Foxconn, the leading manufacturer of electronics in the world — which makes Apples iPhones and iPads, among other products — plans to build 500,000 robots over the next three years to either replace or augment the company’s human workforce… In one regard, this investment will help the company’s labor relations. After all, robots don’t hurl themselves out of windows when overworked. Human employees at Foxconn, however, have not faired so well. Fourteen committed suicide in 2010. Labor rights groups have described Foxconn’s factories in very harsh terms, as 21st century gulags, “labor camps” with “military-style drills.” Since the suicides in its factories mostly involved workers jumping from the top floors of buildings in Foxconn’s Shenzhen-based plants, the company installed suicide-prevention nets.
What’s the Big Idea?
Foxconn has annual revenues of over $60 billion, and the company has put up an astounding compound annual growth rate of over 50 percent for the last decade. In order to maintain that level of growth, and to meet extraordinary global demand for tech electronics, Foxconn is making an ambitious push to automate.
This could be a step in the right direction from both a business and humanitarian perspective. After all, freeing humans from conditions that resemble slave labor can’t be such a bad thing. According to a company statement, Foxconn will be able to move humans “up the value chain” to more skilled fields such as research. Robots, on the other hand, don’t need higher wages, improved workplace conditions or suicide safety nets, all of which cut into Foxconn’s bottom line.
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So, to all ye my fellow Earthlings: What are the philosophical & practical implications of this kind of revolution?
Personally, as an educator, an objectivist and a humanist, I do support the transition of giving certain mind-dulling, cubicle-confined, arduous, repetitive and thus depressing tasks to robots.
Moreover, I deeply resonate with this beautiful insight from one of the readers of Big Think:
“So…robots could make sense. As for moving people up the value chain, there is certainly plenty of demand for that - perhaps robotization of the labor force will provide opportunities for greater human capital accumulation and optimization, reducing the gap between demand for and supply of skilled labor. If childrearing was performed in a way that elevated the likelihood of self-actualization, instead of debilitating traumatization and low self-worth, that would help too.”
Every industry, from agriculture, to the military, will be impacted by robot labor. And advances in robotics are happening rapidly. As companies like Foxconn lead the way in our transition to a robot economy, the question remains how painful this transition will be, and how can the pain best be mitigated? As far as I’m concerned, the pain will be all well worth it. Creativity is usually born out of pain anyway; and our generation can finally focus on endeavours that shall catapult humanity to the Age of Art and Heart.
Another useful guideline worth deliberating on is from Big Think reader Eugene C:
Like any other subject affecting the lives of countless others, sensible legislation regarding the licensing and application of robotic systems needs to be introduced in countries employing robots. The blanket replacement of human labor with robots is indiscriminate. Legislators need to look closely as there may currently be violations in the immigration laws and policies perpetrated by companies employing such “systems” at the cost of basic human rights regarding welfare and access to gainful employment. Allowing for the proper evolution of robotic systems that do not threaten those basic rights is the path responsible companies should adopt voluntarily. However, companies skirt labor rights in the name of efficiency and need to be checked with a supervisory structure on this subject.
Some people fear that such robotisation of labour will lead to the extinction of the great engine of progress and innovation - the middle class. To a certain extent, this fear is legitimate. With all kinds of paradigm shift, however, the cycle of destruction and reconstruction is always a given. Sometimes, I refer to this as Creative Destruction. A great example of this is personal computers. The industry, led by Microsoft and Intel, destroyed many mainframe computer companies, but in doing so, entrepreneurs created one of the most important inventions of this century.
While there will be clear resistance from most human workers themselves, they will eventually realise that such resistance is futile… They shall be forced by circumstance to finally exercise their own FREE WILL, which has probably atrophied in the past few years of working in a dreadful factory. The middle class can finally outdo themselves and break away from the shackles they have placed upon themselves, generation after generation… We all have different chains that keep us from stepping out of our comfort zones. And clearly, like caterpillars breaking away from the cocoon, transformation will take time; and change is predictably painful. But in the end, to those who choose to go through the entire process without seeking shortcuts, life will be beautiful…precisely because it will be more meaningful. And getting a little push from robots shouldn’t hurt more than your first heartbreak. LOL :))
But then again, that’s just me… for all I know, I could be a masochist. So, as a human being, what are your thoughts on this matter? I would love to read your comments below~ ^_^
Love and Light,
Drei ze Dork Lord ƸӜƷ