With increasing frequency I see articles on how robots are taking jobs
once held by humans. Typically I batch a few of them up for comments, and I
have a new set now.
Last week, on the manufacturing front I reported "Baxter"
the Robot Out to Get Your Minimum-Wage, No Benefits, Part-Time Job, Because
He's Still Much Cheaper; Fed Cannot Win a Fight Against Robots.
Alpha the Custom Burger Flipping Robot
Here is a similar story in the service industry to consider: Robot Serves Up 360 Hamburgers Per
machine from Momentum Machines cooks up a tasty burger with all the fixins.
And it does it with such quality and efficiency it’ll produce “gourmet
quality burgers at fast food prices.”
With a conveyor belt-type system the burgers are freshly ground, shaped and
grilled to the customer’s liking. And only when the burger’s finished cooking
does Alpha slice the tomatoes and pickles and place them on the burger as
fresh as can be. Finally, the machine wraps the burger up for serving.
Alpha churns out a painless 360 hamburgers per hour. Saving money with Alpha
is pretty easy to imagine. You don’t even need cashiers or servers. Customers
could just punch in their order, pay, and wait at a dispensing window.
For their next model Momentum Machines plans on adding a custom meat grinding
feature so it can mix different meats – 1/3 pork, 2/3 bison sounds like a
tasty combo – in the same burger. They’ll also give it gourmet cooking
abilities that seasoned chefs use such as charring the burger while retaining
The company plans on launching the first ever restaurant chain with a cook
staff made entirely of robots. But not only might we soon find Alpha’s
creations at local burger joints, but the company is also targeting
convenience stores, food trucks, and somehow even vending machines.
Robot Wars in China
China Daily reports Chinese
robot wars set to erupt
research conducted by the consultancy Ernst & Young LLP suggests that the
average annual labor cost per worker rose to more than 40,000 yuan ($6,400)
in 2011, from less than 25,000 yuan five years ago.
Given the context, it's easy to calculate the tradeoffs of getting a robot.
"In fact, industrial robots are already cheaper than workers in China's
eastern regions," said Wang Tianmiao, who heads the expert panel of
robot technology under the State High-Tech Development Plan.
Wang said a typical industrial robot costs around 300,000 yuan and has annual
maintenance costs of 20,000 yuan. The total layout of 500,000 yuan over 10
years is considerably less than that for a 6,000-yuan-a-month technician, and
robots can work three times more efficiently.
Technology Kills Middle-Class Jobs
Yahoo! News reports Recession,
tech kill middle-class jobs.
after the start of the Great Recession, the toll is terrifyingly clear:
Millions of middle-class jobs have been lost in developed countries the world
And the situation is even worse than it appears.
Most of the jobs will never return, and millions more are likely to vanish as
well, say experts who study the labor market. What's more, these jobs aren't
just being lost to China and other developing countries, and they aren't just
factory work. Increasingly, jobs are disappearing in the service sector, home
to two-thirds of all workers.
They're being obliterated by technology.
Year after year, the software that runs computers and an array of other
machines and devices becomes more sophisticated and powerful and capable of
doing more efficiently tasks that humans have always done. For decades,
science fiction warned of a future when we would be architects of our own obsolescence,
replaced by our machines; an Associated Press analysis finds that the future
"There's no sector of the economy that's going to get a pass," says
Martin Ford, who runs a software company and wrote "The Lights in the
Tunnel," a book predicting widespread job losses. "It's
The numbers startle even labor economists. In the United States, half the 7.5
million jobs lost during the Great Recession were in industries that pay
middle-class wages, ranging from $38,000 to $68,000. But only 2 percent of
the 3.5 million jobs gained since the recession ended in June 2009 are in
midpay industries. Nearly 70 percent are in low-pay industries, 29 percent in
industries that pay well.
Experts warn that this "hollowing out" of the middle-class
workforce is far from over. They predict the loss of millions more jobs as
technology becomes even more sophisticated and reaches deeper into our lives.
The most vulnerable workers are doing repetitive tasks that programmers can
write software for — an accountant checking a list of numbers, an office
manager filing forms, a paralegal reviewing documents for key words to help
in a case. As software becomes even more sophisticated, victims are expected
to include those who juggle tasks, such as supervisors and managers — workers
who thought they were protected by a college degree.
there is no end to this. Software robots handle voice activated queries and
mechanical robots replace humans in manufacturing.
If a job is repetitive and programmable, a robot is out to get it. That even
includes minimum wage jobs in manufacturing and in food service.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock