Just think about that... when was the last time you heard of a company employing more than like 200k people world wide and this company employees 1 million at it's production facility in China.
Apparently living and working conditions aren't great, we all read the followups to the original suicides. From what I gathered they were extremely barren, but better than the alternative of sleeping on the street in that city. They made it sound like if you try and get by in the city on your own, and you are low-income, it is incredibly vicious (mugging, etc.)
What I find interesting is that as these people fight for better conditions and increased wages, Foxconn's reply is "Whatevs, we are getting robots to replace you".
In the next 3 years they are looking at rolling out 1 million robots to replace workers, I imagine slowly firing 50-70% of their workforce. The only way I see these people not getting fired is the Chinese govt, in an attempt to stem riots, requires Foxconn to keep most of them employed.
This is an interesting twist of the future... I suppose some part of me assumed that by 2020+ machines would be making most of what I use, but when I look at the scale of jobless people as a result of it, it really makes me scratch my head to figure out where we fit in the future.
Our only salvation seems, at least for now, to expand ourselves in creative professions that cannot be performed by machines (yet).
When AI finally becomes mature enough to model a human (I don't really expect that to be very far off. Our compute power is getting ridiculous) I imagine that won't be off-limits for robots either and our job as humans will be just to exist and experience... nothing more.
tl;dr - assume robots and AI get sufficiently advanced to do most everything physical and most things that are deemed creative... what IS our purpose here then?
The real problem is that increasing automation only creates jobs for smart people, while destroying jobs for dumb people. Not everybody capable of building widgets is capable of maintaining a widget-building robot. We're replacing manual labour jobs with jobs that require a brain, but half the population still has below-average intelligence.
If we have robots that can make widgets, how much longer from that until there are robots that are maintaining the other robots? Robots that are DESIGNING the next generation of robots?
The intelligence line which measures who can be replaced by automation is steadily rising and eventually (within our lifetimes, if you believe the singularity nutters -- I think they are wildly optimistic) it'll be higher than all of us. The riots will start a long time before then in either case.
New jobs keep appearing as we gain more wealth, who would have predicted jobs such as web designer or WoW gold farmer 20 years ago?
Just like the western world has moved to automated production, China will be able to do the same.
I think Kurzweil refers to it as the Singularity... but basically what happens when AI reaches the point where it can manage itself or advance itself?
This is certainly in the realm of "what if" because we haven't established if sheer compute power CAN get us AI that eventually becomes self-aware.
I sort of assume it can, but I don't like to make sweeping statements based on my assumptions. We might find some missing "human" link in the intelligence chain that stops computers and AIs from making that final leap once we get to that precipice.
"A common misnomer about the Singularity and the idea of greater-than-human AI is that it will involve a conscious, self-reflective, and even morally accountable agent. This has led some people to believe that it will have deep and profound thoughts, quote Satre, and resultantly act in a quasi-human manner. This will not be the case. We are not talking about artificial consciousness or even human-like cognition. Rather, we are talking about super-expert systems that are capable of executing tasks that exceed human capacities. It will stem from a multiplicity of systems that are individually singular in purpose, or at the very least, very limited in terms of functional scope. And in virtually all cases, these systems won’t reflect on the consequences of their actions unless they are programmed to do so."
A: Be eliminated by our robot masters
B: Be kept around by our robot masters/colleagues because we are useful/equal
C: Have already integrated the machines into ourselves, or integrated ourselves into the machines
D: Laze about doing nothing of consequence, because robots do everything for us, and aren't self-aware enough to care
I'm rooting for C, with B as my fallback.
As automation takes over, there will be huge segments of society unable to maintain their standard of living. We need to begin to rethink our ideas of ownership of wealth and resources.
Take a look in the mobile industry. Is Nokia crumbling down and laying off a lot of people? Is RIM doing the same? Both former leaders in this market. Yes they are, but wouldn't you agree that what has come out of this is much better for everyone?
People need to stop looking at "saving jobs" in a time like this. The focus should be on "creating jobs". Let the jobs that need to disappear in order to have progress, disappear. If you're arguing against that, then you're arguing against the very nature of progress and evolution, whether it's biological, economical or technological.
For example in a time of "economic crisis", which happens about every 10 years or so, you should let that crisis kill the inefficiencies in the system! And then focus on taking advantage of it to create new businesses that are much more efficient and can deal with the new conditions, and from that you'll also have more jobs.
The industrial revolution was effectively covering the whole society, making a host of jobs obsolete in a matter of years, not only hand weaving. The same happened for the second industrial revolution, or the "green revolution".
Why should we expect this time to be different?
The automation revolution will be different because supply can suddenly outstrip demand by orders of magnitude. Wealth as we currently view it will essentially be limited by availability of natural resources rather than human productive capacity.
I've been reading your replies and thought this summed up what you've been saying in other replies. Exactly spot on that the framework for society we have no is not capable of handling/supporting what I'll call the artistic/spiritual re-revolution that may occur after machines take over all (for the purposes of this argument) jobs.
