[FoRK] Making robotics a priority

Joe Reneker stout.yeoman at gmail.com
Mon Jul 11 17:15:26 PDT 2011

Robots can be viewed as just another form of capital investment. From the
perspective of a factory owner, they are simply more productive machines.
It's like switching from hand tools to electrically powered tools. By
purchasing these better machines, the overall productivity of workers in a
factory increases.

Take, for example, CNC metal working equipment which are essentially very
dumb robots. Even though they do work machinists used to do, they're hardly
autonomous. Instead of machinists, many factories now hire CNC operators. At
the bottom line, factories with CNC machines produce goods at lower cost
than a factory with manually operated tooling.

While it's easy to argue that technological improvements supplant workers,
recognize that people have probably been complaining about this since the
industrial revolution. Recall the plight of the neighborhood ice delivery
man at the introduction of widespread artificial refrigeration. A good
politician would point out that workers are being freed to be more
productive elsewhere in the economy.

I suppose the broader point of the original post is that robots will soon be
capable of performing most non-creative labor. Whether it's a good thing is
probably irrelevent, as it's a technological inevitability. It's not like
some minor government investment is going to appreciably speed up
development of this tech. Robots are something that society will necessarily
come to grips with, one way or another.


...This is my first post. I'm kind of new, but I've lurked for a while.

On Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 7:36 PM, Bill Kearney <wkearney99 at hotmail.com>wrote:

> +1 Ken.
> -----Original Message-----
> So let's see if I've got this right: robots give us the ability to create
> lots more stuff to consume while, simultaneously, making it harder for us to
> earn the money necessary to purchase all that stuff (e.g. fewer jobs).  Is
> that about right?
> I'm, in large part, referring to the number one bullet: "Increase the
> productivity of workers in the manufacturing sector".
> In this context, "increase the productivity of workers" means only one
> thing: put a bunch of those workers out of work.  It does not increase the
> productivity of workers one bit. What it increases the productivity of is
> money, not people.
> And you think this is a Good Thing?  Good enough to make it some sort of
> priority?
> Could you explain?  In monosyllables, please, so even a dummy like me can
> comprehend.
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