View Full Version : Economics Trending towards more robots in the future workforce.

09-17-2012, 12:33 PM

Is that robot going to steal your job?
Posted by Masa Serdarevic
on Sep 14 08:45.

We have written extensively about how the global economy is becoming increasingly technology-intensive, and reaping productivity gains.

Robots, we’ve argued (http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2012/08/10/1096031/3d-printing-rise-of-the-machines/), are slowly taking over in the workplace. And there are plenty of anecdotal examples, such as these noodle-slicing beings from China (http://www.digitaltrends.com/lifestyle/noodle-slicing-robots-are-taking-over-chinese-restaurants/). But sales figures also confirm that more robots are being sold than ever before.

A new CLSA report entitled ‘Robot-buying boom’ crunches data provided by the International Federation of Robotics and comes up with some impressive statistics. Like this one (our emphasis):

Global sales of industrial robots in 2011 reached the highest ever recorded, at 166,028 units (+38% YoY) … According to the same organisation, 2012 will be another record-breaking year with 9% YoY growth.

We actually hadn’t heard of IFR before, but according to the CLSA’s Morten Paulsen and Edward Bourlet it is “broadly recognised as the leading authority on global robotics market data and market research”. It also compiles data from a number of national industry organisations.

What’s striking, of course, is that the 2011 figure is 38 per cent above the previous peak in 2005. This is, note Paulsen and Bourlet…

… a clear reminder that industrial robots are a cyclical growth industry, where the cyclical peaks tend to exceed previous peaks. The 2005 peak was 22% higher than the 2000 peak.

Here’s the chart, with a big upswing in 2011:


Geographically, north east Asia dominates, with a 46 per cent share of the market last year. Japan alone buys 17 per cent of all units sold, then South Korea with 15 per cent, then China with 14 per cent, the US and Germany with 12 per cent each.

The US, China and Japan are expected to be the three strongest markets this year in terms of growth.

By industry, it is the automotive industry that buys the largest share of robots, and it’s growing at quite a clip:


The electronics industries grew at 20 per cent year-on-year, and made up almost a quarter of global demand. From Paulsen and Bourlet:

The electronics industry was the fastest-growing market for robotics in 2010, so the deceleration of growth is mainly due to a high base effect.

IFR forecasts that the demand will be sustained in spite of a weak global economy. North America and China are expected to have the highest growth rate at 15 per cent YoY, followed by Japan with 11 per cent. It should conterbalance a forecast drop in demand from Europe.

For CY2013, IFR is expecting 2% negative growth. According to IFR, this is because of potential cyclical weakness in investments in the automotive industry in developed markets. IFR is not expecting negative growth for robotics demand in China and other emerging markets.


Paulsen and Bourlet agree with these IFR forecasts, but not entirely:

IFR’s forecast for robot demand growth in CY2012 (+9% YoY) is fairly close to our forecast calling for 11% YoY unit growth. We share the organisation’s view that growth will be led by North America and emerging markets. However, we have a more positive view on robotics demand for CY2013, where we predict 9% YoY growth for global robot demand. Our view is not based on a more positive view on the cycle. Indeed, we expect overall machinery demand to hit a cyclical low in CY2013. However, we believe the electronics industry – led by Apple – could drive a new wave of investments in robotics in the electronics assembly industry.

Though with demographic trends as they are, and robot technology becoming increasingly sophisticated, human labour is eventually not going to be an economical choice for many manufacturers and corporates. Why employ someone to slice noodles, when a robot will do the same thing without complaining or demanding a pay rise? Why have a human drive a taxi or a train, if a robot-operated one is potentially even safer and more efficient (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18012812)? Why employ a barrista if this machine (http://www.brandrepublic.com/news/1148994/Starbucks-roll-coffee-machines/) will do the same job? It’s a revolution that’s already changing the global workplace.

