Access: New York Times
Summary: This NYT video examines innovations in robot technology used for factory production (see associated article). These robots are far more sophisticated than typical factory robots, and they have important implications for work, labor, and the geography of the global economy. As Marx predicted, global competition drives producers to mechanize their operations to drive down costs. For example, as the article notes, "In one example, a robotic manufacturing system initially cost $250,000 and replaced two machine operators, each earning $50,000 a year. Over the 15-year life of the system, the machines yielded $3.5 million in labor and productivity savings." The robots are replacing huge numbers of low and mid-skilled workers, making assembly lines more efficient and creating some higher skilled jobs. At 2:50, a representative from a robotics company states "We don't view robots as a way to eliminate the labor, it's just an opportunity to raise that skill set and help everybody realize a better life as a result of that, get them out of that repetition and into a place where they can earn a higher wage and be more successful." Viewers may reflect on this highly optimistic view. In some cases, these advanced technologies are bringing manufacturing jobs now held in countries like China back into the US. With the automation of much manual labor, the new jobs are often safer - but they also have new forms of stress and higher insecurity. However, many people who lose their jobs do not have access to the education and training needed to reskill themselves for the new jobs. Furthermore, such technologies might lead to the increasing polarization of jobs in terms of both skills and wages. Who wins and who loses when robots replace human labor?
Image by Paul Sakuma/Associated Press
Submitted By: Paul Dean