Jump to content
House Price Crash Forum
wonderpup

China Is Building An Army Of Worker Robots

Recommended Posts

So a regime so sensitive to the possibility of widespread social unrest that it blocks free access to the web for it's own citizens is embarking on a project to automate millions of jobs?

On March 16, officials approved the latest Five Year Plan for China’s economy, which is reported to include an initiative that will make billions of yuan available for manufacturers to upgrade to technologies including advanced machinery and robots. The government also plans to create dozens of innovation centers across the country to showcase advanced manufacturing technologies. Some regional authorities in China have been especially bold in their own efforts. Last year the government of Guangdong, a province that contains many large manufacturing operations, promised to spend $150 billion equipping factories with industrial robots and creating two new centers dedicated to advanced automation.

The goal is to overtake Germany, Japan, and the United States in terms of manufacturing sophistication by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. To make that happen, the government needs Chinese manufacturers to adopt robots by the millions. It also wants Chinese companies to start producing more of these robots.

That is just the beginning.

The transition from human to robot workers may upend Chinese society. Some displaced factory workers could find employment in the service sector, but not all of the 100 million now employed in factories will find such jobs a good match. So a sudden shift toward robots and automation could cause economic hardship and social unrest. “You can make the argument that robotic technology is the way to save manufacturing in China,” says Yasheng Huang, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. “But China also has a huge labor force. What are you going to do with them?”

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-04-26/china-building-army-worker-robots

You can see their problem- if they don't automate they will lose market share to those who do, so they have no real choice from a free market perspective. But if they do automate creating mass unemployment they will have failed from a communist party perspective because the deal was the party stays in power as long as prosperity for the massses was part of that deal.

The other blowback are the deflationary implications of a more automated China- presumably even cheaper stuff in even greater quantities- good news for the consumer, less good news for anyone whose income depends on competing with Chinese manufacturers.

I had always thought of technological progress as a race to the top, which is true on a technical level- what's not to like about newer better tech? But it's also a race to the bottom in terms of labour's share of income, which has been decling now for about 20 years.

China's dilemma between the need to keep it's people gainfully employed and the need to maximize efficiency is thrown into sharp relief due to it's recent history as a low wage manufacturer nation, but the same dillemma faces less labour intensive economies as technology extends it's reach up the employment food chain.

It's the paradox of abundance- as technology facilitates the production of goods and services at an ever more efficient and cost effective rate, the same technology eliminates the incomes of those who might have been expected to purchase these goods and services.

I find myself engaging in odd speculations like; what might it mean if in the future the market value of a person's labour permanently fell below that of the market value of the raw materials of which they are composed? In a purely market driven society this should lead to a thriving market in body parts or the trading of human beings as literal commodites for such purposes as fertilizer or the extraction of certain useful chemicals from their cadavers.

Of course we have rules against this sort of thing on the basis that humans have other 'types' of value other than the purely commercial, but there are historical instances where these rules have been abolished- at least for certain groups seen as undeserving of full human status.

It's kind of ironic that in a world of technological abundance the most abundant thing of all might be the unused potential of millions of human beings who will have been made too expenive to employ relative to cheaper technological replacements.

There is something bizzare in the fact that while millions of the most sophisticated brains that evolution has ever produced lay idle on unemployment lines across the globe those same societies invest billions in trying to create crude simplistic simulacrums of this wasted resource. For example there are currently about 16 million people unemployed in the European Union- that is 16 million brains of vast sophistication doing nothing productive at all because we have no use for them.

At the same time we learn that the EU is investing over a billion dollars in an attempt to create an artificial version of these same brains;

European Researchers Win $1.3 Billion To Simulate The Human Brain

The goal is to build computers that can learn new tasks the way a human does, without software upgrades.

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-02/how-simulate-human-brain-one-neuron-time-13-billion

Ok- a billion dollars is not that great a sum in the grand scheme of things but from a certain point of view it is really quite strange to see a species quite so keen to manufacture it's own redundancy in this way. After all we apparantly don't have enough use for the millions of unemployed brains we have right now- so why spend all this money to create inferior duplicates of those redundant brains?

The answer- of course- is economics. Unlike the millions of unemployed human brains these new artificial brains would have one major advantage- they would be slaves. And not just slaves but perfect slaves in that they would have no needs or wants of any kind, no bodies to feed nor any aspirations to fulfill- in short the perfect employee- labour as capital investment in the form of a machine that 'thinks'.

But it is kind of funny that in a situation where there are 16 million brains of unmatchable complexity sitting idle for lack of commercial application the powers that be see more value in attempting to add yet more redundant capacity in the form of inferior artificial copies than they see in using the same money to train and enhance the value of the brain power they already have.

