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America May Miss Out On the Next Industrial Revolution (theverge.com) 297

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Robots are inevitably going to automate millions of jobs in the U.S. and around the world, but there's an even more complex scenario on the horizon, said roboticist Matt Rendall. In a talk Tuesday at SXSW, Rendall painted a picture of the future of robotic job displacement that focused less on automation and more on the realistic ways in which the robotics industry will reshape global manufacturing. The takeaway was that America, which has outsourced much of its manufacturing and lacks serious investment in industrial robotics, may miss out on the world's next radical shift in how goods are produced. That's because the robot makers -- as in, the robots that make the robots -- could play a key role in determining how automation expands across the globe. As the CEO of manufacturing robotics company Otto Motors, Rendall focuses on building fleets of warehouse bots that could eventually replace the many fulfillment workers who are hired by companies like Amazon. "The robots are coming," Rendall said. "After the Great Recession, there was a fundamental change in people's interest in automation. People started feeling the pain of high-cost labor and there's an appetite for automation that we haven't seen before." While Rendall described himself as one of the optimists, who believes automation will, in the long-term, improve society and help humans live better lives, he said there are changes afoot in the global manufacturing scene that could leave American industries in the dust. "China is tracking to be the No. 1 user in robots used in industrial manufacturing," he said, adding that the country is driving "an overwhelming amount" of growth. The difference, he added, is how China is responding to automation, which is by embracing it instead of shying away from it. This is in stark contrast to industrial advances of the previous century, like Ford's assembly line, that helped transform American industries into the most powerful on the planet.
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America May Miss Out On the Next Industrial Revolution

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  • Bad assumption (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chromaexcursion ( 2047080 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2017 @11:47PM (#54048705)
    He who innovates/invents first has little effect on 5 years later. If that long.
    Look at Yahoo. The first, and for some time the best internet search engine. Now dust.

    Economists, and the like, keep using 20th century (some even 19th century) models. Intellectuals cling to the past as badly as others. And the fools who like what they say pay them. Sadly the factory workers have no such benefactors.
    • by clovis ( 4684 )

      He who innovates/invents first has little effect on 5 years later. If that long.

      Look at Yahoo. The first, and for some time the best internet search engine. Now dust.

      Economists, and the like, keep using 20th century (some even 19th century) models. Intellectuals cling to the past as badly as others. And the fools who like what they say pay them. Sadly the factory workers have no such benefactors.

      Yahoo first? I would have said Altavisa off the top of my head. Too lazy to check further, though.

      • shoulda checked.
        I don't know if Altavista was even second. Thought they did start within a year of each other. And, they're long gone.
        Before Yahoo there was gopher. In the early days of the web it still worked well, but you had to be a geek to use it.

        My first browser was Mosaic. It was the first. Long gone.
      • Altavista was the precursor to Google, a search engine for the Web.
        Yahoo! was unique in being a homepage for the web - a collector of news and oddities that you could start your day on, and by the way had a search function that was never as good as Altavista or Google.

        • by Rozzin ( 9910 )

          Altavista was the precursor to Google, a search engine for the Web.
          Yahoo! was unique in being a homepage for the web - a collector of news and oddities that you could start your day on, and by the way had a search function that was never as good as Altavista or Google.

          ISTR that when Yahoo! added a search form, that form actually called out to Altavista. There were a few iterations using different search engines before they had their own, and I'm not entirely sure right now whether Altavista was the first or

      • by tsa ( 15680 )

        Webcrawler.

      • by pr0t0 ( 216378 )

        I think the first www search engine was Excite. There were some non-www search engines before that though.

    • by beckett ( 27524 )
      off the top of my head, archie, veronica, jughead, excite, altavista, and primitive web search all predated Yahoo. also now dust.
    • First mover [wikipedia.org] advantages and disadvantages.
    • Look at Yahoo. The first, and for some time the best internet search engine. Now dust.

      Uh no. Yahoo is not and never has been a search engine. They did eventually make the front page an interface to someone else's search engine instead of an interface to their directory, and in the process eliminated their entire reason for existence. When they were a curated directory, there was some reason to use their site. When they just became a bunch of poorly implemented web fora and a Bing search field, there was no longer any reason to go there unless you were using one of their "communities". For ex

    • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

      Economists, and the like, keep using 20th century (some even 19th century) models. Intellectuals cling to the past as badly as others.

