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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 @09:50AM (#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 @09:53AM (#43524927)
    How would you decide who gets a pass on having to work?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:00AM (#43525021)

    1
    a : a machine that looks like a human being and performs various complex acts (as walking or talking) of a human being; also : a similar but fictional machine whose lack of capacity for human emotions is often emphasized
    b : an efficient insensitive person who functions automatically
    2
    : a device that automatically performs complicated often repetitive tasks
    3
    : a mechanism guided by automatic controls

    You're hung up on definition 1a.

    A vending machine IS a robot.

  • Re:And it begins (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:03AM (#43525049)

    Nobody. That's the whole point of the robots: They can, in theory, do the production so cheaply that you can afford to sell the product so cheap that anyone with just a minimal amount of work can pay for it, without you losing anything (because you don't have to pay wages anymore).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:04AM (#43525065)

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

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:04AM (#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".

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

    by SJHillman (1966756) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:07AM (#43525113)

    Good luck, a lot of people wouldn't know what to do with themselves if they suddenly had an extra 50 hours a week (you need to include commuting time, lunches, etc) with no boss giving them structure and direction. Most people would just flop down on the couch and eat Cheetohs until they can no longer get off the couch.

  • Capital vs Labour (Score:4, Insightful)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:08AM (#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

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

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

    I believe the science fiction story you want is:

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

  • Re:And it begins (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 50000BTU_barbecue (588132) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:13AM (#43525177) Homepage Journal
    How about we let people decide?
  • Re:And it begins (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:25AM (#43525331)

    I would rather work 5 days than 3. By the 3rd day off I am bored out of my mind.

    Might I ask why you aren't doing something creative with your time? Paint a picture! Compose a song! Write a novel! Design a game! Create some new cool software! Why are you just sitting around getting bored? USE that time while you have it!

  • Re:And it begins (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:35AM (#43525453)
    If anything can be produced cheaply by robots, where are people going to find the minimal amount of work necessary to pay for things? Not everyone can be a robot repairman, or design the robots. Especially a lot of people who work unskilled labor: what are they going to do when robots can build houses or decks, dig pools, or landscape. Why would I go to a human mechanic that charges $250 for a repair (and where would I get that $250?) when I can go to a robot mechanic who does the job for just the cost of parts and overhead?
  • Re:And it begins (Score:5, Insightful)

    by femtobyte (710429) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:44AM (#43525555)

    If we started handing out the paycuts to the top capitalist class instead, who pocket the savings whenever they replace a worker with a robot, then the working class could receive the benefits of mechanization (same quality of life for less hours of work) instead of just the downsides.

  • by dcollins (135727) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:48AM (#43525587) Homepage

    I find that telling capitalist proselytizers that they're actually restating Marx drives them wild.

  • Re:And it begins (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rakishi (759894) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:50AM (#43525621)

    Worse, many would probably start getting involved in basically anti-social movements and groups. Cult groups that provide an illusion of meaning to their lives.

    So basically those 50 hours will be spent helping some would be dictator gain power.

  • Re:And it begins (Score:4, Insightful)

    by femtobyte (710429) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:55AM (#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, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:55AM (#43525689)

    Actually, Carnegie was a Monopolist, totally separate issue.

    Not everyone is cutout to be a banker, so what should they do?

    At some point we will have to realize that we have unemployable people and must do something with them.

  • by ubersoldat2k7 (1557119) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:55AM (#43525691)

    Great, so now two pieces of metal (arm) joined by some bolts to some motor and encased in plastic is a robot? And this is 2013 when we were supposed to be on flying cars and have robo-hookers. You suck humanity!

  • Re:And it begins (Score:3, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @10:58AM (#43525739)

    Because humans with access to enough resources do not breed that way. We are not cats or mice, we will limit our breeding to enjoy our lives more. Access to education and healthcare will make this even more dramatic.

    Look at the people who are not breeding, those are the people who have enough to be content with. First world nations are at or below replacement rates.

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

    by femtobyte (710429) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:04AM (#43525815)

    It's been well over a century since carpets needed to be handmade. The working class did receive the benefits of mechanization for about the first three quarters of the 20th century (including machine-made carpets and cloth) --- however, in the last couple decades of the century, the trend where increasing worker productivity also meant increasing wages/benefits came to a halt. For the last several decades, the American working class has continued to become increasingly productive, but has seen (inflation-adjusted) wages stagnate as all the benefits accrue to a tiny wealthy elite. Improved mechanization no longer means the working class gets more/better stuff for the same work; it means the working class loses jobs and wages, so they're struggling to afford even cheap Wal*Mart crap.

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

    by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:09AM (#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.

  • Re:And it begins (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lgw (121541) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:30AM (#43526169) Journal

    the average job paid $100,000, and the average need for a person was $25,000, someone might just choose to work every other year and live an above average lifestyle.

    Far easier to just vote up the wage for not working to $20 billion a year. Why not, the government can just print money with no downside! Anyone who votes otherwise is just a big greedy conservative meanie!

    I already hear these arguments regularly. We should work for our keep, for most of our lives. We're wired to need to - we value what we have if we work for it; otherwise we delight in destroying it.

    That being said, there's likely some kind of work that would please almost everyone to do, even if (especially if) mindless manual labor isn't a choice. If everyone the world over can now afford luxury items, we're going to need a bunch more luxury items - including services. I expect the market for lifestyle consulting services to blossom. Today you can hire a wedding planner, or a car buyer, or an interior decorator, but there's hundreds of more jobs like that that would come to be if everyone can afford luxury items.

  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:43AM (#43526365) Homepage Journal

    A vending machine cooking dried (ramen-style) noodles will not dispense the same quality product as noodles made using traditional methods, which is what this robot does.

