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Robotics Businesses China

Foxconn Replacing Workers With Robots 530

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the human-workers-sent-to-protein-bank dept.
redletterdave (2493036) writes The largest private employer in all of China and one of the biggest supply chain manufacturers in the world, Foxconn announced it will soon start using robots to help assemble devices at its several sprawling factories across China. Apple, one of Foxconn's biggest partners to help assemble its iPhones, iPads, will be the first company to use the new service. Foxconn said its new "Foxbots" will cost roughly $20,000 to $25,000 to make, but individually be able to build an average of 30,000 devices. According to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, the company will deploy 10,000 robots to its factories before expanding the rollout any further. He said the robots are currently in their "final testing phase."
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Foxconn Replacing Workers With Robots

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  • by the_skywise (189793) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:05PM (#47404517)

    The aliens have arrived!

    It's invasion of the body snatchers!!!

    AAUUUGGGHHH!!!

    (And I for one, welcome our new alien overlords...)

  • Welcome (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kohath (38547) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:09PM (#47404531)

    I, for one, welcome our new Foxconn overlords.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:11PM (#47404541)

    This is great news! Zero income means zero income taxes. How much food can I buy with zero dollars?

    • "More leisure time for Foxconn Beings" - Fixed that for you.
    • by sir-gold (949031) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:51PM (#47404683)

      Karl Marx saw this coming over 150 years ago

      The final end result of mass mechanized production is that the available workers will far outnumber the available jobs, and this is the problem that communism was intended to solve.

      Unfortunately, communism has earned a fatally bad reputation after being misused by so many dictators during the 20th century.

      • Unfortunately, communism has earned a fatally bad reputation after being misused by so many dictators during the 20th century.

        The murder part of communism is a necessary component to deal with people who don't want to play along. That's why it happens all the time. If you don't want to play by the rules of a society that has anything resembling a market economy, the outcome is well known: Your standard of living slides down to the lowest your fellow citizens will tolerate seeing.

        If you don't want to pl

        • by vux984 (928602) on Monday July 07, 2014 @11:27PM (#47404867)

          If you disagree, kindly tell me what you do with people in your ideal communist society who want to put in above-average effort, and reap the extra rewards.

          How are those *fundamentally* different from the people in my current society who want to take more than their allocated reward? Pretty sure we don't MURDER them.

          Exiling the motivated will simply rapidly impoverish those that remain.

          Calling them "the motivated" is a fallacy out of the gate. It has naught to do with motivation, and everything to do with them being criminals by the standards of the society.

          I know plenty of people who are motivated to produce art, music, entertainment, and science for little to no unreasonable 'extra' reward beyond what they could otherwise earn for less effort. They do it because they enjoy these pursuits. You seem to discount them existing and suggest that the only reason anyone is motivated is so that they can "reap all fruits" for themselves. This is not the sole source of motivation, and it is arguably not the best source either.

          Take a small commune of farmers, one farmer smarter than the others, discovers a technique to improve production -- shares it with the others, and they all benefit from increased leisure time. Why do you argue he would be NECESSARILY not motivated to do this? Because he doesn't gain an edge over his peers? That's absurd.

          Communisum has a lot of real problems but having to "murder" people who are "motivated" is not one of them.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by daninaustin (985354)
        Unfortunately? I'd say it's quite fortunate and well deserved. The 94 million victims might also disagree with you (well, they would if they hadn't died from starvation, firing squad, etc.)
        • by sir-gold (949031)

          That was a dictatorship wearing a thin veil of communism. Don't confuse Leninism with Marxism

      • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @12:10AM (#47404989) Homepage Journal

        The final end result of mass mechanized production is that the available workers will far outnumber the available jobs

        That assumption is not borne out by history. If it were true, we should already have arrived at that point long ago, since it used to be that 95-98% of human labor was dedicated to agriculture, and the number is more like 2% today. How is it that anyone has work to do? We dramatically expanded some jobs and invented lots of new ones, many of which would be utterly baffling or even ludicrous to farmers of a few centuries ago. What will people do in the future to add value? If I knew that, I could undoubtedly make several fortunes. But what I do know is that they'll do something. Perhaps the economy will mostly be service-based, driven by peoples' desire to be served by people rather than machines. Perhaps much of it will be highly-specialized, custom-tailored creative manufacturing, producing one-off, hand-made items. Maybe a lot of it will be creative or artistic, a world of painters, storytellers, etc. Maybe it will mostly be about designing and rushing to market the next mass-produced faddish gewgaw (this seems very likely to me). Some of it will definitely be around the design, care and feeding of the robots, even if much of that work becomes robot-assisted.

