May
27

You may already be there!

By

The future is fun! … The future is fair! … You may already have won! … You may already be there!

— Firesign Theater, I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus, 1971

Oh, yeah. From the BBC:

One factory has “reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots”, a government official told the South China Morning Post.

Xu Yulian, head of publicity for the Kunshan region, added: “More companies are likely to follow suit.”

China is investing heavily in a robot workforce.

That would be Foxconn Technology Group, technology factory with the nets to prevent employees from committing suicide by jumping off the roof. Presumably, the robots won’t and the riffed workers can find their own roofs to jump off. What an opportunity for savings. The BBC continues:

“We are applying robotics engineering and other innovative manufacturing technologies to replace repetitive tasks previously done by employees, and through training, also enable our employees to focus on higher value-added elements in the manufacturing process, such as research and development, process control and quality control.

“We will continue to harness automation and manpower in our manufacturing operations, and we expect to maintain our significant workforce in China.”

Define significant. Meanwhile, here at home:

McRobots are not coming to a McDonald’s near you just yet, according to Steve Easterbrook, the company’s chief executive officer.

His comments came two days after one of the fast-food giant’s former US chief executives suggested that a minimum wage of $15 an hour could lead to McDonald’s replacing its workers with robots. Easterbrook was speaking at the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting when he said that technology is not likely to lead to “job elimination” at McDonald’s.

“It’s a topic of discussion right now,” he said, when asked by one of the shareholders if the higher minimum wage would lead to shift to more automated services. McDonald’s is in a service business and “will always have an important human element”, Easterbrook said.

Whew! Dodged that bullet.

Two days before the shareholders’ annual meeting, former US boss Ed Rensi told Fox Business that “it’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient, making $15 an hour bagging french fries”.

Efficiency is one of those boardroom fetishes, like shareholder value. When you hear it, update your resume, John Henry.

Selling fries is one thing. But “Pepper” is not so good interacting in an office environment. Still waiting for my jetpack.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : International, Labor, Science

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