      That's like saying physicists cling to outdated 19th century ideals of Newtonian physics. The field of economics has changed massively since the 1800's, with the introduction of game theory, econometrics, etc... The reason you start with Smith, Malthus and Hume is they laid the foundations of modern economic theory, the same way Newton laid out the foundations of modern physics.

    • Yahoo wasn't even close to the first search engine, nor were they ever the best. In fact, they've released hundreds of products in the time they have existed, none of which have been the best at what they did.
  • by clovis ( 4684 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2017 @11:48PM (#54048707)

    If American robots had their own economy it'd be bigger than Switzerland

    https://hardware.slashdot.org/... [slashdot.org]

    • If American robots had their own economy it'd be bigger than Switzerland

      It wouldn't be much of an "economy" since robots don't spend money.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday March 15, 2017 @11:58PM (#54048747)
    we'll just skip the part where the wealth generated gets equitably and humanely distributed. Was at a doctor's office in a nice part of town today and overheard somebody pining for the recession when they didn't have to pay people so much money...
    • I personally own more computing power than the entire DoD possessed thirty short years ago.
      • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @04:35AM (#54049391)

        And when Lord Dampnut ends the Meals on Wheels (created by Republican Eisenhower by the way) and starves your granny to death - I'm sure that will make you feel so much better.

        No, I'm not exagerating, The Orange Fuhrer's latest budget proposal includes complete defunding of both meals on wheels and food for peace.

        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          For more information [reason.com] on just how little these programs are funded at the federal level:

          But does Meals on Wheels rely on government grants to do its good work? There are hundreds of Meals on Wheels organizations around the country, so it's hard to generalize, but overwhelmingly, the groups get the majority of revenue from charitable giving, not government funds. In 2015, for instance, the national Meals on Wheels reported that government grants accounted for just 3 percent of its annual revenues of $7.5 million. Meals on Wheels for San Diego County in California says that government grants made up just 1.5 percent ($68,534) of its revenues of $4.4 million. Not all branches are so independent. Atlanta's group gets 48 percent of its revenue from government grants (none of the annual reports I looked at broke down exactly what level of government or specific program supplied the money). Many of the annual reports don't even break down revenues by source (see here) and others aren't even posted online.

          The source article has links to the numbers mentioned.

          Once again, we see a Trump Derangement Syndrome sufferer crying wolf. Could you at least do that when he does things wrong? It dilutes the message.

          And the federal government shouldn't be funding charities unless it's a direct exchange of money for direct services to the government like any other would-be private contractor. The federal budget isn't an endless str

    • Industrial jobs are for a large part gone. Never coming back.
      There are still some things you need human labor to do, but they are going.
      There are HUGE problems coming.

      Almost no one in the US understands why the French Revolution happened.
      Won't be pretty.

      born and raised in the US, just a better student of history.
  • The big news is that everybody may miss out on the next industrial revolution.

  • We are already robots. We don't need other robots. Didn't you read the memo? You have to wake up by 6, get coffee by 8, push buttons until 5 and hibernate by midnight.

    Everything else is either a bug or a feature, including this comment which is a bug. Maybe someone hacked my coffee... I'll get the reset button.

    • by Ziest ( 143204 )

      You have a poor understanding of what a robot looks like. Robots don't sleep so no need to wake. They don't drink coffee, take bathroom or lunch breaks. They don't go home. They don't get tired and aside from occasional downtime for maintenance they out perform humans in almost every manual task. Because of capitalism, maximize profits and minimize costs, most manual processes will be done by robots in the near future. It's inevitable.

      • They don't get "sick" because they went out till dawn, their parents may die, but they don't give a shit. They don't strike for more pay or because their boss is a dick. They don't get maternity leave or compassionate leave. They don't get weekends or public holidays off. You can work them till they break and no one (other than perhaps your supervisor) will give a shit. Damn straight it's inevitable. My sister works for a LARGE chain store (in the I.T. department) and they are busy with a trial of aut
        • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Interesting)

          by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @04:44AM (#54049407)

          You know what else they don't do ? Buy shit.

          Too much automation and the savings in labour cost is outweighed by the losses in demand (demand can only exist as long as enough people are earning enough money that some of the ones who want your product can also afford it).

          Now I am not panicking much. Automation is a good thing. It can create a much better society - but one thing is for certain: that society CANNOT be capitalist. A capitalist society cannot exist unless there are lots of viable means for people to earn a living - you can't have any business without customers.