09-17-2012, 12:46 PM
Dear Lord, not again

09-17-2012, 12:57 PM
It's your responsibility to make and keep yourself marketable in the workplace.

Back to the turn of the industrial revolution so we can ape full employment one day, eh?

09-17-2012, 12:59 PM
the DNC is already employing robots to post on internet message boards....

09-17-2012, 01:10 PM

09-17-2012, 01:13 PM
<iframe width="854" height="510" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/mFvJU3NwAbc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Mendel's machines replicate in the night
In the black iron prison of St. Augustine's light
He's paying the bills and they're doing him proud
They can float their burnt offerings on assembler clouds

The new Franklins fly their kites
With omega point in the sight
And the post modern empire is ended tonight

From history
The flood of counterfeits released
The black cloud
Reductionism and the beast
Automatons gather all the pieces
So the world may be increased
In simulation jubilation

For the deceased...
Spray-on clothes and diamond jaws
Wrinkles smoothed by nanoclaws

With my machines I can dispatch you
From this world without a trace
Our nostalgia ghosts are ready to take your place

Content-shifting shopping malls
Gasoline trees and walk-through walls

None of them knew...

As I watch the dead rise up out of the earth
I feel the gray goo boiling my blood

Try to hide from the lies as they all come true
Deus absconditus
Deus nullus deus nisi deus

I feel the grey goo boiling my blood
As the fenris wolf slowly bites through his chain
Try to hide the myth as it becomes a man

None of them knew they were robots

Buying an X or an O
Cats game for Joe Blow
In state craft tic tac toe

A binary hug or kiss
Post industrial bliss
Can be wrung from utility mist

They stole the great arcanum
The secret fire
Moloch found his gold
For the new empire
Once again
The necrophage becomes saint

Lindy hop around the truth
Jump back wolf pack attack
Swingin' up there in the noose
Jump back wolf pack attack
Slap back white shark attack
Slap back white shark attack
Phased array diffraction nets

From full-wall paint-on TV sets
Migratory home sublets
And time shared diamond fiber sets

Recombinant logos keys

Bitic Qabalistic trees
I feel the grey goo boiling my blood
As leviathan and his bugs freeze the sea

Try to save the world by immolating myself
The flood of counterfeits released
From history
The black cloud
Automotons gather all the pieces
The resurrection of the deceased
In simulation jubilation
For the builders
So the world may be increased
Of the body of the beast

Dallas Chief
09-17-2012, 01:21 PM
10 of 25 threads on DC front page started by this limp wrist. An ever devoted water carrier for the DNC. How much does it weigh misdireckshunt? You must be getting tired by now.

09-17-2012, 01:29 PM
International Federation of Robots?

WTF, robots already have a Communist Party?

02-04-2013, 10:26 AM
Financial Times (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/f6f19228-6bbc-11e2-a17d-00144feab49a,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2Ff6f19228-6bbc-11e2-a17d-00144feab49a.html&_i_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwonkwire.com%2F#axzz2Jwr7Qx74):

In January the US economy added just 4,000 manufacturing jobs, and the net increase since July is zero. Yet last month, manufacturing activity rose by its fastest rate since April… The difference boils down to robots, which pose an increasingly nagging paradox: the more there are, the better for overall growth (since they boost productivity); yet the worse things become for the middle class.

At some point, policy makers will be forced to grapple with what is intuitively obvious – that sustained growth is inconsistent with declining middle class incomes.

02-04-2013, 02:03 PM
more robots, makes sense.

They don't get sick, they don't take funeral leave, the don't skip work the day after the superbowl and they don't need Obamacare.

02-04-2013, 02:42 PM
Just imagine if all these forces didn't keep working against Obama! Everyone would have a $125,000 a year job!

02-04-2013, 02:50 PM
more robots, makes sense.

They don't get sick, they don't take funeral leave, the don't skip work the day after the superbowl and they don't need Obamacare.

