“I I think we are Elon Musk announced on March 1st. Coming from Tesla’s self-designed technology, it wasn’t so much a prediction as it was a promise. Mr. Musk’s car company is developing such an AI-powered auto, codenamed Optimus, for use at home and in the factory. His remarks, made during a Tesla investor day, were accompanied by a video of Optimus walking around apparently unassisted.
Considering that Mr. Musk hasn’t explained how — or when — you go from a promotional clip to an army of more than 8 billion bots, this might all be science fiction. But he got into a very real debate about the future of work. for certain forms of Amnesty InternationalEnabled automation is quickly becoming a science fact. Since november chatgptAnd Amnesty International Conversational, she dazzled users with her believable impression of a human interlocutor. Another “generative”. Amnesty Internationalss has conjured up human-like text, images and sounds by analyzing reams of data on the Internet. last month chief ibmthe computing giant, predicted that Amnesty International It will get rid of a lot of white-collar clerical work. On March 6, Microsoft announced the launch of a set of Amnesty International “co-pilots” for those in positions ranging from sales and marketing to supply chain management. Keen observers grumble about the looming end of the world.
Of course, concerns about the effects of technology displacing jobs are nothing new. In early 19th century Britain, Luddites burned factory machinery. The term “automation” first appeared as the adoption of wartime innovations in mechanization sparked a panic about mass unemployment in the 1950s (see Chart 1). In 1978 James Callaghan, Britain’s prime minister, welcomed the cutting-edge technology of his day – the microprocessor – with a government investigation into the potential for killing jobs. Ten years ago, Carl Frey and Michael Osborne of the University of Oxford published a massive paper, which has since been cited more than 5,000 times, claiming that 47% of tasks performed by American workers could be automated “over the next decade or two.” Now, even techno-optimist Musk is wondering what it might mean for robots to outnumber humans: “It’s not even clear what the economy is at that point.”
Although Messrs. Fry and Osborne still have a few years to prove them right, and Musk can be safely ignored for the time being, earlier concerns about job-killing technology have never materialized. On the contrary, labor markets across the rich world have historically been narrow—and become tighter structurally as societies age. There are currently two vacancies for every unemployed American, which is the highest rate on record. America’s manufacturing and hospitality sectors report labor shortages of 500,000 and 800,000, respectively (as measured by the gap between job opportunities and unemployed workers whose last job was in the respective sector).
The immediate problem facing advanced economies, then, is not too much automation but too little automation. And it was exacerbated by the fact that for large companies it was difficult to properly implement automation in practice. It probably doesn’t get any easier with the latest rant Amnesty Internationals.
Rage on the machine
Mechanical arms on the factory floor performing repetitive tasks like welding, drilling, or moving something have been around for decades. The use of robots has historically focused on the automotive industry, where machines fit heavy parts and large batches with limited versatility. The electronics industry, with its need for precise but repeatable movements, was an early adopter.
Recently, the list of industries embracing robots has been expanding, notes Jeff Bornstein, president of the Association for Advanced Automation, a US industry group. Advances in computer vision have made robots more dexterous, notes Sami Attia, who runs the robotics business at ABB, a Swiss industrial company. Lightweight “collaborative robots” now work alongside humans rather than in cages, and autonomous vehicles move things from place to place in factories and warehouses.
At the same time, robot prices have plummeted. The average price of an industrial robot has fallen from $69,000 in 2005 to $27,000 in 2017, according to asset manager Ark Invest. last December ABB He opened a huge 67,000 square meter factory in Shanghai where robots make other robots. Installation costs have also come down with newer “no-code” systems that require no programming experience, notes Suzanne Piller, general secretary of the International Federation for Robotics (IRF).IFR), another industrial group.
As a result of improved technology and lower prices, the global stock of industrial robots has grown from 1 million in 2011 to nearly 3.5 million in 2021 (see Chart 2). Sales at Fanuc, the large Japanese robot maker, rose 17% in the most recent quarter, year over year. Sales of Keyence, a Japanese company that serves as an automation consultant for global factories, rose 24%. Although stock prices for robot makers have fallen from the frothy peaks of 2021, when bosses sought replacements for a human workforce crippled by COVID-19, stock prices for robot makers have remained a fifth higher than they were before the pandemic (see Chart 3).
With all this growth, absolute levels of adoption remain low, especially in the West. According to the IFREven South Korean companies, the world’s most eager to adopt robots, hire ten manufacturing workers for every industrial robot — far from Musk’s vision. In America, China, Europe and Japan the figure is 25-40 to one. The amount of $ 25 billion, according to consultants at BCGIn 2020, global spending on industrial robots was less than 1% of global capital spending (excluding the energy and mining sectors). People spent more on sex toys.
The long life of the industrial cluster limits the speed at which older, smarter machines can be replaced by new, smarter ones, notes Rainer Brehm, who runs the factory automation unit at German industrial giant Siemens. Most of the menial jobs in advanced economies these days are anyway in service industries, where tasks are difficult to automate (see Chart 4). The human body, with its joints and digits, is a marvel of diversity with 244 levels of motion. Kim Povlsen, president of Universal Robots, the manufacturer, notes that a typical robot has six “degrees of freedom.”
Likewise, office work automation has stalled for reasons similar to legacy systems and institutional inertia. In theory, digitization should make it possible to remove most human intervention from routine tasks such as ordering inventory, paying suppliers or completing accounts. In practice, most companies that grew up before the digital age use a tangle of outdated and incompatible systems, notes Cathy Tornbohm of the research firm Gartner. instead of bombing He. She Consultants to come in and loosen the clumps, many companies prefer to outsource menial office work to lower cost countries like India or the Philippines. IDCanother research firm, The market for software that automates unrewarding office boredom puts at $20 billion a year, even less than what is spent on bots of the physical kind.
Over time, more innovation will likely remove some of those hurdles. For bodily robots, this is underway in machine-crazy South Korea. Doosan Robotics, one of the country’s largest robot makers, has opened its software to third-party developers to create pre-programmed applications for its robots. These are now used for everything from making coffee to laying floors on construction sites. Robert Chicken uses robotic arms to operate deep fryers in fast food restaurants. To keep the franchisors upfront investment, the company has rented the robots to them for about $900 a month, which is much less than the cost of a human operator. Naver, the South Korean internet giant, has a unit developing robot vehicles that can navigate cluttered environments with complex layouts: An army of these robots is already moving around delivering lunch boxes and packages to its workers.
Automating office processes has also become more sophisticated. UiPath, a leader in automating mindless tasks like copying and pasting information, offers other tools for extracting data from paperwork using computer vision or business process planning by monitoring what workers do on their computers. Rob Enslin, UiPath AssistantCEOThe company says it now serves 10,000 customers. Power Automate, a tool from Microsoft that allows regular riders to automate tasks, such as expenses or travel approvals, now has 7 million monthly active users, says Charles LaManna, who is responsible for several of the software giant’s automation products.
Companies are now beginning to embrace generation Amnesty International, also. But as with robotics and process automation, the use of new technology will not happen overnight. Allen & Overy, a law firm, in February launched a virtual paralegal with ChatgptSimilar to powers, he requires his attorney to check everything the robot spits up. Cneta tech news site, began in November by quietly publishing 73 articles written by a bot, first to the consternation and then the delight of journalists, after the articles turned out to be riddled with errors.
right on time Amnesty International The technology that powers chatbots could be a boon for automation, Lamanna believes. It’s one thing to go from science fiction to science fact. Going from there to economic truth is quite another. ■
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