That being said we still need to be mining and creating raw resources to make the robots for the automation and the devices, so someone at the top will be holding a giant leash around that process and they will, in reality, have the power to exert whatever reality they decide on down onto all of us if we want our robots, automation and gadgets.
It'll be interesting.
I've spoken to people that feel our role will be to move back to an intellectual time of philosophy and cultural advancement while our mechanical counterparts take care of everything else.
As a side-note, part of the Animatrix compilation was an anime short by a famous animator that portrayed the future where we have throngs of robot slave labor. Just abusing, destroying, crushing and pushing them harder and harder, throwing them away as they are "injured".
It was a perverse vision to be sure and only made more perverse by the need to make the robots human-like and then eventually given them AI (in the anime at least).
All of these things will be unexpected challenges.
Will you cringe in 2040 when you see a humanoid robot fall from a skyscraper or accidentally have a tractor drive over it while moving something big?
These are the strange/unexpected/unprepared scenarios I think will catch us off guard.
It was accompanied by massive social upheaval, but it didn't lead to either a crapsack post-apocalyptic unemployscape nor a prefect utopian leisure world. Not from our point of view anyway; you'd have to pluck a 7000 or 300 year old man from his world into ours to find out what he makes of our progress.
This is a common economic misconception. If, by some lucky twist of fate, machines can make everything we may ever want, it'd be great! We can just all lie around and enjoy utopia.
"The Midas Plague" (originally published in Galaxy in 1954). In this new world of cheap energy, robots are overproducing the commodities enjoyed by mankind. So now the "poor" are forced to spend their lives in frantic consumption, trying to keep up with the robots' extravagant production, so that the "rich" can live lives of simplicity. This story deals with the life of a man named Morey Fry, who marries a girl from a higher class. She is unused to a life of consumption and it wears at their marriage. Morey eventually hits on the idea of having the robots help him to consume his quotas. At first he fears punishment when he is discovered, but instead the Ration Board quickly implements his idea across the world."
... here is a meta though... what if that is what we live in NOW, hence all the talk about "is our reality a hologram?" recently.
I thought this was going to be a joke but, just like WoW and EVE mining, I see that it is actually happening: http://farmvillebot.net/ http://www.femfarmville.com/
Read "Manna" by Marshall Brain for a vision of the caste system that may happen
Yes. We have to move "up-market" in the job market, just like the disruptive innovation theory says. But this will also create many more opportunities for us. Automation of work is not new. And in the few last decades that we've used it intensively, it has only led to the growth of country economies and to a more advanced society, with more opportunities for non-physical work.
Now, what happens when robots become "smarter" than us at everything we can do and can think for themselves? That's harder to predict right now. But it doesn't necessarily mean we'll become their slaves. We might still use them as our "tools", or worst case scenario we'll literally merge with technology to keep pace with them, but I don't think that will happen until nano-technology is mature enough (http://www.nanofuture2030.com is an interesting blog on this).
In a way we're already starting to merge with technology, just not physically yet. If we watch the trends in computing since the birth of the mainframe, computers have become ever more "mobile", smaller and more "personal", from Mainframe > Mini-computer > PC > Notebook > Smartphone.
Whatever the next big computing paradigm will be, I know that "device" will be more mobile, smaller and more intimate with the human being.
You seem to have a lot of faith in the average person's ability to move "up market". Personally I don't see this becoming a reality. Furthermore, the creative and knowledge jobs needed are orders of magnitude fewer than manual jobs to provide for the same amount of production in society. The welfare state will have to become the norm and getting to that point will require major social upheaval.
But I have faith in humanity's ability to adapt. It's not that hard to learn a new job. And I think automation throughout the society helps everyone's job become easier.
The way I see tools are becoming easier and easier, and the barrier to entry is lowered so more people can create websites, or do marketing, and so on.
I don't think your considering the situation where the tools can do the job completely. The major difference now between past production revolutions was that the limiting factor was still human labor. The tools made the jobs vastly easier, but it still required a human operator. When you can take the human operator out of the equation completely, you're on entirely new ground.
>the barrier to entry is lowered so more people can create websites, or do marketing
These are all jobs that depend on orders of magnitude larger industries to survive (marketers need a thriving economy to create added value to justify their cost).
It seems like we're doing the same thing the finance industry did with the housing market: past history showed that housing prices always go up, so we'll assume they'll keep finding a way to go up. This completely ignores the fact that this time is vastly different than past situations. There has to be some upper limit here. If we want to assume we'll just keep going up and up (the knowledge work ladder), you need an argument that explains why there is effectively no upper limit.
The field of "automatic programming" is one of the major areas of artificial intelligence research today.
In this sense we should continually be striving to transform every art into a science: in the process, we advance the art.
FOxconn views moving to using robots as ideal because the costs of recruitment of workers went up not increases in wages. In other words despite increasing wages they have a hard time finding workers to fill the factories. So not the 'replacing workers' like you claim.