Not yet. But "I hear" there's talk of extending mandatory coverage to robots. Read it on a website.

La literatura
02-04-2013, 02:53 PM
Imagine if a robot that cost $15K was essentially a long-term caregiver for an elderly person? How much money would that save per year? And grandma could still live in her house.

Is Microsoft building one of these? Because it's gold, Jerry.

Saul Good
02-04-2013, 03:45 PM
more robots, makes sense.

They don't get sick, they don't take funeral leave, the don't skip work the day after the superbowl and they don't need Obamacare.

They don't go on strike...

02-04-2013, 04:19 PM
10 of 25 threads on DC front page started by this limp wrist. An ever devoted water carrier for the DNC. How much does it weigh misdireckshunt? You must be getting tired by now.

Easy to do if you don't have a life or a job.

02-04-2013, 04:20 PM
They don't go on strike...

They don't speak ebonics...

02-05-2013, 12:16 PM
Damn Robits....

<iframe width="640" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/TtSejMmsj-0?feature=player_embedded" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

02-05-2013, 12:22 PM
That's hilarious.

02-05-2013, 12:25 PM

02-05-2013, 12:26 PM
So are we looking at an eventual Battlestar Galactica type of apocolypse, or an Animatrix/Matrix style of apocolypse?

02-05-2013, 12:27 PM
So are we looking at an eventual Battlestar Galactica type of apocolypse, or an Animatrix/Matrix style of apocolypse?

Probably not in our lifetime...

02-05-2013, 12:34 PM
Probably not in our lifetime...

I'm sorry, but did you not just see that robot working for Little Ceasars?

I give it 18-24 months before those soulless bastards have me enslaved.

02-07-2013, 08:03 AM

How to Freak Out Responsibly About the Rise of the Robots
By Derek Thompson
Feb 5 2013, 10:16 AM ET

It's become very fashionable (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/sunday-review/raging-again-against-the-robots.html?ref=opinion) very quickly (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/f6f19228-6bbc-11e2-a17d-00144feab49a.html#axzz2JwGJHc5x) to talk (http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/02/how-to-stop-the-robots-from-taking-all-our-jobs/) about robots (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/is-growth-over/) and their insatiable appetite for your job. Industrial machines can and do replace human beings in car factories, electronics plans, and food manufacturing centers. But the editorial rage against the machines is messy, and the automatons might not have as much to do with our current jobs crisis as the volume of robot reportage might suggest.

Let's say it upfront: Technology can replace jobs and (at least temporarily) increase income inequality. From the spinning jenny to those massive mechanical arms flying wildly (http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/thisdayintech/2010/01/ford_robots.jpg) around car assembly lines, technology raises productivity by helping workers accomplish more in less time (i.e.: put a power drill in a human hand) and by replacing workers altogether (i.e.: build a power-drilling bot).

Some worry that AI is getting so smart that we're making workers replaceable at an accelerating rate -- not just with car assembly bots, but also with big data and software that do white-collar work. Technology of the robot and non-robot variety has been replacing people for decades. ATM machines and airport kiosks tellers and simple office software does the work of thousands of tellers, and attendants, and office assistants better than humans ever could. But we had many of these technologies in the 1990s when unemployment was about 4 percent. So what's changed?


The robot fascination is leading some to think we are living through a particularly disruptive Age of Robots right now, and that it might even be contributing to the slow recovery. Maybe, but the case is far from clear. In the Financial Times, the super-sharp Edward Luce advances some frightening thinking about the future of robots shoving workers out their office chairs under the admonishing headline (which he might not have written, himself) "Obama must face the rise of the robots." (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/f6f19228-6bbc-11e2-a17d-00144feab49a.html#axzz2JwGJHc5x)

Must he, though? Where is the evidence that the Obama recovery has been slowed by a recent acceleration of industrial bots, as Luce suggests? In fact, Obama's so-called jobless recovery has been significantly more "jobful" than the recovery we had in 2001 when you compare the pace of private sector jobs created. The labor recovery has been only slightly worse than our pace following the early '90s slowdown.