          So what kind of options are available ? Forget the history of the luddites, we've never seen automation on the scale that's now possible before and nothing in human history is any guide. But there are two historical events that are - they just aren't human history. The first is when cars displaced horses. Today there is less than 1% the horse population there was 150 years ago. The rest became glue.
          The second is dogs. Until the 19th century every dog on earth had a job. There were even dogs in restaurants running on a treadmill to keep the spit turning. Today ? The only dogs that have a job now are bloodhounds and seeing-eye dogs. Yet there's still a dog in almost every home. We've kept them around, in a life that's basically a 20-year holiday, while raising their standard of living and their life-expectancy - and without expecting anything in return. We did it, just because we like their company.

          The question before humanity is: are we going to treat each other like dogs or horses ?

          • Treat them like Horses, I hate humans, we suck.
            And there are too goddamn many of us anyways.
            • Yeah... but I don't think humans make very good glue.

              Candles and soap though.. we should be great at making those, the amount of fat we carry around... we're actually the only primate that has a layer of fat year-round (that's more commonly found in marine animals who need it for warmth).

  • That America might not exist in the next industrial Revolution. Even odds that it will collapse in the same manner as 1989 USSR. Popcorn and Tequila party a-brewing.
    • Better hope not, because if America goes down you can be sure it'll take down the rest of the world with it. Not necessarily talking nuclear hellfire here, but you can rest assured that the collapse of one of the lynchpins of the ballyhooed "interconnected global economy" will drag everyone else down with it.

      • by tsa ( 15680 )

        All the big American companies already have their headquarters in Europe or Bermuda and the like so I think we can cope.

        • By "headquarters", do you perhaps mean where the corporate charter was filed and where the registered agent lives? Or do you mean where all of the engineers are?

          • By "headquarters", do you perhaps mean where the corporate charter was filed and where the registered agent lives?

            That might indeed often be Europe.

            Or do you mean where all of the engineers are?

            And that's India. ;)

      • We'll survive the fall of America (assuming it's NOT in the form of nuclear hellfire anyway) - just like we survived the fall of every other great empire to ever exist. We survived the fall of the Greek empire, the Roman Empire, the Mongol Empire, both French Empires, the Empire of Great Britain...

        That last one was at LEAST as much a cornerstone of the interconnected global economy as America was. They were having their own version of the current America/China competition/interdependence more than a century

        • > That empire fell - and another took it's place. So it shall be when America's empire finally falls - as all empires must fall sooner or later.

          It's Canada's turn, bitches! Toques, Double-Doubles, poutine, and socialized medicine for all, eh?

    • and China robo factory may make acid rain to in acid downpours

      • and China robo factory may make acid rain to in acid downpours

        Look for when the Yuan replaces the dollar as the international currency. That'll be the sign that "shit's gonna get real."

        Now as much as I dislike their form of government, I'm pretty certain China will clean up their act pretty well. Even a dictatorship won't last if the majority of people aren't being placated.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      We got along way as economically we are nowhere close to where the USSR was in the final days when people lined up for hours for a loaf of bread and milk or waited 10 years for a car.

      However, I do imagine if a democrat gets elected next some nut right wingers will use guns and try to start a civil war. Not all republicans but 10% of the population for sure in my opinion as I read 1/3 of Republicans really do believe Obama was a muslim born in Kenya as fact!

      Not an insult to conservative or Republican readers

      • Maybe they will, but thanks to the privatization of the prison system and militarization of the police they'll get rounded up in short order. Lots of money to be made off those guys.
  • and china is going to face lot's of people out of work + Apple to start India manufacturing due to rules to curb the activities of foreign companies.

    So the USA may have to add import taxes. Also having local manufacturing cut's down on shipping costs and customs issues.

    • America has outsourced manufacture to China, reaping the benefits of a great trade advantage: with under 5% unemployment, we have access to cheap goods and have a smaller export economy than import economy. We go out to people who make crap cheap, get that crap from them, and sell them relatively little.

      When robot automation--the tag we're giving to the next visible step in technical progress--takes over manufactories, one of three things will happen.

      If that automation comes at a pace the economy can

  • People started feeling the pain of high-cost labor

    Which "people" were feeling the pain of high-cost labor? Certainly not the high-cost labor.

    I guess there won't be any pain when the robots take all those peoples' jobs.

    It's funny how some of the same people who decry immigration and H1-B visas think their lives will be made better when robots take their jobs.

    • Easy it only counts if their own job is on the line. I got mine so screw you ... oh wait me? Baaahh

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      It's funny how some of the same people who decry immigration and H1-B visas think their lives will be made better when robots take their jobs.

