In China, there is a new scarcity of workers who are willing to work in factories doing manual labor. In Economics in college I learned that supply and demand drive costs. In this case, scarcity of employee resources is driving labor costs up in China.
The primary driver for manufacturing to move to China was the low cost of labor. This causes a major macroeconomic problem for China that could impact their GDP.
China is going to do the logical thing – they are going to keep costs low in their electronics manufacturing sector by employing robotics to replace humans. In the short term this will help China with their goal of retaining the economic benefits of electronic manufacturing in China.
There are other benefits to China and the world that are not seen directly.
- China is going to get very good at automating human oriented tasks with robotics
- China will pioneer making robotics work in human oriented tasks.
- The knowledge required to automate human tasks will already be known and no longer be a development task – and the costs will be greatly lowered for everyone around the world.
Direct implications of China’s Robotizing the Work Force
- Automation will come to other parts of the world where labor is too expensive and benefit some countries where due to fluctuations of currencies – manufacturing has traditionally not been effective.
- While this is primarily a benefit to China, in other parts of the world we will see a vast reduction in the labor force required to make things.
- If not done in a planned manner, there will be a lot of societal backlash as jobs disappear and more people are unable to find work and survive.
There will be many benefits to developing this robotic manufacturing technology. I can foresee where you can fit these robotic factories inside a few tractor trailers. You could drive them to the site of a natural disaster – assemble the robotic factory – and have it produce the needed goods to help people survive in that area.
Another benefit is that if this mobile robotic manufacturing is possible – then we can launch it to the moon, or to be assembled inside of asteroids to allow (finally) the expansion of humanity outside of our original biosphere in statistically significant numbers. This benefit; however, won’t be seen for a few years, but will have significantly more impact than reduction of labor costs today in the present.
It is another piece of evidence for the oncoming storm – the singularity. Humanity will have far more abilities in the future than we have ever had in the past.
We will need to choose wisely what we want to do with this technology.