  • Minimum Wage (Score:4, Insightful)

    by srobert (4099) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @12:04PM (#43526623)

    Part of what's broken about the U.S. economy is the minimum wage. In 1968, adjusting for inflation to the current dollar, it was around $12 and hour, or so. Now it's $7 and change. And, unlike 1968, when it was the wage for teenagers working at fast food outlets, now more than 40% of the American workforce is earning less than the 1968 minimum. So how's that globalized economy working for you?

  • by TWX (665546) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @12:09PM (#43526735)
    My folks used to make home-made noodles for holiday meals when I was a kid. If their product was similar to the expectations of an Asian noodle, then I can definitely comprehend the practicalities of automating the process. Making noodles is not all that hard, so long as a supply of fresh raw materials is kept in supply; a machine could very easily turn out batches as good as what a person could so long as those maintaining the machine don't get lazy about the maintenance.
  • Re:And it begins (Score:4, Insightful)

    by femtobyte (710429) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @12:24PM (#43526923)

    But when the correlation empirically exists and causal mechanism is obvious, it's awfully hard to handwave away. Rich people keep more money from paying lower taxes and wages; invest in technology to let them fire workers while maintaining growing production levels; reap record profits, from which a smaller cut than ever is returned to improving middle-class conditions instead of further increasing the power of the rich. What else would you expect than the "rich get richer, everyone else gets poorer" obvious (and observed to be true) outcome of such a vicious cycle?

  • Idle = Trouble (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @12:50PM (#43527251) 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:And it begins (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NoImNotNineVolt (832851) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @01:45PM (#43528099) Homepage

    If there is no possibility for income, why would anyone offer these?

    A bit of a loaded question; if goods and services have no cost, and everything is free, why would anyone seek income? What would you do with said income if there was nothing to spend it on? Don't worry, I'll return to this point shortly.

    How will the robots be purchased by the businesses?

    Currently, businesses have capital. They can (and do) buy robots to further automate their workflows.

    Or, if businesses no longer need to exist, what would be the motivation for making the robots?

    Well, the robots would be made while businesses still exist. Once the existence of said robots obviates the need for businesses to exist, there need not be a motivation for making the robots, since the robots will have already been made. Of course, to make more robots, there would be no requirement for motivation, since the existing robots could make more robots, and robots don't need any motivation.

    Who builds and maintains the warehouses or storefronts where goods are stored and distributed?

    Why, robots, of course. Obviously we'd need an initial round of robots, but after that, nobody. Wasn't that the whole premise? That abundance of robots have caused to cost of labor and materials to trend towards zero?

    I don't mean who physically, but what entity controls them? The government?

    THIS. What sane capitalist would invest his fortune in the destruction of our capitalist system? Why would the Walton family want to rally together and fund the development of these magical robots that will only serve to bring about a world of free goods and services, a world where wealth is meaningless, a world where the Walton family sees no advantage over the proles? Indeed, it seems that the Walton family has quite the incentive to prevent the abundance of such robots, as do any other wealthy individuals.

    However, you posed your question in a fascinating way: who controls them? This presupposes that these robots need to be controlled in some sort of centralized fashion, or at the very least in a way that fits within our framework of private ownership. Why is this necessary? If these robots truly result in the cost of labor and materials to trend towards zero, then wouldn't the robots themselves have zero cost as well? If you have access to a robot that can do or make anything that a person could, and your neighbor doesn't, couldn't you simply have your robot make another robot for your neighbor? If there is an abundance of robots such that they have no associated cost, why would [restrictive] control over them be desirable?

    Moneyless societies are impossible. Without the requirement of needing money to survive, there is no motivation.

    This is a true statement only for as long as motivation is necessary.

    People are not going to labor and make stuff with no compensation but the guarantee that others are doing the same, this goes against human nature.

    This is true. That's why we're talking about robots doing the labor.

    Look at the Soviet Union for a classic example: people went to their jobs, but they didn't need to produce anything because they got paid regardless. If everything I want is free and just comes to me(or I can walk into a store and grab whatever I want) then what point would there be for me to make or do anything?

    This is true. The USSR didn't have these robots to relieve the people from their burden of labor.

    Society cannot be 100% automated. There will always be jobs that people have to do.

    I hope you're wrong here, but I'll settle for 99% automation. I'm okay with a 24 minute work week. On a more serious note, however, I'm not convinced that society cannot be 100% automated. Perhaps we won't be automating the production

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

    by femtobyte (710429) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:07PM (#43528327)

    People are not going to labor and make stuff with no compensation but the guarantee that others are doing the same, this goes against human nature.

    Tell that to anyone who has ever written a book, played a song, painted a picture, or danced a dance without being paid for it. Tell that to anyone who has ever poured their time and money into a hobby with negative monetary returns --- taking photos, flying airplanes, watching the stars, climbing mountains, feeding the hungry, planting gardens, writing Free Software --- raising a family. Human nature is to ponder, create, aspire, help, love; to do so freely for the joy of living.

  • by femtobyte (710429) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @02:14PM (#43528407)

    Who knows, but the economy will always find an equilibrium somewhere.

    And if this equilibrium is the masses living in miserable slums, patrolled by the private goon armies of a tiny super-wealthy elite, like the "economic equilibrium" produced in many third-world countries with extreme wealth disparities? I'm not comforted that some equilibrium will be reached; I'm quite concerned about what the structure of said equilibrium is. "Just let unregulated market forces decide" has a terrible track record for producing pleasant equilibria.

Economists state their GNP growth projections to the nearest tenth of a percentage point to prove they have a sense of humor. -- Edgar R. Fiedler

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