Long-term, I've actually not been concerned about American manufacturing for a while now. Why is overseas manufacturing cheap? Primarily, cheap labor. When does that cease to be an advantage? When labor is no longer a significant cost in manufacturing. We're getting there pretty quickly, and IMHO robotics has only recently (i.e., last two or three years) taken off, which should be able to continue the increased-productivity-per-human trend for a while yet.
Bad time to become an assembly line worker. Good time to get into robotics for manufacturing, probably.
I had a contract job in a tool & die facility a couple of years ago. It wasn't a factory, it was a "build-to-order" facility that had a wide variety of equipment in various places and they needed better tracking of their jobs and such. I didn't mention this to anyone, but I was struck by how much work was being done that could be automated in the near future. Tens of jobs dedicated solely to moving things around, which robots are going to be able to take over in the 5 year timeframe. Another tens of jobs that involve placing a metal part just so in a press and pushing two buttons (two so you have to use both hands). QA can't be replaced with robots entirely, but it could be helped. The bulk of the people on the floor were not doing things that required human judgment, even for human-class vision or human-class pathfinding. The future is basically now.
The big problem is that we don’t have work for bigger and bigger parts of the population. They are poor not because society as a whole got poorer, they are poor because they don’t have anything the labour market wants because it can be had cheaper now.
I think it’s about time we recognize that. We have to make it possible for everyone to live ok lives, even without having a job. We are rich enough. We didn’t get any poorer as a whole. We should be able to afford that.
How to do that is anyone’s guess (I’m betting on some sort of ‘basic income’), but it’s about time to start. We can’t think about work and earning money with our 19th and 20th century goggles on.
Mind you, I don't disagree. As a futurist looking out across the next thirty years I too see an increasing number of people who through essentially no fault of their own will basically have no marketable skills; they'll have skills, just not marketable ones. Somehow we've got to deal with it. But it's going to be enormously tricky; all the easy answers are wrong. All the politically acceptable answers both liberal and conservative are also wrong. I don't have a clue what the right answer is, either.
I think a basic income can create very strong incentives to make at least some additional money compared to traditional social security. There is no need to find a job that pays at least $1300 in order to make it worthwhile, for one (you get to keep your basic income no matter how much you make – minus taxes, so this is in a way not always true).
I would even think that something like a basic income is especially nice if you want to become self-employed.
(There would be higher taxes, probably much higher in the US, a little higher in Europe, but I – being one of those liberal Europeans – have no problem with that.)
I’m still kind of on the fence when it comes to basic income, though. I think finding the right way to do it (how to pay for it, how to organize it, what kinds of social security systems to slim down or abolish, etc. etc.) would be very hard indeed.
$1200 what? You're missing a time element there. I assume "per month". I've lived on less than that before, with some comfort, and I was working, too! If I get to assume health care (not unreasonable in the world we're hypothesizing) and don't forget that I'm not working and I'm not worrying about working either, then yeah, that sounds like a pretty good deal for a single guy with no family.
And by the time we kick this into gear, society may well be able to afford more than that. We're not talking today's society (which already has unsustainable levels of social obligation), we're talking a 20-30 year minimum future society. Or at least I am, since I'm actually talking about the real possibility, not a hypothetical parallel universe where it exists today.
Research is both DARPA level research , and investing money in 3rd world r&d and commercial efforts, since low cost technologies are bound to come from there.
Just as an example, The cost of an high rise apartment could be reduced to $8000(excluding land) using container building techniques.This shows a path of really cheap rent for really basic housing.
It already is possible. The poor in the USA right now have a standard of living greater than the middle class of 1970, but tend to work less than 800 hours/family/year.
Quality of life is having desired goods and services, which the study indicates the poor have.
Regarding health care, do you wish to assert that health care available to the poor today is worse than health care available to the middle class in 1970?
However, I disagree with the idea that robots are going to be able to take over in a five year timeframe.
I agree with you that the capabilities for robotics to do these tasks exist. "The future is already here - it is just unevenly distributed." I doubt however whether large manufacturing companies would be willing to shoulder the huge investments needed to develop robotics for these applications even in a healthy financial climate. Maybe this type of development could come from a company that proposes to do consulting work for manufacturing facilities, for example, Honeywell.
Additionally, I've seen that while companies see automation as an asset in pharmaceutical manufacturing, they also view it as a huge liability, as a single automation error can lead to enormous problems that take time to detect and can have huge costs, while human error generally leads to small mistakes that can be corrected and detected easily. Not sure how it is in other manufacturing subindustries.
That's not quite what I said. I specifically meant that robots will be able to take over the task of moving things around in the five-year timeframe. That is, the guys moving bins of things from here to there. We've already seen warehouses adopting this technology with a fairly high degree of sophistication today, so it's not really a far-out prediction. I'm not predicting that something that doesn't exist will be created, I'm predicting that something that does exist will be commercialized to the point it will become irresistible.
Remember, even if the robots are initially expensive, to replace an employee for a year opens up about $50,000 in capital to play with, assuming a low-paid employee + insurance (yours, not the employee's) + overhead, give or take $20,000. $50,000 is becoming a lot of robot.
Completely taking over in five years, no, definitely not. Certainly not in the facility I saw. But the long-term job trend will be clear in five years.
But the task of creating highly reliable industrial robots is really quite difficult and quite a bit more expensive than $50,000. We have 12 robots in our facility and the field testing and applications testing process for a similar facility elsewhere is taking approximately 2 years and counting. This doesn't include the entire development and specification process of developing the robots as well as the control systems. Each robotic system is upwards of $5,000,000.
A lot of this cost comes from the additional points of failure. Large systems are prone to failures due to small, cascading errors. This necessitates a larger testing and development period.
This is different I'm sure for other industries however. The cost of a failure is exponentially greater in pharmaceutical manufacturing as compared to other forms of manufacturing. Its possible that costs could be much lower in other industries where the cost of a failure is reduced.