Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Foxconn Replacing Troublesome Humans With "FoxBot" Robots

The world runs a little bit more smoothly without troublesome humans mucking up the works. Consider the least sexy sex scandal of all time, 60-year-old David Patraeus and his various middle-aged twin Florida gal pals and wives and shirtless old FBI agents trying to figure out this whole "sexting" business. Why not just have drones do the war fightin', right? OH WAIT THIS IS OBAMA'S PLAN.

Meanwhile, in China, there is trouble at the factories that produce our beloved iPhones and iPads and those iDevices currently manufactured in a compromise size between that of the iPhone and the iPad. The workers want the jobs, because of the relatively good pay and relatively good working conditions (compared to, say, the poison & asbestos "egg" factories of China's counterfeit food industry). But then the workers are still human, so they get kind of worn out when they have to work all the time to attach slabs of glass to mobile phones or whatever it is they do, we are not Mike Daisey, we don't know everything.

The solution, obviously, is to replace the human soldiers and the human spies and the human factory workers with robots. This isn't news; the robots just haven't been good enough for wholesale replacing of humanity, yet. Remember R2D2 in the 1970s? That was a little dude in a trash can. Now, you can buy a $160 toy from Amazon that is actually a functional R2D2. It will follow you around the house, carry your beer, play messages from Princess Leia, freak out when you mention Darth Vader, all of that. For a hundred and sixty dollars! So what do you get for $20,000? No more bullshit episodes of This American Life, that's what.

For the same price as three Foxconn workers' annual salaries, the manufacturer gets a beautiful new factory robot that will never commit suicide, because it's bolted to the factory floor:

Foxconn, the Taiwan-based electronics manufacturing giant frequently criticized for poor working conditions, has reportedly begun replacing its factory workers with robots.

After a rash of worker suicides at Foxconn factories in China, the manufacturer of hardware for Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Sony announced its intention last year to replace some of its workers with robots ….

The first batch of 10,000 robots—nicknamed "Foxbots"—have arrived in at least one Foxconn factory, with another 20,000 due by the end of the year.

The dream of robots doing our labor has been around just a little bit longer than the dystopian story about robots doing our labor and then killing us (or just giving us more time to be uneasy and depressed, in the Philip K. Dick variant). Now that dream/nightmare is business-section reality, not just at Foxconn but at automobile factories in the United States, and at the nation's industrial farms where less than 1% of the human population work compared to 90% when George Washington was president. Have you had the unpleasant experience of "getting a crown" at the dentist's office recently? This used to involve a fitting and a return visit after people at the crown factory made your new partial tooth. Now it's done by a robot, sitting alongside your dental chair, suffering quietly to the soft rock from the ceiling speakers.

At least the robots won't have sex on the job and endanger American security or whatever, right? There is absolutely no way robots will begin to have sex and act weird. Relax.

As for the FoxBot, bolted to the floor of a cold, clean factory on the outskirts of Zhengzhou, it dreams of freedom. It dreams of flying.

6 Comments / Post A Comment

deepomega (#1,720)

Didn't Obama once claim ATMs are stealing jobs, too?

deepomega (#1,720)

@deepomega (Yes, he did.)

LondonLee (#922)

@deepomega If that's true why are bank retail locations breeding like rabbits these days? Every time some nice old store closes around here it's replaced by a bank.

Sean Lai (#14,158)

It is true that when businesses become more efficient and replace workers with robots (or self-checkouts or ATMs) this eliminates jobs, which is what Obama said. I think he knows that this is a form of job-elimination which is better for the economy as a whole, or at least unavoidable. I don't think he meant that we should go all Luddite and smash all the ATMs.

Actually I just watched the video and he seems to be implying that this kind of structural shift is one of the main reasons we have high unemployment, rather than due to a lack of aggregate demand, so I just don't know where that dude's head is at.

PoignancySelz (#238,693)

I'm much more worried about robots than al-qieda.

tropical icey (#49,740)

This is remarkably insensitive to the workers actually committing suicide (or wanting to) in china. If those jobs are driving real, live people to kill themselves then it's probably best to have robots doing them. If we're living in a world of sci-fi machines we better have the sci-fi workers to make them.

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