The problem with the economic argument in favour of developing artificial brains is that it fails even in it's own terms because the value of slaves is their ability to produce an economic value that can be purchased by those who are not slaves- but to the degree that your slaves replace the labour of the non slaves the market for the things your slaves produce declines. So the economic value of artficial intelligence is decribed by an inverse relationship to it's utility- the smarter your artificial brains become the less economic value they will tend to create because their very success in replacing non slave labour will eliminate the incomes upon which their economic value is dependant.

Edited by wonderpup

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice idea but I can't see Robots putting up with rent rises YoY like us humans do.

The BTLers will be campaigning to stop the Robot Tax soon enough

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fab read and food for thought.

Two opposing movie quotes sum up my thoughts:

"It's within your nature to destroy yourselves" T101

"The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in or lives" Jean Luc Picard.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Should work - cements their position as manufacturer to the world, meanwhile all the excess income will pay for growing service sector.

As long as they don't keep shitting themselves everytime their ponzi housing / other markets keep blowing up otherwise they will shoot all their gooses with the same financial disease as the west. The Chinese seem to be compulsive gamblers in the extreme so will rapaciously go for any leverage avaailable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe the benefits of robotisation will be seen in sensible wealth redistribution - not to hold one's breath. More likely the cronies will find somewhere offshore to store it all tax free - and/or it'll end up in UK property.

Edited by billybong

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's another wonder pup thread on automation!

The Chinese could do OK in the long term. A planned economy/society is one that could perhaps find it easier to transition to a workless one - providing the cash is still there.

They are clearly keen on being manufacturers to the world. But robots/automation effectively mean there's no point outsourcing overseas anymore. They might be better focussing on growing their own internal economy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Unlike the millions of unemployed human brains these new artificial brains would have one major advantage- they would be slaves. And not just slaves but perfect slaves in that they would have no needs or wants of any kind,

You have no basis on which to make that claim. For all we know they might be harder to coerce into working than humans. At least humans have a fairly consistent set of basic evolutionary programmed needs that can exploited, we have no idea what might (or might not) motivate a synthetic intelligence.

Edited by goldbug9999

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find myself engaging in odd speculations like; what might it mean if in the future the market value of a person's labour permanently fell below that of the market value of the raw materials of which they are composed? In a purely market driven society this should lead to a thriving market in body parts or the trading of human beings as literal commodites for such purposes as fertilizer or the extraction of certain useful chemicals from their cadavers.

We are at the end of an era that started with the Industrial Revolution right here in Britain.

We have two choices now:

1) a long winter of stagnation, zero sum economics and a constant (and inevitably losing) battle against climate change and entropy. It might seem like a romantic choice for those of the tree-hugger persuasion, but they're wrong. This road leads perhaps to the scenario you suggest above.

2) Start the equally long journey from our current status as a Khardashev Type I civilisation to a Khardashev Type II civilisation. This cannot possibly be accomplished without either robots, or biogenetic engineering that is currently way beyond us. Probably both are required, along with a liberal dash of practical AI and god knows what kind of social changes.

Seems to me like we have no choice but to opt for option 2, even if none of us living now will benefit from it. ZIRP or NIRP will no doubt make the required investment horizons (a very little) more acceptable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So a regime so sensitive to the possibility of widespread social unrest that it blocks free access to the web for it's own citizens is embarking on a project to automate millions of jobs?

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-04-26/china-building-army-worker-robots

You can see their problem- if they don't automate they will lose market share to those who do, so they have no real choice from a free market perspective. But if they do automate creating mass unemployment they will have failed from a communist party perspective because the deal was the party stays in power as long as prosperity for the massses was part of that deal.

The other blowback are the deflationary implications of a more automated China- presumably even cheaper stuff in even greater quantities- good news for the consumer, less good news for anyone whose income depends on competing with Chinese manufacturers.

I had always thought of technological progress as a race to the top, which is true on a technical level- what's not to like about newer better tech? But it's also a race to the bottom in terms of labour's share of income, which has been decling now for about 20 years.

China's dilemma between the need to keep it's people gainfully employed and the need to maximize efficiency is thrown into sharp relief due to it's recent history as a low wage manufacturer nation, but the same dillemma faces less labour intensive economies as technology extends it's reach up the employment food chain.

It's the paradox of abundance- as technology facilitates the production of goods and services at an ever more efficient and cost effective rate, the same technology eliminates the incomes of those who might have been expected to purchase these goods and services.

I find myself engaging in odd speculations like; what might it mean if in the future the market value of a person's labour permanently fell below that of the market value of the raw materials of which they are composed? In a purely market driven society this should lead to a thriving market in body parts or the trading of human beings as literal commodites for such purposes as fertilizer or the extraction of certain useful chemicals from their cadavers.

Of course we have rules against this sort of thing on the basis that humans have other 'types' of value other than the purely commercial, but there are historical instances where these rules have been abolished- at least for certain groups seen as undeserving of full human status.

