Chinese factory replaces 90% of human workers with robots. Production rises by 250%, defects drop by 80%


According to Monetary Watch, the Changying Precision Technology Company focuses on the production of mobile phones and uses automated production lines. The factory used to be run by 650 employees, but now just 60 people get the entire job done, while robots take care of the rest. Luo Weiqiang, the general manager, says the number of required employees will drop to 20 at one point. Despite this reduction in staff, not only is the factory producing more equipment (a 250% increase), but it’s also ensuring better quality.

This is something I have wanted to post about for a while. The idea that robots might take over so many jobs–and they can do it in a lot more areas than manufacturing: a friend explained how where he worked a while ago had gotten software to do the analytical stuff he used to do, and the software analyses what the people do as well, so pretty soon the people will be replaced entirely by the software.

There are those who say that every previous “revolution” has increased everything and made things better.

I don’t agree that that will happen now. Before, when we switched from horses to cars, workers shiftedo producing something new. Now the computers are producing the new stuff as well as replacing people producing the old stuff.

Sure, there will still be a need for people to do maintenance and repairs, but in this case, almost 500 people lost their jobs; no way will they be able to all shift into maintaining and updating the robots!

I feel like we are going down a very bad road.

I don’t think the future is that bleak. We have had seismic shifts in production and labor many times and typically the jobs lost have been replaced with new ones in other fields. These fears have existed for a very long time. Aristotle even refers to them in Politics. You could probably go back to the waning of the hunter-gatherer days and find people worried about their future in a farming society where mass food production means their hunting skills aren’t needed.

Yes, but we are definitely approaching some kind of qualitative change in production. Never before have we approached a time when the eradication of human labour itself seemed so imminent. This is, of course, a good thing, and it’s bad that people act as if it’s wrong. Humans shouldn’t need to work to survive. The problem is capitalism, and more specifically wage labour. With the abolition of wage labour people won’t be required to work an 8 hour daily shift to survive, so it won’t matter if machines replace human labour.

The only way to make automation a force for the benefit of humanity is the abolition of capitalism.

Not necessarily. All that is needed is a way to decentralize the ownership of automation. If automation advances to the point of the average person being able to own his own little “factory” in the corner of his garage, he could still produce stuff to trade with his neighbor whose factory make different stuff. Or we could legislate a value that people have. We could have a law that says everyone must have a human spiritual advisor. Or hairdresser. That would employ people who do not have a factory in their garage.

This is going to be a HUGE issue in the not so distant future, (imo within 10-20 yrs), if not the main issue.

I read an article just last week about a trucking manufacturer testing self driving tractor trailers , and with self driving cars rolling out in 2018 from all the big automakers, this could put all truck drivers out of work soon, the technology is new, but if history is any indicator once its out, it will advance and grow very quickly.

self driving vehicles will also lead to many other industries and jobs going away for the human worker, accidents will likely become a rare thing, so body shops and car repair jobs are on the way out, plus all the industries that support those industries will no longer be needed.

I think ultimately the Govt will be forced to choose whether this new technology presents a real threat to the national security interest, right now, they classify and withhold any technology that will cause drastic problems or economic disasters (Invention Secrecy act of 1951)

Nikola Tesla has a few inventions that were kept from the public for this very reason, their release would have been disastrous for certain energy industries and/or caused them to collapse, I do not see how these technologies are any different…?

Well said.

I hope you are right.

and what process steps and timescale do you envisage?

I like the article, St Francis; thanks for posting it.

The crucial question is, when people are no longer needed, what will become of people? And if Power does become convinced that a large workforce isn’t necessary the way it used to be, then what steps, if any, will be taken to manage the size of a populace of useless eaters?

This is a pretty silly and Utopian solution. Even if production were to become fully automated, production would still have to be concentrated in large factories and complexes, and it’s hard to see how each person could possess one of them. Not to mention that the rules of capital accumulation dictate that capital falls into the hands of fewer and fewer people - there would still be no way for everyone to own capital. I don’t see how my machine in my shed could compete with large capitalists, in terms of production output or price. I also just can’t imagine how I could live off of crude commodity production that just involved trading with my neighbours, or how a modern, global capitalist economy could function like that. What you’re describing sounds more like production when petty artisans dominated urban production, pre-capitalism.

The abolition of private property, referring to capital, with the ownership of property taken from the individual and placed in the hands of society as a whole. From this we could then shift to the distribution of goods based on the maxim “from each according to ability, to each according to his need.” People would contribute whatever labour they want whenever they want, deciding among themselves what they should contribute. The distribution of goods would not be regulated, and people would be able to take whatever they want whenever they want. This means the abolition of wage labour, and with it money and the problems associated with automation.

Obviously the Bolshevik confiscation of property and Zimbabwe’s confiscation of white owned farms had massive problems. Productivity declined massively and much evil was committed.

How would your confiscation avoid those problems?

Hint: it won’t.

For capitalism to work, people need capital. If 90% of factory workers, or workers in general, lose their jobs, then that would seem to mean the existing economic system in the West and everywhere else would have to change.

Is ‘Bladerunner with food stamps’ America’s future?


We’ve been through this before. Actually this is just a particular change in the process of modern industrialization. Every perceived major shift has some people saying it is different this time and we won’t be able to adapt. I think we’ll adapt just fine.

Private property has been demonstrated to provide the most goods to the most people. Sure we can abolish it but it just makes us all a lot poorer. People would contribute the amount of labor they want to which would be little to none. People would consume the amount they want to which would be far in excess of their contribution. Such a society would end in extreme poverty, collapse, and a return to private property.

We’ll probably be in a world war before long…that’ll wipe out half the worlds population…the rest will be drafted in the armed forces…employed in the armaments industry or the agricultural industry for food production…there’ll be plenty of work rebuilding for those who are left…

The case of Zimbabwe is pretty irrelevant to what I’m proposing.

In the case of the USSR, productivity actually increased dramatically after the socialization of the economy, so I’m unsure of what you’re referring to. Possibly the collectivization of agriculture, which did decrease productivity in that sphere of the economy?

The socialized economy of the USSR was burdened by an unhealthy and undemocratic bureaucracy, one which existed to preserve its own privilege but also mediate the social antagonisms within Soviet society, antagonisms borne from the low levels of productivity in the Soviet economy, antagonisms between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” The USSR was isolated and had a poor economy, and as such could not produce enough to fulfill the needs of everyone, and the bureaucracy had to exist to regulate the distribution of these goods, normally in its own favour. A modern international socialist society could not suffer from these same problems, provided that socialism becomes an international phenomenon and does not find itself isolated. It’s important to remember that none of the Bolsheviks originally thought they could build socialism without it becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

This isn’t true at all. Our global productive capability is extremely good, but capitalism still fails to provide enough to everyone, while many others hoard wealth unnecessarily. Running an economy based on profit is not an incredibly effective way to distribute goods. If we were to take our current productive capabilities and distribute goods according to need rather than based on profit, people would certainly be better off materially. Capitalism tends to be terrible at effectively distributing goods, in fact, and you often hear of markets being flooded with an excess of goods. China is flooding steel into European markets, far more than actually needs to be produced.

But there is no reason anyone really needs to work as long as they do now. It is necessary to work an eight hour shift now as a result of wage labour - I need to earn enough money to keep myself alive. On top of this, under capitalism there is an incentive for the employer to employ as few people as possible. Rather than having one person perform eight hours of labour, you could have four people do two hours worth each.

I also don’t believe that people would not want to work. Voluntary labour can be very rewarding, even if work under capitalism isn’t. It isn’t fun to have to turn up to a workplace and work for eight hours or more with no input on how you work or what you do, with no ownership over what you produce, having your work dictated to you. However, if I were to only perform voluntary labour, working where I want with who I want, it would be much more enjoyable. On top of that, I’d have more freedom over what I do. Rather than being stuck in the same job for years, I could decide to do whatever I want whenever I want.

I think our society is productive enough for us not to have to regulate the distribution of goods or labour. Marx envisioned communism as a mode of production where “society regulates the general production”, and I definitely think that’s achievable.

It’s good to see that this has been happening throughout history.

What bothers me about this time is that before, we had a shift in what was made or how it was made. (And there were many whose lives were destroyed because of the new methods.)

Now the new technology is making the *producers. *

Looms at home were replaced by huge electric looms which allowed just a few people to make much more fabric. The new technology is making robots to replace the people.

The new technology is making robots to replace the people who do the work, working its way back to replacing even those involved in designing the new stuff.

in the US, we already have a huge percentage of people who have been knocked out of the working world. Many of them don’t have the resources to pick themselves back up and now we are eliminating the poor avenues they had left!

