Artificial intelligence: ‘Homo sapiens will be split into a handful of gods and the rest of us’

9. November 2015

Date: 09-11-2015
Source: The Guardian
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A new report suggests that the marriage of AI and robotics could replace so many jobs that the era of mass employment could come to an end

If you wanted relief from stories about tyre factories and steel plants closing, you could try relaxing with a new 300-page report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch which looks at the likely effects of a robot revolution.

http://www.bofaml.com/content/dam/boamlimages/documents/articles/D3_006/11511357.pdf

But you might not end up reassured. Though it promises robot carers for an ageing population, it also forecasts huge numbers of jobs being wiped out: up to 35% of all workers in the UK and 47% of those in the US, including white-collar jobs, seeing their livelihoods taken away by machines. Read the rest of this entry »


The real cost of an iPhone 5: life in the Foxconn factory

13. September 2012

Date: 13-09-2012
Source: The Guardian

An undercover reporter joined thousands on the production line battling to meet deadlines for iPhone 5

Any committed foodie will wax lyrical about the value of provenance – the integrity of the food, the care and craft behind creating it. How long, then, before this middle-class preoccupation with quality, traceability and plain goodness of the things we buy extends into technology?

We suspend our ethics when Apple launches a new phone. That unboxing is a virgin moment, as if the phone morphed inside the box from the tiny sparkling seed implanted by Jonathan Ive. Slide your finger through the  Designed In California seal and your phone takes its first breath…

It’s a supreme piece of packaging design, but the reality is far from an immaculate conception. Foxconn, the Chinese manufacturer of iPhone, has faced a steady stream of criticism and concerns from poor working conditions to suicides.

Now the Shanghai Evening Post has published a detailed diary of working life at the Foxconn production plant by undercover journalist Wang Yu. He lasted 10 days in the plant, seven of which were in training, and three on shifts “marking placement points on the back plate”. Foxconn recruited 20,000 new workers in March to meet its production targets for iPhone 5, and has to produce 57m in one year, Wang’s report stated.

No doubt much of the nuance has been lost in this translation by micgadget.com, (who bafflingly signed off from this piece by saying how excited they were about seeing the new iPhone 5) but Wang complains of having to work on 3,000 phones during a 10-hour shift, paid only 27 yuan ($4.27) for two hours’ overtime. Read the rest of this entry »


How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work

25. January 2012

Date: 22-01-2012

Source: The New York Times
 People flooded Foxconn Technology with résumés at a 2010 job fair in Henan Province, China.

When Barack Obama joined Silicon Valley’s top luminaries for dinner in California last February, each guest was asked to come with a question for the president.

But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke, President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.
The president’s question touched upon a central conviction at Apple. It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.

Apple has become one of the best-known, most admired and most imitated companies on earth, in part through an unrelenting mastery of global operations. Last year, it earned over $400,000 in profit per employee, more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil or Google.

However, what has vexed Mr. Obama as well as economists and policy makers is that Apple — and many of its high-technology peers — are not nearly as avid in creating American jobs as other famous companies were in their heydays. Read the rest of this entry »


Foxconn, HSBC Join Global Trend: Technology Reducing Labor Costs

7. August 2011

Date: 05-08-2011
Source: International Business Times

For corporations, people are becoming a redundancy. Reliance on technology to reduce costs and increase efficiency is a corporate trend that has contributed to high unemployment rates. An International Business Times article reports the trend is expanding into areas often blamed for jobs lost in the developed world: the world of finance and outsourcing to China. HSBC Bank and Foxconn, the maker of Apple’s iPad, are investing in robots to replace workers, by 30,000 and 1 million, respectively. “We used to talk about the great work-place shift that would occur one day because of technology as something for the future,” writes David Magee. “But it’s no longer the future.” Profitable companies are investing profits in technology rather than labor, and Magee adds, “Workers who don’t evolve, finding a niche among such technological advancement with proper training, will be left behind – standing in a very long unemployment line.” Education, understanding fast-changing technology, is increasingly essential for securing employment in the modern workplace. – YaleGlobal Read the rest of this entry »