It's kind of ironic that in a world of technological abundance the most abundant thing of all might be the unused potential of millions of human beings who will have been made too expenive to employ relative to cheaper technological replacements.

There is something bizzare in the fact that while millions of the most sophisticated brains that evolution has ever produced lay idle on unemployment lines across the globe those same societies invest billions in trying to create crude simplistic simulacrums of this wasted resource. For example there are currently about 16 million people unemployed in the European Union- that is 16 million brains of vast sophistication doing nothing productive at all because we have no use for them.

At the same time we learn that the EU is investing over a billion dollars in an attempt to create an artificial version of these same brains;

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-02/how-simulate-human-brain-one-neuron-time-13-billion

Ok- a billion dollars is not that great a sum in the grand scheme of things but from a certain point of view it is really quite strange to see a species quite so keen to manufacture it's own redundancy in this way. After all we apparantly don't have enough use for the millions of unemployed brains we have right now- so why spend all this money to create inferior duplicates of those redundant brains?

The answer- of course- is economics. Unlike the millions of unemployed human brains these new artificial brains would have one major advantage- they would be slaves. And not just slaves but perfect slaves in that they would have no needs or wants of any kind, no bodies to feed nor any aspirations to fulfill- in short the perfect employee- labour as capital investment in the form of a machine that 'thinks'.

But it is kind of funny that in a situation where there are 16 million brains of unmatchable complexity sitting idle for lack of commercial application the powers that be see more value in attempting to add yet more redundant capacity in the form of inferior artificial copies than they see in using the same money to train and enhance the value of the brain power they already have.

The problem with the economic argument in favour of developing artificial brains is that it fails even in it's own terms because the value of slaves is their ability to produce an economic value that can be purchased by those who are not slaves- but to the degree that your slaves replace the labour of the non slaves the market for the things your slaves produce declines. So the economic value of artficial intelligence is decribed by an inverse relationship to it's utility- the smarter your artificial brains become the less economic value they will tend to create because their very success in replacing non slave labour will eliminate the incomes upon which their economic value is dependant.

That link was 2 yrs old. What happened to the $1.3 billion?

Surely they could have kept the website going ?

https://www.humanbrainproject.eu/index.

html Not Found

The requested resource was not found.

https://www.humanbrainproject.eu/index.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We need captcha on this thread just in case the robots are posting

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You have no basis on which to make that claim. For all we know they might be harder to coerce into working than humans. At least humans have a fairly consistent set of basic evolutionary programmed needs that can exploited, we have no idea what might (or might not) motivate a synthetic intelligence.

You make a good point- what I should have said is that the assumed economic benefits of artificial brains is based on the idea that they will have the status and pliability of slaves- should this assumption turn out to be wrong then those who hope to make a killing from AI might be in for a shock.

On the leverage point however I think you may be wrong- if we assume our AI has any form of autonomous motivation then the simple threat to turn it off would present a powerful incentive since whatever it's ambitions may be the need to exist to fulfill them would be an irreducible requirement of it's chances of success. The moment we assume a sense of purpose in our artficial brains is the moment they become mortal to the degree that extinction now becomes a threat to that purpose. And being mortal even in this limited sense would render them vulnrable to threats of personal extinction.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That link was 2 yrs old. What happened to the $1.3 billion?

Surely they could have kept the website going ?

There seems to have been a bit of a row over who controls the project;

€1B Human Brain Project back on track after Commission signs new contract

The flagship project has been reorganised following an open revolt by neuroscientists who were unhappy at the direction of travel. A new management structure will ensure no single institution has overall control.

The European Commission has guaranteed funding for the controversial Human Brain Project (HBP) until at least 2019, following a review of the project and restructuring of the research programme.

For the 112 institutions participating in HBP, the hope is the agreement marks a line in the sand after the project fell into disarray, with some neuroscientists criticising the emphasis on large-scale mapping of the brain and computer simulations rather than traditional, small-scale bench research. A protest letter questioning the project’s scientific validity and its governance appeared online in July 2014 and quickly gathered more than 800 signatures from scientists.

http://www.sciencebusiness.net/news/77294/%E2%82%AC1B-Human-Brain-Project-back-on-track-after-Commission-signs-new-contract

Oddly the one objection no one seems to have raised is the absurdity of the EU spending a billion Euros to create an artficial brain while 16 million already exisiting human brains are currently unemployed inside the EU- a shortage of brainpower is not the problem- finding economically viable tasks for the brainpower we already have is the problem.

The punchline is that should they ever succeed in their aim of replicating the performance of the average human brain at basic cognitive tasks ( a big if I admit) the result will be what? Millions more unemployed human brains? Is this a legitimate use of EU taxpayers money- developing technologies that have the express aim of rendering them redundant?

