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Robots in demand in China as labour costs climb.

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Young Master Smeet
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Joined: 15/11/2011

http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/patentsblog/2012/12/automated-storag...

Quote:
The systems are expensive, but they do mean that the right items can be correctly and quickly identified and retrieved. Storing them in an optimal way so that the most highly requested items are quicker to retrieve is often part of the system as well. Using staff would take much longer and would occasionally involve errors. It is easy to take all this for granted.

Check out the patent for the stock storage system he links to: regulated stock control anyone?

Also, note, how the so-called internet revolution is simultaneously a revolution in warehouse management, a material change in the real economy.

alanjjohnstone
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Joined: 22/06/2011

"...This is not the familiar question of whether our machines will put us all out of work. In fact, the question is whether we will start doing more and more intellectual work for free or for barter, becoming more like our ancestors. Instead of producing food or housing for ourselves or for barter, we will be producing content and amusement for one another, without engaging in explicit (taxable) financial exchange. Yes, there is a so-called gift economy, but there is also an attention market that may not be fungible or priced - a distributed, many-to-many economy that harks back to the old days...The trouble (for economists and traditional businesses, at least) is that this future disturbs traditional notions of economic growth. Companies that provide content will increasingly find themselves competing with individuals who offer entertainment for free."
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/12/201212271132754429.html

"I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the World." - Eugene V. Debs

alanjjohnstone
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"This is the democratization of production," says Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO of Shapeways, the leader in 3-D printing for personalized manufacturing. "Anyone can produce their own dream product."

http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/3d-printing-technology-pois...

"I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the World." - Eugene V. Debs

Young Master Smeet
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Joined: 15/11/2011

Speaking of 3D printers...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20972018

Quote:
imagine if this cut of meat, just perfect for your Sunday dinner, had been made from scratch - without slaughtering any animal. US start-up Modern Meadow believes it can do just that - by making artificial raw meat using a 3D bioprinte
see, we don't need the real world any more, we'll make our meat in nice clean factories, and no horses involved (obviously, the recent horse scandal is just food adulteration by profit seeking once again).  There might be fun ethical debates about VAT grown flesh, but the idea that we can produce meat by cutting the land use, and possibly turning the land over to either re-wilding (build some vertical farms while we're at it) or redesignate for vegetables or biofuel crops, is quite exciting.  Remember, meat farming is a massive source of greenhouse gasses.  The possibility of making all communities food secure is quite exciting.

Young Master Smeet
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Joined: 15/11/2011

Robot waiters, in China.  They have over 20 in one restaurant, and they can work non-stop for five hours at a time..

'Nuff said:

http://www.thestar.com/ajax/photoplayer/1315323

stevead1966
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Joined: 02/03/2012

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/may/19/driverless-cars-pilotle...


ALB
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Joined: 22/06/2011

Here's yet another article arguing that there will be increasing technological unemployment as more and more work processes are computerised:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/speed-of-innovation-and-aut...

This article does at least mention the counter-argument:

Quote:
Still, many economists remain unconvinced. Critics argue that there have been constant warnings of the consequences of technological transformations since the beginning of the industrial revolution, yet these fears have always turned out to be exaggerated. These observers believe that this will also be the case now.
Articles in the June Socialist Standard (which deals with theories of capitalist collapse) takes a similar position, but from a Marxist point of view, on the grounds that most of the unemployment today is cyclical (the reserve army of labour returning to its slump size) not technological and that there is a difference between technological invention and its actual application to production. (capitalist firms only apply inventions if these reduce the amount of labour, including that incorporated in machines, that they have to pay for, which is a much higher bar than simply saving total labour).

While it is true that computerisation does reduce the total number of workers that need to be employed even taking into account the extra ones employed to make the machines, this will only lead to increasing unemployment if capital accumulation stops or slows down permanently. But economists like the two mentioned in the Der Spiegel article have yet to make a convincingly case for this.

Unfortunately perhaps, capitalism is more resilient than some might like to think. Or perhaps not unfortunately, as, if capitalism collapsed before there was a majority in favour of socialism, the result could be worse in that some of the scenarios envisaged in the many dystopian novels and films could well come about.
 

Young Master Smeet
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Joined: 15/11/2011

And in the counter corner:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22686180

Quote:
The organisation, which conducts research into retail, technology and crime, says this would equate to 62,000 shops closing down.  The CRR believes large areas of the UK's High Streets would become housing. It also says as many as 316,000 workers would lose their jobs.

Not all of those jobs would be lost forever, and some would be redeployed, but the warehouse robotisation could see unskilled labour finding it ever harder to find work.

ALB
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Joined: 22/06/2011

Nobody is denying that mechanisation (automation, computerisation, digitalisation, whatever) will result in job losses even when taking in account the extra workers involved in making the machines, etc -- as long, that is, as nothing else happens in some other sectors of the economy. But ever since the Industrial Revolution it always has. Continuing capital accumulation has meant a continuing demand for workers, so over time the total number of employed has gone up despite mechanisation.

Also, of course, capital is a world system. So even if unemployment turns out to become at a permanently higher level in Britain, this could still be offset by increased employment elsewhere in the world. In which case, the higher level of unemployment would not be technological, but the result of capital accumulation shifting from one centre to another (say, in China, India or Latin America).

Those who predict steadily increasing technological unemployment must also explain why they think capital accumulation on a worldscale will stop or permanently slow down.

Young Master Smeet
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Joined: 15/11/2011

A rising organic composition of capital would be compatible with both continuing/increasing capital accumulation and falling employment (especially if part of the rise is due to a fall in variable capital).  Surplus population wouldn't be a new phenomena within capitalism, save that nowadays the option of emigration is much more problematic than it was.  The mega slum model is before our eyes of how it's managed elsewhere.

I think, though, what is more likely is an increased rate of churn, where once it was a once in a lifetime event to have a job mechanised out of existence, we may see repeated instances.  The key phrase in the Spiegel article you linked to was that the rate of jobs being destroyed was higher than the rate of the creation of new ones, which I think could be the equilibrium position, meaning there will just be a time lag between job loss and new opportunities.

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