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posted by martyb on Wednesday January 19, @07:49PM   Printer-friendly
from the it-has-begun dept.

Now You Can Rent a Robot Worker:

Polar Manufacturing has been making ​metal ​hinges, locks, and brackets ​in south Chicago for more than 100 years. Some of the company's metal presses—hulking great machines that loom over a worker—date from the 1950s. Last year, to meet rising demand amid a shortage of workers, Polar hired its first robot employee.

The robot arm performs a simple, repetitive job: lifting a piece of metal into a press, which then bends the metal into a new shape. And like a person, the robot worker gets paid for the hours it works.

​Jose Figueroa​, who manages Polar's production line, says the robot, which is leased from a company called Formic, costs the equivalent of $8 per hour, compared with a minimum wage of $15 per hour for a human employee. Deploying the robot allowed a human worker to do different work, increasing output, Figueroa says.

"Smaller companies sometimes suffer because they can't spend the capital to invest in new technology," Figueroa says. "We're just struggling to get by with the minimum wage increase."


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  • (Score: 2) by DrkShadow on Wednesday January 19, @10:42PM (4 children)

    by DrkShadow (1404) on Wednesday January 19, @10:42PM (#1213975)

    I mean, yes but no.

    The cotton gin allowed slavery to end. (All the slaves were layed off.)

    There are cases where people can be moved to different tasks, but if you have a very old/strictly defined business, then maybe you have a very well-defined process that doesn't change much that is ripe for automation. If the owners aren't trying to grow the company, just do that one thing and do it well, then you perhaps don't have a need for those automated out of a job.

    It's a cart-before-the-horse sort of thing. We're telling people that if they want to eat, they have to work. Then we're using robots to automate their work. And their next job? McDonalds switches to robot fry-flippers. And on it goes. We should automate food production. When we have that, it won't matter if we automate people out of a job: we don't need to exchange human labor for food. (Robots are producing the food, right?) Unfortunately, the thing that we're automating first isn't food production, and that's leading to a hurt-class of people, and people who say that if they have to work (farm) then others shouldn't get their work for free. (But give everyone a free TV, because automated production lines.)

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  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, @11:51PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 19, @11:51PM (#1213995)

    This is kind of the opposite of true. The cotton gin (of the American style) was invented in the 18th century and slave based cotton agriculture was developed around it. Slavery existed previously, of course, but the slaves were previously used for tobacco or sugar. It took the cotton gin to make even slave based cotton agriculture competitive with cotton from India, which had a different kind of fiber that was easier to process. It turns out that slavery isn't even that much of an economic benefit to anyone except the slave owner.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @01:55AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @01:55AM (#1214025)

      Only a benefit to the slaveowner? It allowed cotton to become a dominant part of the economy. So much was produced so cheaply that it was exported to the North and to Britain's vast textile mills which wove cloth for export to the rest of the world. The North benefitted tremendously as the textile mills fed by cheap domestic (Southern) cotton drove industrialization.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @12:45AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, @12:45AM (#1214404)

        Yes. The same production could have been achieved with paid labor, as evidenced by the fact that that's exactly what happened after the Civil War. Even though the British had switched to Egyptian cotton during the war due to unavailability of American cotton, they switched back when they could. By forcing African Americans into menial labor, slavery destroyed whatever other things they could have otherwise done (inventions, leadership, entrepreneurship, whatever), which harmed, not helped, the economy.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @02:01AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, @02:01AM (#1214026)

      Sugar was never really a crop in America. The Caribbean and Brazil were where that crop was grown. Working on a sugar plantation had a much, much higher fatality rate than working in America picking cotton.