        What I do know is that as long as there are people there will be something person A wants from person B and vice versa, and with that basis for trade there will be an economy, and something akin to jobs.

        this is the problem that communism was intended to solve.

        That's revisionist history, ludicrously so. Marx never foresaw anything of the sort. He believed firmly in the labor theory of value, and as such all economic power derived from human labor, not from mechanical power. Communism was about combating the concentration of economic power in the hands of a few people who owned the means of production, at the expense of the masses who provided the labor (and hence the real value).

        His view was misguided in many ways, not least in that it almost completely ignores the value of intellectual work; the guy who figures out the right way to apply labor to raw materials is fantastically more effective than the one who does it the wrong way, and in fact this applies at all levels of the chain, up to and including the allocation of capital. Communism is inherently horrible at effectively allocating resources since it lacks the price signals that bundle cost and relative value and communicate them in a way that enables efficient allocation of resources to maximize what people collectively perceive as good, which is why communist economies always fail, and will always fail, even in the presence of automated systems that produce and distribute all of the essentials of life to everyone equally, even if said essentials include what we'd call luxuries. Those essentials will become the baseline expectation, much like oxygen, and economic competition will be around something else.

    • by Jeremi (14640)

      This is great news! Zero income means zero income taxes. How much food can I buy with zero dollars?

      Whatever your yearly stipend from the government will get you.

      (Hey, if it works for Alaska [csmonitor.com], it could work elsewhere -- just fund it by taxing cheap robot labor instead of petroleum)

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:11PM (#47404543) Journal

    Hey, for those of you who insist that you deserve $15/hour for your shitty, replaceable, skill-less role in some fast food establishment, you might want to pay attention.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:20PM (#47404559)

      Crime rates will increase until cost of living decreases.

    • by dmbasso (1052166)

      Yes, let's just starve everybody to death! That's what Jesus would do! [I hope I don't need to explain why I'm conflating things.]

    • by sir-gold (949031)

      What fast food place pays it's base-level workers $15/hour? A lot of places don't even pay shift managers that much.

      Also, the poverty level (at least in Minnesota anyway) is currently $1000 per month for a single person, which works out to just over $11.50/hour at 40 hours/week.

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        $1000 per month for a single person, which works out to just over $11.50/hour at 40 hours/week.

        What? 40*11.5 is $460 a week. 4 weeks to a month gives us something like $1840 a month. Almost double the poverty level you brought up. $1000 a month comes out to about $6.25 an hour on a 40 hour week.

        You want fries with that?

      • What fast food place pays it's base-level workers $15/hour?

        $15/hr is the minimum wage in Seatac, Washington. There is political pressure to raise the minimum wage to $10-15 nationwide, and one likely effect of that is to increase incentives to automate those jobs out of existence.

        Also, the poverty level (at least in Minnesota anyway) is currently $1000 per month for a single person, which works out to just over $11.50/hour at 40 hours/week.

        The poverty rate is based on households, not individuals. So if you are single and making $11.50 or less, you might want to share the rent with some friends rather than getting your own place. Not every job needs to pay enough to allow a teenager to buy a house and start a family.

  • Obviously, labor-intensive tasks are cheaper in China because of low wages. Tasks that produce lots of toxic chemicals (such as wafer fabs) are cheaper because of reduced environmental requirements.

    But an assembly line manned by robots? Why should that be cheaper in China? Is capital that much cheaper?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That's where the expertise, components, and shipping channels are.
    • by sir-gold (949031)

      The cost of labor is increasing rapidly in China, especially in terms of US dollars.

      http://news.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]

      The lax pollution controls still make it cheaper to produce things in China though, despite the narrowing labor price difference.

    • by Teun (17872) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:36PM (#47404617) Homepage
      Nothing to do with up-front cost, they have been programmed not to jump off the roof.
    • by JanneM (7445) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:53PM (#47404693) Homepage

      But an assembly line manned by robots? Why should that be cheaper in China? Is capital that much cheaper?

