced these workers.

    It is a good thing for any consumer of goods to be able to buy more of them cheaper, to have more choice and to see more competition (even among labour and capital).

    The price of the robot is higher than cost of a human noodle cutter, the prices now will come down for human noodle cutter and more restaurants may even open because of this development.

    It's possible that most restaurants will eventually have noodle cutting robots and there will be a competitive advantage of having a human cut noodles, maybe somebody will advertise their restaurant as one that does not use robots, some people are gullible enough to prefer that, but that would be a niche item of-course.

    More importantly, the restaurant is now more productive, the labour market has more surplus so it may be cheaper for other businesses to hire labour, and that's great. As long as the government does not try to "level the playing field", as it is now in America trying to do for Brick and Mortar stores, that cannot compete with the Internet stores, that are obviously more competitive and can do more for less money.

    The government steps in and makes everything more expensive for one reason only: get more money for politicians. They can be on the side of a business that cannot compete in the changing business environment because of all the new labour saving devices (like the Internet, which is a labour saving device).

    The gover

    • Above comment is simplistic to the point of being deceptive. Twitty $ Grubbers like that forget what civilization is actually about. Lowering labour costs when the required cost of living is higher is a problem and not an end goal worthy of being sought. Capital doesn't care if it is unused, but unused people crash pretty fast, and civil society shortly thereafter. Politicians delegate money for infrastructure. To quote Naheed Nenshi a Mayor of Calgary: "snow removal isn't a right wing or left wing iss
    • Re:Capital vs Labour (Score:5, Informative)

      by Wildclaw (15718) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:33AM (#43525421)

      Whenever Marxists talk about economy they like to overstate the importance of labour and understate the importance of capital.

      Umm, the whole concept of Marxism is basically based around technology causing capital to become increasingly valuable, eventually leading to the capital in a few private hands destabilizing the economy and society as a whole.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      The owners provide capital that would be worthless without labor. The productivity was created by the labor that made the robot. The capital just bought it.

      I don't think not paying taxes is being more competitive.

      This labor saving will be really great when they are no more jobs. Then the economy can truly flourish.

      Protip: not everyone cares about the economy more than their fellow man.

  • Finally the Chinese have been outsourced, the circle is complete.

  • like to be the first to welcome our new robotic noodle shaving overlords.
  • by mbone (558574) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:23AM (#43525307)

    There are a lot of noodle restaurants in China. Based on my extremely limited sampling, for most of them $1000 USD would be a hefty expense.

    There are also a lot of cheap (but not quite as cheap) noodle restaurants in Japan (and Taiwan) as well - I wonder if this invention might find more of a market there.

  • "A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies, the chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure..."

    Give me four. No, four! Two, two, four! ...and some replicant-served noodles.

  • Note on the noodle (Score:5, Informative)

    by grumpyman (849537) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:58AM (#43525729)
    A note that this is a specific type of noodle called "knife-sliced noodles". Obviously not all noodles are made like this nor all restaurant serve this type of noodle.

Every young man should have a hobby: learning how to handle money is the best one. -- Jack Hurley

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