These Aren’t the Droids You Were Looking For

rosieRemember Rosie the Robot, the domestic automaton who swept floors and kept house for the Jetsons?  She set the standard for robots back in the 1960’s.  That was until the bubble-headed, claw-handed gizmo of the Robinson family came along and spent the same decade flailing his corrugated arms constantly warning Will of danger.  That’s all he did.  No wonder the Robinsons were eternally lost in space.  Rosie would have figured out how to get the Robinsons home faster than you could brew a pot of coffee in her torso, but she wouldn’t.  They were on a different network.

It’s with these mechanical archetypes in mind that I noticed a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about Chinese companies investing in a new, more sophisticated wave of industrial robots to supplant people on factory floors.  Seems the ungrateful, flesh-and-blood riff-raff want better wages, better working conditions and more meaningful assignments as they get older.

So much for the Glorious Worker’s Revolution.

China’s shift to integrating more automated devices into manufacturing may take longer than planned, according to some local business leaders.  That’s because of the high price of a new generation of robotic arms and difficulty in reprogramming them once a new assembly task is required.

“If your orders decrease, you can lay off workers,” said Tim Li, senior vice president of Taiwanese PC contract manufacturer Quanta Computer Inc.  “You can’t lay off robots.”

Delta Electronics Inc. Chairman Yancey Hai echoed the concern:

“It’s clear automation is the future trend in China, but the big question is how to bring down the costs for robots.”

Let’s review how China got to this point:

  • During the 1920’s Dr. Sun Yatsen leads a workers revolution in China to establish the concept of wealth distribution between government and the working class.
  • Mao Zedong spreads the idea of workers’ rights across China as part of his “Great Leap Forward” spanning the 1940’s and ‘50’s.
  • In 2005/2006 Steve Jobs decides to manufacture iPods (and later iPhones) in China to take advantage of cheap labor (including child labor).
  • September 2013, Chinese industrialists pursue advanced robotics to replace smart-ass workers (and children) who want too much money and better working conditions.  The bosses are honked off at the high cost and long integration time of robots to replace workers.

What do I say about this evolution from working class heroes to animatronics in China’s Workers’ Paradise? Click here.

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