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The March of Automation August 2, 2015

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Technology, Transhumanism.
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It’s an old story, going back to the start of the so-called industrial revolution. However, now the prospect of near-complete automation is beginning to seem more credible. This piece recounts how a factory in Dongguan City in China has recently replaced 90% of its workers with robots and seen 162.5% increase in production with a considerably lower defect rate. Various other Chinese factories plan to follow suit.

In an economy that ran for the common good – and perhaps in a genuinely free market – this sort of thing would be awesome. More efficient production could in theory make us all better off. In actually existing practice it’s more complicated. Workers lose jobs and primarily the bosses on the top benefit. As the linked article mentions, the increasing automation of Chinese factories comes at the same time as the Made in China 2025 initiative, which delightfully includes a focus on strengthening intellectual property rights.

Vastly complex technological systems of production and distribution sustain the current world economy. This article provides a fascinating look at the shipping industry. Here as with Chinese factories we see movement toward replace human labor with its robotic equivalent. Author Tim Maughan notes that “ports like Rotterdam in the Netherlands have already moved to fully automated systems, with driverless trucks and robotic cranes.”

Chinese factories, Danish-run shipping lines, and so on supply the basic necessities/luxuries that so many of us rely on on a daily basis for our comfort and survival. At the same time, these systems involve incredible exploitation and suffering. Automation seems like an ideal solution to drudgery but I doubt it will such as such by itself. It’s no answer to the questions of contamination, displacement, and distribution that continually haunt the modern economy.

The solution, of course, is revolution, but not a revolution simply destroys the industrial economy – at least not without putting up something superior in its place. When reading Maughan’s piece, disrupting supply lines seems awfully easy. It’s almost amazing the folks who want to accelerate the supposedly inevitable collapse of civilization haven’t had more successful.

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