Monday, December 08, 2008

here, robot!

Very experienced soldiers don't like robots. I suppose you could ascribe this to conservatism, but then, the last eight years have been a global crash course in how people who tell you that this war will be different to what the old sergeants think are wrong.

Meanwhile, at Canon's main factory in Japan, the workers on the production line are served by robots. Rather, they don't have a production line - the robots bring printer parts to groups of workers who build them, working according to their own internal organisation, and then the robots take the finished printers away.

Did anyone foresee this? Being automated out of a job has been a reality for quite a lot of people, and a reliable demon in science fiction. But you what? Actual proletarians, line workers in light engineering, being served by menial robots? It's an idea which seems to include both an outdated vision of the future, the paleo-future as the twittertwits call it, and the future itself, at once.

I remember hearing someone say that there was a major difference between German and English in that in German, you bedienen a machine - you serve it. In English, you operate it. Of course, for the last 200 years we've all got used to work being a process in which people either serve machines or work on machines - whether they are power looms or spreadsheets.

But machines acting as teenage apprentices to people? Surely this is science fiction, but perhaps it fits with a world in which more production technology - RepRap, solar panels, many computer things - wanders back towards individuals while at the same time, consumption becomes industrialised. Rather than the traditional and wildly oil-piggish drive to the supermarket, they increasingly stack many loads in an electric van, turning the temples of consumption into picking centres, or perhaps in future, genuine markets?

Similarly, the barrage of advertising nonsense has reached the level at which people are thinking about automating their response to it through things like vendor-relations management and other means of bullshit filtration.

Meanwhile, US workers occupy a factory hit by credit crisis. What happens in a plant like Canon's, in a few years' time - if the robots want to keep going, or to stop?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The four most dangerous words in finance are, "This time is different." Might hold true for war as well.

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