Foxconn is a Chinese electronics manufacturer of mobile devices and gaming consoles. The company has been the target of negative news lately about work conditions that have led to mutiny and suicides. They are a supplier of Apple, Kindle, Xbox 360 and others, so the spotlight has been shining.
Now it seems that Foxconn would like to replace these troublesome humans demanding rights and fair pay with robots.
The first fleet has arrived …
Foxconn’s plants have the population of entire cities; the largest is known as “Foxconn City” and is estimated to have upwards of 450,000 workers and covers 1.6 square miles. The Foxconn plants are together responsible for the assembly of 40% of the world’s consumer electronic products. What happens at Foxconn should signal a trend for what is likely to happen elsewhere. (Source)
As Singularity Hub reports, Foxconn’s president Terry Gau did not hide the fact that his company was seeking to replace parts of his human force with robots; he indicated last year that he intended to replace 1 million workers within 3 years:
It appears as if Gou has started the ball in motion. Since the announcement, a first batch of 10,000 robots — aptly named Foxbots — appear to have made its way into at least one factory, and by the end of 2012, another 20,000 more will be installed. (Source)
International pressure on Foxconn seems to be a valid excuse for human replacement rather than actual fundamental policy changes. Globalization and outsourcing have forced American companies doing business overseas to account for some of the human rights abuses occurring there.
There is no doubt that robots are changing the world; it is an industry that is growing magnificently. In China alone the industrial robotics market has grown 136% in three years between 2008-2011, with an additional 15% projected for 2012. This trend is leading to predictions that by 2014 China will become the world’s top consumer of robotics as well.
With such outstanding results in both production and consumption beginning to transform China’s economy, will this force a “reshoring initiative” in America as some proponents of robotics suggest? Or is this merely the first salvo fired against the increasingly expensive employment and management of the human race?
Robots can often perform complex or difficult tasks impossible for their human counterparts, and can also improve energy efficiency — a top priority in China’s developing economy. In addition, as education rates rise, fewer young people may be happy to work in basic labor jobs, especially when improved healthcare means that working-age Chinese people may also have to support their ageing parents. (Source)
While robots are still being sold as replacements only for menial jobs that humans supposedly don’t want, there is every indication with the rise of artificial intelligence that we are likely to see more skilled jobs going to robots in the future. And with advances in autonomous robots, even the current corporate management who seeks to replace their employees might one day find themselves out of a job.