The Changying Precision Technology Company in Dongguan, China recently replaced 590 of its workers — or 90 percent of its staff — with robots. Surprisingly— or not— the company claims production rose by 250 percent.
As for defects? The company assessment is that those were reduced by 80 percent.
What does this mean for humans? Certainly, some jobs face a higher risk of elimination, or rather, transition to robotic employees and machinery.
Factory positions are most at risk of replacement with the robotic alternative. The repetition of many of these jobs makes passage to automation a simple process. For example, repetitive duties requiring constant precision — like building of machine parts — are well-suited for non-thinking entities. Unfortunately, this will displace many sentient folks, who will have to seek new employment in such cases.
The Changying Precision Technology Company uses automated production lines to produce mobile phones. Formerly, the factory was run by 650 employees, but presently, a mere 60 people work in the factory. The remaining positions are now performed by computer-controlled robots, computer numerical control machining equipment, unmanned transport trucks and automated warehouse equipment. The staff monitors these robotic entities through a central control system.
In an interview with the People’s Daily, the general manager of Changying Precision Technology Company, Luo Weiqiang, explains their plans to further reduce the number of employees to 20. Even so, the factory is producing more product and with improved quality since the reduction in human staff.
Adidas has also announced a move toward robot-only factories. However, factories are not the only industry eliminating workers in favor of robots. Robots are likely to take over in a variety of fields, such as masons, tax examiners and collectors, butchers and meat cutters, budget analysts, retail salespersons, geological and petroleum technicians, hand sewers, watch repairers, abstract searchers, account clerks, tax preparers, tellers, order clerks, loan officers, legal secretaries, radio operators, hotel and restaurant hostesses, real estate brokers, polishing workers, cashiers, dental technicians, telephone operators, pesticide sprayers, line cooks (but not chefs), rock splitters, gaming dealers and a slew of other positions and roles currently held by humans.
According to a 2013 report from the University of Oxford on the susceptibility of jobs to computerization by Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey and Associate Professor Michael Osborne, there is over 90 percent probability that this will happen. This percentage is based on their own research on recent advances in machine learning and mobile robotics.
Positions like physicians, surgeons, teachers, anthropologists, archaeologists, engineers, pharmacists, biologists, chief executives, political scientists, lawyers, writers, veterinarians, astronomers, architects, mathematicians, editors, health and safety engineers and craft artists are far less likely to move to automation, though it is not an impossibility.
Whether humans like it or not, societies around the world will soon see an increase in robotic and automated technology. Human intelligence and versatility — or some form of fixed, passive income on a vast scale — may prove the only saving graces for employment.
As famed economist John Maynard Keynes predicted, widespread technological unemployment “due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor” is quickly becoming reality.