You might respond that all of these recoveries have been stamped out by accelerating technology. And that might be true. But if it is true, you would expect two things to be true, as well. First, you would expect GDP to grow considerably faster than jobs, as technology added to productivity without adding to payrolls. Second, it should be easy to make the case the technology is replacing workers on a massive scale because the most technologically advanced sectors should be performing the worst.

Real GDP growth in 2011 and 2012 barely kissed 2 percent, which is almost fine for a healthy economy and really not at all fine for a recovery. In that time, we added a similarly fine but not especially remarkable 180,000 jobs per month. This doesn't look to me like an AI nightmare. It looks more like an old-fashioned demand-starved economy.

When you tab over to the sector-by-sector breakdown of jobs lost and gained between 2008 and 2012 (http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/09/07/160502999/jobs-in-america-in-2-graphs), you find construction and manufacturing scraping the bottom. Let's draw a bright white line between these two. Construction, which is clearly the economy's worst-performance industry, hasn't had much productivity growth, according to the analysis from the McKinsey Global Institute (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/07/squeezed-dry-why-americans-work-so-hard-but-feel-so-poor/241252/), and its miserable performance reflects a simple truth that has nothing to do with robots. Nobody's buying houses.

Manufacturing employment in the United States has been eaten alive by those twin forces of globalization and technological innovation. The ascendance of developing economies in Asia and the mastery of mechanized manufacturing let the U.S. make much more with less. That's precisely the productivity revolution the robot crowd fears will sweep over the entire economy. But has there really been a mass adoption of industrial robots recently? As a share of the population, we're about as "automated" as Spain, considerably behind Germany, and less than half as automated as South Korea and Japan, according to the International Federation of Robotics (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&ved=0CDwQjBAwAQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ifr.org%2Fservice-robots%2Fstatistics%2F&ei=BgwRUbXxKpS70AHklYDYCg&usg=AFQjCNG20KInhDd__jE2R1yBiGqi4S0b5Q&sig2=W4tv8POxgyDvI336rEdvgg&bvm=bv.41867550,d.dmQ). And yet, there's little suggestion that Spain's unemployment crisis is fundamentally a robot crisis, and the countries severely more automated than us all have lower unemployment rates.

What ails us today isn't a surplus of robots, but a deficit of demand. Yes, we have a manufacturing industry undergoing a sensational, but job-killing, productivity revolution -- very much like the one that took farm employment from 40 percent in 1900 to less than 5 percent today. But the other nine-tenths of the economy are basically going through an old-fashioned weak-but-steady recovery, the kind that hundreds of years of financial crises would predict.


Just because robots aren't the most important force in our current economic malaise doesn't mean we shouldn't talk or worry about robots. Indeed, The Atlantic has talked and worried about them, a lot. "The threat of technological unemployment is real," Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee wrote in their great book Race Against the Machine (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CEQQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FRace-Against-Machine-Accelerating-ebook%2Fdp%2FB005WTR4ZI&ei=Ov7LTtarMITh0QHcm7k3&usg=AFQjCNEdjs2VwwZuHfxDi2Jq1pTOII12Tg&sig2=cnU_sphPfkK9qjIoijy8_Q), excerpted at The Atlantic here (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/10/where-human-workers-can-still-beat-robots-at-least-for-now/247259/), here (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/10/why-workers-are-losing-the-war-against-machines/247278/?single_page=true) and here (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/10/why-the-massive-wealth-of-the-1-could-ruin-the-economy/247277/). Economist Noah Smith designed a safety net for workers in an automated world here (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/01/the-end-of-labor-how-to-protect-workers-from-the-rise-of-robots/267135/).

