Robots are Coming

Gerry Brady March 7, 2019 11 No Comments

Last year, over 28,000 new robots were installed in the United States alone in non-automotive roles. The car companies have led the charge in robotization in the past but robots are now invading outside the car manufacturing plants. The annual growth rate outside the car plants is above 16%. At that rate, the number of non-automotive robots will double in 4 years then it will double again and then again. There will be well over a million such robots in the US before 2040. And they can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They do not eat, go to the toilet, chat, travel, sleep, attend classes, read books, go to the movies or sit in traffic jams. So their work output by then will be equal to perhaps 20 million people. And that is just inside the United States. There will be a whole army of robots in many other nations as well.

And what do robots often make? The answer is other machines. Machines making machines making machines. Exponential growth gone mad.

When you train them, they don’t forget or need further training. When you hire them, they always show up for work. After you pay for them, they become an asset you can sell. They don’t make excuses. They don’t whine. Overtime is not an issue, ever. They’ll never file for unemployment. They don’t require disability insurance. No pension required. They don’t steal stuff. They don’t start arguments. They don’t leave the bathroom a mess. They don’t need or want coffee breaks. They don’t take vacations. They don’t call in sick. They don’t walk off the job. They don’t use phones to chat with friends. They don’t argue with customers. They keep perfect records. And they don’t do drugs or alcohol.

So who do robots replace? Human beings. But don’t panic, your job is (hopefully) safe. Even a million robots performing the work of 20 million people would not make much difference to the current entire 160 million workforce of the US. The 20 million displaced workers can almost certainly find jobs better suited to humans, like gardening, art, music, literature, cooking, caring.

If you look at the whole sector globally, including automotive robots, the president of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) recently noted that about 387,000 industrial robots were installed in 2017 worldwide, up 31 per cent year-on-year. China is one of the key drivers behind the growth. They have become the world’s largest industrial robot market since 2013.

At that growth rate, the number of automotive and non-automotive robots will double in less than 3 years. This is indeed a growth industry. Then the robots will be linked as part of the Internet of Things and that linkage will be supported by 5G telecommunications networks. Here in Australia, Telstra recently announced that their mobile network is 5G ready. They are just waiting for the first 5G mobile phones to be available and that is expected to happen before mid 2019.

But South Korea will become the first nation to launch a full 5G network in March. The 5G standard will be up to 100 times faster than 4G with almost no lag, opening up new possibilities for businesses. 5G will help build what is being called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” entailing smart and autonomous manufacturing. Imagine a world with no traffic lights, no car accidents and no traffic jams. That is the future.

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