Automation Comes to China

The key question isn’t “How much will be automated?” It’s how we’ll conceive of whatever can’t be automated at a given time. Even if there are new demands for people to perform new tasks in support of what we perceive as automation, we might apply antihuman values that define the new roles as not being “genuine work.” Maybe people will be expected to “share” instead. So the right question is “How many jobs might be lost to automation if we think about automation the wrong way?”

One of the strange, tragic aspects of our technological moment is that the most celebrated information gadgets, like our phones and tablets, are made by hand in gigantic factories, mostly in southern China, and largely by people who work insanely hard in worrisome environments. Looking at the latest advances in robotics and automated manufacturing, it’s hard not to wonder when the labors of these hordes of new potential Luddites might become suddenly obsolete.

In this case, even once the technology becomes available, I suspect politics will slow it down a little. It’s hard to imagine China deciding to throw much of its own population into unemployment. It is still a centrally planned society to a significant degree. It’s hard, even, to imagine one of China’s neighbors doing it. Would an aging Japan automate its factories to undercut China? Seems like a significant risk.

But somebody somewhere would find the motivation. Maybe a low-population but capital-rich Persian Gulf nation worried about the post-oil future would fund gigantic automated factories to undercut China in the production of consumer electronics. It might even happen in the United States, which has ever-fewer manufacturing jobs to protect anyway.


Would China, a centrally-planned society, replace its factory workers with robots and put a huge portion of the population out of work? Tagging this with a "todo" so I can follow up on it in the future and see if China does go down the automation route.

Folksonomies: todo futurism automation

/business and industrial/business operations/management/business process (0.645883)
/society (0.499894)
/health and fitness/disease/autism and pdd (0.429222)

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China:Country (0.795404 (negative:-0.118382)), Persian Gulf:Region (0.237962 (negative:-0.613260)), United States:Country (0.223649 (negative:-0.238992)), consumer electronics:FieldTerminology (0.213814 (negative:-0.613260)), Japan:Country (0.193257 (negative:-0.588950))

Automation (0.964011): dbpedia | freebase
Persian Gulf (0.890912): geo | dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Robot (0.775563): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Industrial Revolution (0.716251): dbpedia | freebase | yago
United States (0.657698): website | dbpedia | ciaFactbook | freebase | opencyc | yago
Factory (0.643254): dbpedia | freebase
Technology (0.586636): dbpedia | freebase
2008 singles (0.566786): dbpedia

 Who Owns the Future?
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Lanier, Jaron (2013-05-07), Who Owns the Future?, Simon & Schuster, Retrieved on 2013-05-17
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: computers