As Human Workers Reach Their Limits, Robots May Replace Them

Amazon recently announced that it is acquiring Kiva Systems, a leading maker of warehouse robots.  Last year, Foxconn announced it would bring in huge numbers of robots.

Foxconn, of course, is infamous for the number of its workers who committed suicide. Amazon has had issues of its own.  At its Allentown, PA, warehouse, employees were repeatedly overwhelmed by heat and had to seek medical attention.  A recent article in Mother Jones tells the story of what it’s like to work in one of these warehouses (the article does not identify the company).

Automation is not just about increasing efficiency. There’s some evidence to suggest that workers are simply being driven beyond their limits.  As production speeds continue to increase, there has to come a point where the only option is to get the humans out of the loop.  In many industries, automation may penetrate more rapidly than we expect simply because a threshold is reached where people can no longer keep up.


9 thoughts on “As Human Workers Reach Their Limits, Robots May Replace Them

  1. I think a lot of people would agree that robots and automation are replacing human jobs – just look at the recent NPR series on “Robots Ate My Job”.

    My post relates more to the solutions that Ford proposes – paying people to “do the right thing” such as get educated, take care of their health, etc. One country that is already doing it is Brazil. Article link below. The Brazilian government gives poor people cash to keep their children in school, get immunized, etc through a program called Bolsa Familia. Families spend this money on food, clothes, and other “consumer” products. Brazil spent over $35 billion on this program, and has been able to lift over 23 million people out of abject poverty and create over 10 million jobs.

    Would a similar program be highly controversial in the US? For sure. Is it impossible to implement here? Maybe. But the world – and this country – is in desperate need of a paradigm change.

    The world hates change yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.
    -Charles Kettering

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