And what new things are we inventing that are made by people? What new thing, like cars, is replacing the old thing?

I really don’t know what you mean by capitalism being terrible at distributing goods. I think what you mean is you don’t like how it is currently distributed. But how it is currently distributed is largely due to the personal choices of individuals. For the most part people who want more goods can work harder, save and have more goods. That they chose not to is not the fault of capitalism.

If there is an excess of goods the price goes down which benefits the buyers. If the price reaches a point at which producers no longer make a profit then they stop producing as much. What you call a flood may be the natural fluctuation of markets.

Employers naturally want to employ fewer people for the simple reason that it costs money to hire and manage more people. Additionally you have various labor laws that make hiring people more costly. Some of the laws actually encourage hiring part time workers with no benefits. Usually when people attack capitalism they point this out. You’ve attacked it along a unique line, the exact opposite complaint.

The biggest problem with full on socialism/communism is that there is no real price system to properly allocate resources. Resources are allocated by dictate. The Soviets actually used Western capitalist prices when allocating resources.

The biggest difference for the individual in socialism/communism and capitalism is that under capitalism the individual can, by his own choices, acquire more goods if he wants to. Under socialism/communism politics alone determines what he gets. Oddly a common attack on capitalism is on the parts of the economy most controlled by the state but the solution is even more state involvement.

No, I mean goods are not distributed according to need. They’re distributed according to the profit they can make, and this is bad. Capitalism is incredibly inefficient at distributing goods to people that actually need them. Always remember that the number of empty homes far outnumbers the number of homeless people.

This really is nonsense that is hardly worth responding to. Lots of people are stuck in low-paying jobs they can’t escape from, and many people don’t have a route towards a higher standing of living.

Decreasing prices only ostensibly benefits the buyers. An increase in supply of goods beyond the purchasing power of the market does decrease prices, but this in turn decreases the profits of capital. As the capitalist is forced to decrease production, and thus lower work hours and fire people, this in turn decreases the purchasing power of the market as people lose their jobs, and so prices decrease even further, and the cycle goes on. This is the root of economic crisis under capitalism - the tendency for the supply of goods to increase beyond the purchasing power of the market. Capitalism is the only economic system where producing an abundance of goods can be a bad thing! Capitalism enforces artificial scarcity, and only the transition towards communism will be able to solve this insanity within the economy.

The root of the tendency for the supply of goods to increase beyond the purchasing power of the market comes from the fact that the worker under capitalism is not paid the full value of what they produce. A factory worker who produces $80 worth of goods in a day may only be paid $40 for that day of labour. There is a $40 difference between what they produce and what they can buy, and this means that there is always eventually a difference between the value of the goods in the market and the value of goods that can be bought back. This makes capitalism an incredibly unstable system, being thrown into economic crisis after crisis.

Exactly, which makes it harder to distribute labour equally. It is better to have two people doing as much work as possible than ten people doing a minimal amount of work each. Communism would solve this problem, because an individual’s access to material necessities would not depend on the amount of hours they work.

They are both problems. It is bad under capitalism when someone cannot get enough hours to work, because it means they are unable to effectively provide for themselves. However, looking at it more broadly, it is also absurd that everyone should have to work a certain amount of hours a day when it’s clear that we could organize labour in such a way that each individual person could do less work. However, capitalism makes this more rational form of organizing labour impossible.

A bureaucracy existed in the USSR that was greatly at odds with the masses. This bureaucracy was a fetter on the development of socialism, and should have been abolished through political revolution. When discussing the modern potential for socialism, I do not believe that the socialism antagonisms that gave rise to the bureaucracy - the lack of productivity in the USSR - would be an issue today, though socialism would need to become an international phenomenon.

The USSR used prices because productivity hadn’t yet developed to a point where goods could be distributed without any regulation at all. I don’t think prices would be necessary though - labour tokens could be used, “certificates” showing someone had performed labour.

As I said, for most people this isn’t the reality of life under capitalism. That also doesn’t really solve the anarchy of the capitalist market, and the tendency for capitalism to enter crises in which the necessities of life are often ripped away from people.

The state and capital are tightly interwoven. The state exists to mediate class antagonisms, and the state works for the interests of those who own the most capital. The only way to abolish the state is to abolish capitalism.

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