      No mention of the fact that automation creates jobs too? My view on this is that a lot of people are conflating labor competition with the developing world (which has as a result held down labor pricing power for past 40 years or so in the US) as a phase change in how automation interacts with human labor, while ignoring that automation is still creating jobs, just as it has for the past few centuries.

      Just because jobs aren't being created as rapidly as one would like in the developed world, doesn't mean

  • I briefly read that as.

    Miss America May Be Out Of the Next Industrial Revolution

    But she worked so hard to win! ;)

    I may have some mild dyslexia. o_o;

  • We can just hide behind Trump's Wall and extort money from the rest of the world by using all the weapons we're going to buy.
  • It's the next Industrial Revolution. And we're the world leader!

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @02:02AM (#54049093) Journal
    America is the world's reserve currency. There is no alternative in sight. Euro is breaking apart. No body trusts China. Japan and Korea are not shaping up to be alternatives.

    As long as the situation continues, no matter what happens in these fields America will not be shaken. The largest economy, largest consumer base, most trusted currency.

    Playing fast and loose with debt ceiling, threatening to default on t-bill payments etc are graver threats to America. Such instability and uncertainty at the top might force others to swallow the differences and form an alternative or at least a competing reserve currency. China would really love it if it could import its raw materials for in yuan. It is investing so much in Africa and Australia trying to lock up raw material supplies in non dollar denominated trade.

    But it is not coming anytime soon.

    • Euro is breaking apart.

      Is it? The UK isn't in the Euro, and out currency tanked relative to it when we decided to lock and load the largest footgun we could get our hands on.

      • Let the last 70 years do not fool you. Natural state of Europe is war. You had a 100 year which was actually lasted over 100 years. Everyone fought everyone else all the time. Brexit is just the beginning.
        • Unlikely though that the rest of Europe is as stupid as the Brits. If they are, yes, you're right... without the EU there will likely be wars all over Europe again within a few decades or a century. However, it's way more likely that the 27 member state EU will do fine without the UK and new nations will join the EU, and that in 20 years from now the UK will become a member again and probably get even better conditions than they had before.

          But even without the EU, wars are getting less and less likely, be

    • by myrdos2 ( 989497 )

      America is the world's reserve currency.

      Amen. I've got 5 moderately-sized rocks from the Grand Canyon, some pumice from Haleakala and a Ford Escort transmission in my basement. When they apocalypse comes, I'm going to be sitting pretty.

  • High-cost labor? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AtariEric ( 571910 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @05:23AM (#54049517)
    FTA:

    People started feeling the pain of high-cost labor

    "High-cost labor" is corporate-speak for people who want to eat. Heaven forbid they get enough money to feed themselves.
    • The corporations fight with each other to reduce the "labor" cost, at the same time they seem to be believe there will be people with money in their pockets to consume the goods and services hawked by them after all the corporations cutting the labor cost relentlessly.
  • It means when the robot uprising comes, those countries with the greatest robot population will be taken over, while we in the USA will escape relatively unharmed. We will be the headquarters for the resistance, which slowly takes the world back. Robot overlords indeed...
  • CEO Claims that His Industry is the Most Important for the Future. Invest now in his company so you won't get left behind. More news at 11.
  • "automation will, in the long-term, improve society and help humans live better lives"

    "When one door closes, another one opens". If you die in the long hallway between the doors, that's YOUR problem.

    Enjoy the decline!
    • "automation will, in the long-term, improve society and help humans live better lives"

      "When one door closes, another one opens". If you die in the long hallway between the doors, that's YOUR problem.

      Enjoy the decline!

      Yes, and do you realize how much those bodies in the hallway will stink up the place?

  • The robots have been coming all my life. Are they here yet?
  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @11:24AM (#54051093)

    As a small business manufacturing a fairly niche product, in the past few months I've noticed that vendors are less willing to to small production runs of custom parts. Last week I had a CNC milling vendor tell me, and I quote, "Well, you haven't done any business with us in a while so we're unable to work with you." This week, I had a pallet company tell me that they could no longer make 25 custom pallets for me and are only taking minimum quantities of 200. Another vendor, who I always thought was quite busy, suddenly closed their doors. Other vendors are pushing out their schedules because they're getting more work.

    As for making things in China, they have gotten to the point with quality and mass production that they are no longer willing to take on small jobs. One company that made custom cast & milled aluminum wheel hubs used to do short runs of 40 pieces but they have gotten contracts from major auto companies and are no longer doing the piddly stuff.

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