      Even if wages and other costs were equal, the location advantage is substantial. It's not that it's cheaper in China, but that it's cheaper in the huge manufacturing hubs. You have suppliers and manufacturers for just about every single component you need without long-distance shipping, and a deep pool of design and manufacturing expertise working in the area.

      That's not to say you can't manufacture efficiently elsewhere (we have plenty of recent examples such as the Raspberry Pi), but that the advantages has as much to do with the concentration of resources as with the cost of labour and regulations. And of course, as this inudstry becomes ever more automated, it no longer matters much for jobs where it happens any longer.

  • by PessimysticRaven (1864010) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:19PM (#47404557)

    I, for one, will be curious how long it takes before there is a mass android-worker suicide where they leap off the buildings.

  • I hear the pubic school system is also run by Foxconn beings. There takeover began when spell checkers was installed.

    • by Dynedain (141758)

      I hear the pubic school system is also run by Foxconn beings. There takeover began when spell checkers was installed.

      Literary irony, or subtle joke?

  • by Mistakill (965922) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:27PM (#47404583)
    If everyone loses their jobs, who will be able to buy the products?
    • by mi (197448)

      If everyone loses their jobs, who will be able to buy the products?

      If nobody can find work, that means, there is no work to do. Which is just awesome, if that's because robots are doing everything. The means of production will, finally, be able to satisfy all demand...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by isoTaime (2659889)

        The real problem with this is that our countries are run by greedy fucking bastards. When there is nothing to exchange for money (which is exchanged for food, shelter etc..), then where will the masses get their daily bread? Who will share in all the new wealth? You can bet your ass that if everything is automated, it will be to the advantage of the already rich and elite and they will share NOTHING with the rest of us. Why the hell would they? After all, THEY were the ones who paid for and built the robots

        • by Fjandr (66656)

          If there are no jobs for the masses, they can't buy from the rich. As a result, the money the rich have will mean nothing.

    • If everyone loses their jobs

      Not everyone is losing their jobs. Technological innovation usually leads to increased employment, as lower manufacturing costs lead to increased production, and expansion of non-automated jobs. As the cost of manufactured goods fall, people will consume more of them, but also spend less on them, and spend more on services, which are much harder to automate. Currently, China has a much smaller service sector than more advanced economies. That is changing fast.

      Because of the one-child policy, China's lab

      • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:20AM (#47405425) Homepage Journal

        I know that in the past new fields often opened up to replace those automated, but for some reason the replacement jobs appear to be slow to come now, and nobody knows what they are this time.

        Many of the candidate jobs are being offshored to well-educated 3rd-world human workers so that repetitious jobs go to machines and brain-intensive jobs to countries where wages are much less.

        New fields are opening up, but they don't create mass jobs to replace the mass losses.

        Something seems different this time. I'm just not seeing the replacement jobs. Help me spot them, please.

      • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @07:18AM (#47406101) Journal

        . Technological innovation usually leads to increased employment, as lower manufacturing costs lead to increased production, and expansion of non-automated jobs.

        1. People who lose jobs are not the ones who are going to get the newly created jobs.

        2. World population finally seems to have started stabilizing. It took longer to add the last billion than the previous billion. We are still adding but heading towards 9.5 billion rather than 12 billion. So number of new jobs created is less than the number of jobs being lost to automation.

        3. Most people can only do regular humdrum routine jobs. We evolved to hunt/gather do routine things. Not be on an ever accelerating treadmill of productivity and intellectual labor. I have performed at the top 1% of intellectual labor treadmill for 30 years now. Frankly I am tired. It ain't as much fun as people make it out to be. It is not sour grapes or anything, I got adequate returns for the labor. Still, I now realize routine humdrum jobs are the staple for humanity.

        • by Overzeetop (214511) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @07:40AM (#47406159) Journal

          Man, I wish I had mod points today, 'cause you're dead on. Having worked with a lot of people "outside of my class" as a consultant in a (mostly) non-technical field, there are a LOT of people out there who couldn't do the advanced jobs these semi-skilled labor machines "create." We are marching ever faster to a place where 80% of the people in the first world will be unemployable simply because it costs less to build and maintain a machine over its life than it costs to hire a worker for a single year. It will get to the point where we can retask, recycle, or recreate a machine to do many jobs in less time than it takes to re-train the average human to do the same job at even half the efficiency.