As robots move off the factory floor in the next 20 years, the effect on well-being and income will be complicated and impossible to predict. On the one hand, we should root for more automation. More robotics in the hospital, for example, could make surgeries cheaper and safer. But the mass-market depends on our workers also being our consumers. What does it mean when more work is done by machines that don't consume anything? Where does the money go, if not to the lucky owners of the robots themselves? If tomorrow's robots are smarter than people -- not just high-school graduates, but also college graduates -- what happens to the incentive to invest in education? Should we respond by giving each new born a check? ... a stock portfolio!? ... a robot of her own?!

These are fun and scary ideas, and they're fun and scary to think about. But let's calm our warm-blooded nerves by remembering that the current stock of humanoid robots is still remarkably primitive, as Brynjolfsson and McAfee acknowledge themselves. They look creepy. They struggle with people skills. They fall down stairs (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/01/the-end-of-labor-how-to-protect-workers-from-the-rise-of-robots/267135/). They're bad at problem-solving. They're not very creative.

This is where you say "40 years ago, AI couldn't do the work of retail managers and lawyers (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/10/where-human-workers-can-still-beat-robots-at-least-for-now/247259/), and look now." That's right. And 40 years from now, grappling with the fallout of an automated economy might be the most important economic issue of our time Today, however, worrying about robots taking over the economy feels more like an intellectual exercise. There's no need for an artificial crisis over artificial intelligence.

02-07-2013, 08:06 AM

I'm not feeling reassured here
Freddie L'Hote
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Derek Thompson, one of my favorite journalists, has a post (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/how-to-freak-out-responsibly-about-the-rise-of-the-robots/272855/) worth reading that pushes back against the job loss from automation-- but also read the comments, which make a lot of good rebuttal's to what Thompson is saying. Part of what I like best about Thompson is that he is a remarkably even-keeled guy, a rarity in a newsmedia that gravitates towards the euphoric and the apocalyptic. It's especially unusual in a guy who writes often about tech, and a guy with a generally neoliberal flavor, as they tend to be the ones in a rush to ignore human suffering. Optimism that doesn't degrade into absurd technoutopianism, or that doesn't discount the incredible hardships of the poor, is a rarity these days. I appreciate his sobriety, and I don't know, maybe he's right. But there seems to be a lot of wishful "hey, it's probably not gonna happen soon" going on there. Worth saying, too, is that Thompson focuses exclusively on employment rate, and doesn't consider job quality, which to my lights is equally important. As his colleague Matt O'Brien points out (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/how-to-freak-out-responsibly-about-the-rise-of-the-robots/272855/), automation doesn't have to lead to mass joblessness to severely undermine the conditions for workers.

Seriously, read the comments of Thompson's post. Tons of insight there.

One thing I'd like to point out is that even if we merely have a change in the skills or temperament needed for some jobs, rather than just the elimination of jobs, that essentially renders large swaths of people unemployable. Jobs that interface significantly with technology (which is to say, jobs) typically require significant retraining for people who have been laid off from other careers. People who can't adjust-- or, even worse, people who aren't given the opportunity to adjust because employers assume they can't-- are left behind, and fall into the precarious lives that so many are suffering through right now. As one of the commenters on the post points out, economists tend to think of jobs in net; if 5,000 people are laid off, and then 5,000 jobs added, hey, that's balance. But the original 5,000 people are very unlikely to be significantly represented within the 5,000 newly employed, and the longer a person is unemployed, the harder and harder it is for them to eventually find work.

Matt Yglesias continues a recent trend in writing a post (http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/02/05/robot_economics_are_overblown_labor_saving_technology_isn_t_new.html) on this issue that is, well, bizarre. His Slate blog has taken a turn for the odd in general lately. In the post-- which, in keeping with another recent trend of moving towards a positively Mickey Kaus-like brevity, runs all of two paragraphs-- simply says that technology that eliminates jobs has always been with us and that it's strange to talk about it now. Well, yeah-- it's a long term trend. But as is the case with global warming, the fact that the trend is old says nothing about whether it is accelerating or whether we are reaching an inflection point that will undermine our basic way of life. I'm not sure what Yglesias thought is saying here. The fact that the trend has been going on for a long time doesn't mean it isn't causing massive human suffering. But suffering hasn't really been Yglesias's beat lately.

