The future looks very bright in a lot of ways, but one way that’s a little bit disconcerting is the mass job-loss that looms with the rise of automation. This has just been made poignantly clear in China, where Foxconn reportedly just replaced 60,000 workers with robots. Or, as a government official chose to phrase it, a single Foxconn factory has “reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots.”
This information comes to us via a report in the South China Morning Post discussing the “Rise of the robots” currently sweeping the nation. Foxconn is a major entity in the mobile realm, as they supply components to both Samsung and Apple. While the above statement seems to indicate a staggering number of layoffs, Foxconn is quick to deny that the human beings who have been replaced are out of a job.
“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,” said Foxconn to BBC. “We will continue to harness automation and manpower in our manufacturing operations, and we expect to maintain our significant workforce in China.”
Although Foxconn is saying robots aren’t a threat to human workers, economists and tech experts are less convinced. Technological unemployment is quietly becoming a global concern as the relationship between humans, the workforce, and robots becomes increasingly complex. A 2010 White House report estimated that anyone in the US making less than $20 an hour has an 83 percent probability of eventually losing their job to a machine. Even for workers making $40 an hour, those odds are still 31 percent. Hell, we’re already starting to see automated McDonald’s.
What do you think of the rise of the robots? Is this the sound of inevitability, or the beginnings of a world where anything is possible? Give us your opinions in the comments below!