          The productivity gains from the industrial and information revolutions have not resulted in shorter work weeks for all, but rather a larger unemployed population. It's hard to imagine this will end well.

          • by meta-monkey (321000) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @10:41AM (#47407091) Journal

            The productivity gains from the industrial and information revolutions have not resulted in shorter work weeks for all, but rather a larger unemployed population. It's hard to imagine this will end well.

            We would have had a chance if it hadn't been for the systematic dismantling of organized labor starting in the late 70s/early 80s. The canary in the coal mine there, I think, was Reagan firing the air traffic controllers.

            GDP per capita in America is amazing and has only been climbing for the last 40 years. However, real median income peaked in 1973 and for the past ten years we've had stagnant or declining wages in non-inflation adjusted dollars. Of course, CEO pay is up like 40x, and corporate profits are at an all time high. The American worker has gotten more and more productive and seen none of the gains. It's all gone to capital. If we actually had a labor movement, there would have been general strikes by now. Higher pay and 30 hour work weeks. The gains in productivity would actually be shared with the worker.

            Instead we're just going to get picked off one by one until we wind up with 1% of people fantastically wealthy, 9% keeping the machines running, 80% of people unemployed and starving, and the remaining 10% in riot gear keeping the bottom 80% from revolting.

            • Dead on buddy. Exactly what happened in feudal Europe.

              The the 9% machinery operators and the 10% riot suppressors have children who might not make it to the 9% or the 10%. They are the ones who will provide aid, logistics, intelligence to the mass of 80%. But if the social machinery operating and the riot suppressing become hereditary, then the situation becomes stable. Children of 1% stay in 1%. Children of the 9% and 10% stay in their "station", since they realize how lucky they are for not being in the

    • Farming was once 90%+of the population. It's been less than 3% (in the US) for a LONG time. Technology has been increasing productivity for thousands of years. The dystopias don't come from technology.

      Sorry, robots didn't take a giant leap in 2008. There must be some other "mysterious" reason for the ongoing malaise ...

      • When farming fell from 90% to 3% of work force in USA, it was an exporting nation. America was just sucking in jobs from India and China. Those countries were so politically naive they did not even know they were being decimated in the economic warfare then. Now as the manufacturing has fallen below 20%, where are we sucking in jobs from?
  • when china loses there jobs things will get very bad.

    at least we can move stuff back to the USA even with robots.

  • FoxConn is a leader, so take note...
  • Will be easier on the cleanup people when the robots commit suicide by jumping off the building. At least until the cleaners are replaced by robots too.
  • by khchung (462899) on Monday July 07, 2014 @11:28PM (#47404871) Journal

    "Foxconn Beings Replacing Workers With Robots"???

    Have our editors been replaced with robots already?

  • by QQBoss (2527196) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @01:07AM (#47405217)

    "Foxconn said its new "Foxbots" will cost roughly $20,000 to $25,000 to make, but individually be able to build an average of 30,000 devices."

    So approximately $1.2-$1.5 of the cost of an iPhone will be eaten up by a robot that can only make 30,000 devices before having to be replaced? For some reason, I think Foxconn is probably even better at the financial math than that, and the quote seems so wrong in both a factual error and a grammatical error sense I actually had to RTFA (I hate you, redletterdave) and sure enough the quote is direct from the Businessweek article (I hate you even more, Dave Smith of Businessweek). However, reading 5 other variations of the same announcement, not one of them uses the same phraseology, which makes me wonder where the quote actually came from. Dailytech [dailytech.com], for example, says that Foxconn will have 30,000 Foxbots installed by the end of the year and makes no mention of the speed at which they can build anything (which makes sense, since the robots are so simple- basically pick and place- that no one robot could build an entire device). Another website, Regator [regator.com], gives the same clue, saying they already have 10K Foxbots, and plan to install another 20K by the end of the year.

  • by taylorius (221419) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @06:36AM (#47405975) Homepage

    So with the manual labour jobs being given to robots, and a distinct lack of young women, (thanks to female babies being unwanted) things are certainly looking bright for the tens of millions of young Chinese males.

    I'm sure they'll take it philosophically - enormous gangs of angry, sexually frustrated young men usually do.

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