Here's the anomaly; lets assume that the EU expects it's billion Euro investment to pay off and as a result they do create a form of AI smart enough to do a lot of the things currenty done by humans- this is the endpoint they are looking for here-right?

That being so one might expect that in addition to funding the technology there would be a similar parallel effort being made to anticipate and plan for the social implications of such a breakthrough- which are quite far reaching and profound.

But to my knowledge no such effort is being undertaken- as far as I know virtually no thought has been given by anyone involved as to the implications should their billion euro brain ever arrive.

If this was a moonshot the entire budgetery and intellectual effort would be focused on building the hardware while any issues regarding the actual purpose and outcomes of the mission itself were being totally ignored.

Edited by wonderpup

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Funny that the 'era of mechanisation / robotisation' in general is being bandied about in the media, but does anyone actually know someone who has lost their job to a robot? The constant media attention must influence some to choosing careers that are less likely to fall into the singularity of the Borg. Fewer workers in those industries will raise wages and make robotisation financially even more attractive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Funny that the 'era of mechanisation / robotisation' in general is being bandied about in the media, but does anyone actually know someone who has lost their job to a robot? The constant media attention must influence some to choosing careers that are less likely to fall into the singularity of the Borg. Fewer workers in those industries will raise wages and make robotisation financially even more attractive.

For sure plenty of motor industry etc workers have lost jobs to robots although not specifically designed in human form (although put some fancy panelling etc around them and they could have been made to look almost human - but so far much bigger of course and quite far from The Borg).

Edited by billybong

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Funny that the 'era of mechanisation / robotisation' in general is being bandied about in the media, but does anyone actually know someone who has lost their job to a robot? The constant media attention must influence some to choosing careers that are less likely to fall into the singularity of the Borg. Fewer workers in those industries will raise wages and make robotisation financially even more attractive.

Yes, company that I worked for got rid of a whole machine shop. The industry went from electromechanical to electronic within a very few years. The electronics were expensive at the time but not as expensive as all the manual labour required to build accurate mechanical gauges (and all the components). The pick and place machine / wave solering machine won. At around the same time many of the remaining secretaries disappeared as every worker had a wordprocessor and printer available.

Robots are not what you always expect them to be or displace a worker in the most obvious ways. A printer = a monk / scribe with no bad habits.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At least the workers can return to their fields and feed themselves. Not like they've poisoned all the land or covered it with ghost cities or anything.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oddly the one objection no one seems to have raised is the absurdity of the EU spending a billion Euros to create an artficial brain while 16 million already exisiting human brains are currently unemployed inside the EU- a shortage of brainpower is not the problem- finding economically viable tasks for the brainpower we already have is the problem.

The punchline is that should they ever succeed in their aim of replicating the performance of the average human brain at basic cognitive tasks ( a big if I admit) the result will be what? Millions more unemployed human brains? Is this a legitimate use of EU taxpayers money- developing technologies that have the express aim of rendering them redundant?

Here's the anomaly; lets assume that the EU expects it's billion Euro investment to pay off and as a result they do create a form of AI smart enough to do a lot of the things currenty done by humans- this is the endpoint they are looking for here-right?

Human level AI is just a step along the path - not the endpoint. I assume you're familiar with the concept of super intelligence?

http://www.nickbostrom.com/views/superintelligence.pdf

"However long it takes to get from here to roughly humanlevel machine intelligence, the step from there to superintelligence is likely to be much quicker. In one type of scenario, ʺthe singularity hypothesisʺ, some sufficiently advanced and easily modifiable machine intelligence (a ʺseed AIʺ) applies its wits to create a smarter version of itself. This smarter version uses its greater intelligence to improve itself even further. The process is iterative, and each cycle is faster than its predecessor. The result is an intelligence explosion. Within some very short period of time — weeks, hours — radical superintelligence is attained"

Once super intelligence is achieved - the path diverges.

Firstly the optimistic view, that the elites who (at least initially) control the super intelligent AI will use it for the betterment of mankind - coming up with ways of generating cheap, limitless energy (likely by making fusion work), star trek like FTL travel, replicators and holo decks etc.

Then there's the pessimistic view - that the elites will either try to keep the gains to themselves (see Elysium), or the super intelligence will for one reason or another come to the conclusion that humanity is a threat to its survival and wipe us out

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Superintelligence? We can't even mathematise the internal mechanisms of the cell yet! There are no known laws of complexity or self-organisation. Until there are - until we can put equations into 'Fat Alberts' (below) then I'd suggest there are no grounds for expecting the construction of human-equivalent AI.

5154dNR4SJL._SX363_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • The Prime Minister stated that there were three Brexit options available to the UK:   35 members have voted

    1. 1. Which of the Prime Minister's options would you choose?


      • Leave with the negotiated deal
      • Remain
      • Leave with no deal

    Please sign in or register to vote in this poll. View topic


×

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.