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@IDGconnect Rise of the bots: Why we should be worried by the Foxconn lay-offs

Are we heading for a future where the technology we use every day is 100 per cent manufactured by robots? Foxconn seems to be taking us a step closer to that reality after a Chinese local authority revealed the Taiwanese giant has “reduced its employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000, thanks to the introduction of robots.” It’s not alone, either, with as many as 600 other firms said to be mulling similar plans for their facilities in the manufacturing hub of Kunshan near Shanghai.
But does it really matter to IT buyers in the West, as long as the price we pay for our kit remains stable?

Man vs. machine
The Foxconn story made quite a few headlines around the world. But it’s not exactly new. Contract manufacturers in China and around Asia – most of them Taiwanese in origin – have been looking at robots as a replacement for human labour for some time. When I was filing news from Hong Kong a couple of years ago it was reported that Foxconn – which makes products for the likes of Apple, Samsung, Sony and others – was planning to have one million bots on the production line by 2014. It’s unclear whether it hit its goal.
The drivers are pretty straightforward. Unlike human workers, machines don’t need to eat or sleep; they don’t go on strike; they don’t need housing; and they don’t give rise to bad PR stories about rising suicide rates and abysmal working conditions. With workers’ wages on the rise in China as the manufacturing industry matures, there’s a definite economic imperative to put more robots on the factory floor. And we’re told that AI technology is maturing at a rapid rate. In fact, according to a new report from research firm Leading Edge Forum, machine intelligence has already reached a tipping point.

Full post in: http://www.idgconnect.com/blog-abstract/17353/rise-bots-why-worried-foxconn-lay-offs

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