September 25, 2017

TR Tackles Automation and Work Issues

foxconn

Technology Review is featuring a series of articles related to businesses integrating humans, robots, and algorithms into their operations. One theme that catches the eye is based on Foxconn’s plans to replace factory workers with industrial robots, a plan that was announced last year. Foxconn’s Chinese operations provides electronics manufacturing services to Apple and other leading tech companies, and services a considerable chunk of the consumer electronics market worldwide.

From a business perspective, the benefits of automation are obvious: this is cheaper in the long term since robots can work longer hours than humans, do not ask for wages or benefits, and never require training. From the technologist’s perspective, this exemplifies the time-honored promise of efficient systems and automation. From the human worker’s perspective, however, automation eliminates job opportunities and threatens to eradicate potential career paths for those for whom the benefits of this type of work outweigh the risks and disappointment of doing repetitive tasks in sometimes questionable working conditions.

For more on what this trend may mean to workers and industries, read an interview with Andrew McAfee from the same issue.

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