After a factory in Dongguan, China, replaced most of its workers with robots, it witnessed a spectacular rise in productivity.
Image not from said factory. Image credits: Industriemuseum Chemnitz.
While some of the world’s leaders are obsessed with keeping people out of their country, an unspoken entity is slowly but certainly taking our jobs: robots. It’s been long discussed that robots and computers will start taking our jobs “in the near future” — well that near future is upon us and we’re not really prepared to deal with it. Of course, some jobs are more at risk than others, are few are as threatened as factory jobs.
According to Monetary Watch, the Changying Precision Technology Company focuses on the production of mobile phones and uses automated production lines. The factory used to be run by 650 employees, but now just 60 people get the entire job done, while robots take care of the rest. Luo Weiqiang, the general manager, says the number of required employees will drop to 20 at one point. Despite this reduction in staff, not only is the factory producing more equipment (a 250% increase), but it’s also ensuring better quality.
Without a doubt, this is something we’ll be hearing more and more of in the future. Adidas is one of the companies which has already announced a shift towards robot-only factories, and it’s not just factories that will eliminate workers for robots. According to a report created by Dr Carl Benedikt Frey and Associate Professor Michael Osborne from the University of Oxford, there’s an over 90% chance that robots will take over the jobs of (long list ahead): masons, budget analysts, tax examiners and collectors, butchers and meat cutters, retail salespersons, geological and petroleum technicians, hand sewers, abstract searchers, watch repairers, new account clerks, tax preparers, order clerks, loan officers, legal secretaries, radio operators, tellers, hotel and restaurant hostesses, cashiers, real estate brokers, polishing workers, dental technicians, pesticide sprayers, telephone operators, cooks (not chefs), rock splitters, gaming dealers, and many, many more. Yeah, that’s a long list, and it goes on for much longer. Whether we admit it or not, we’re stepping well into the bounds of “robots taking over our jobs” and I’m not sure any economy is able to handle this at the moment.
I’ve got some very mixed feelings about this. Firstly, this is indeed exciting. We’re entering a new age of automation, and technology is truly reaching impressive peaks. The process is better and it’s also more resource efficient, which is also good. I’m also happy that humans don’t have to work repetitive, unchallenging jobs and can instead focus on other things. The problem is … there might not be other things. In fact there most definitely aren’t. Those people are out of a job, and there’s a good chance they’ll have a very difficult time finding new jobs. Simply put, our society isn’t prepared to integrate these people in different jobs and naturally this will cause huge problems.