There's plenty (http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/26/america-has-hit-peak-jobs/) to read (http://news.yahoo.com/ap-impact-recession-tech-kill-middle-class-jobs-051306434--finance.html). If it isn't clear, I'm mostly interested in these issues because they seem like a useful frame to discuss the long-term trend of less and less income going to labor, and in broader strokes, the way in which our society has become a massive machine for generating wealth for those at the top. I find the "income inequality" conversation to be frustrating on a variety of levels, in large part because it is so well worn. I'm trying to address how we think our society is supposed to function, and what happens when one of the basic planks starts to degrade. Contrary to Thompson and Yglesias, I don't think it's too early to think things through, even if these problems don't start to affect us in mass in the near future. We have a habit of deciding problems are problems too late rather than too soon.

02-08-2013, 04:16 PM
I believe that Chinese jobs are going to get hit harder by the robots in the future.

Check this one out.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/e9geaPrEW3E" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

02-08-2013, 04:20 PM
It sucks, but Robots don't get sick, have babies, temper tantrums. Robots don't get paid vacation, health insurance or retirement packages and last time I heard there was no robot union for a company to fight with.

Mechanization of industrial manufacturing is inevitable.

02-08-2013, 04:22 PM
I believe that Chinese jobs are going to get hit harder by the robots in the future.

Check this one out.

<IFRAME height=315 src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/e9geaPrEW3E" frameBorder=0 width=560 allowfullscreen></IFRAME>

Heh, check out how BMW is knocking out their cars these days.


02-08-2013, 04:25 PM
I believe that Chinese jobs are going to get hit harder by the robots in the future.

Check this one out.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/e9geaPrEW3E" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Is this one for dealing blackjack?

02-08-2013, 04:30 PM
Heh, check out how BMW is knocking out their cars these days.


That is really impressive. You sure as shit don't want a human installing a $700 tail light. o:-)

02-08-2013, 04:39 PM
Financial Times (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/f6f19228-6bbc-11e2-a17d-00144feab49a,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2Ff6f19228-6bbc-11e2-a17d-00144feab49a.html&_i_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwonkwire.com%2F#axzz2Jwr7Qx74):

The idea that we should stop using robots because it steals jobs is the reason why America continues to fall behind the competition.

We should stop protecting jobs. If we spent half the amount of energy re-training people for new careers as we spent trying to let bad jobs keep going, we'd be miles ahead as a country as we are today.

This is another one of those things where it would be good to see the public and private sector work together, instead of working against each other. The public sector should STOP protecting jobs replaced by robots. In turn, the private sector should accept government regulation that encourages or incentivizes companies to re-train employees for new work.

02-08-2013, 04:44 PM
Heh, check out how BMW is knocking out their cars these days.


If they ever start making pickup trucks I may give a shit what BMW builds or how they build it :)

02-08-2013, 04:52 PM
If they ever start making pickup trucks I may give a shit what BMW builds or how they build it :)

Their concept hood rat M3 truck :evil:


02-08-2013, 04:56 PM
Their concept hood rat M3 truck :evil:


If it fits in the bed of my truck it ain't a truck :)

02-08-2013, 07:47 PM
<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/3cShYbLkhBc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

02-08-2013, 09:22 PM
"Robot" is a much broader term in manufacturing than what the average person or fear mongering columnist envisions. A lot of mechanical machinery is be replaced by robotics. And as mechanicals continue to age and need replacing, growth in robotics will grow.

Undoubtedly human tasks are being replaced by robots, but my guess the percentage in annual robot sales that actually take jobs is a small fraction.