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Could robots reduce human rights violations?

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 9:27am
Jason Lomberg, Digital Editor

Could automation actually help reduce reputed human rights violations? If Foxconn — one of the most infamous manufacturers of consumer electronics — succeeds in deploying its “Foxbots”, one of the biggest controversies in the tech world could disappear overnight.

Foxconn will spend $20,000 to $25,000 to field each robotic worker, and these automatons will repay their investment in free, tireless labor and the ability to assemble 30,000 devices on average.

This presents an interesting conundrum — most critics wouldn’t advocate for improved working conditions for robots (and lament the suicides and low wages), but this is also a clear case of automation replacing human labor. Still, many would argue that innovation trumps legacy technologies (and obsolete professions).

A Wired piece claims that Foxconn’s robots could actually end up bringing jobs to the U.S.

“Industries where the fabrication of goods involves heavy use of machines as well as human handiwork will increasingly look to the U.S.,” it says.

The “Foxbots” are in their “final testing phase” and according to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, the company will test the waters with an initial investment of 10,000 robots. As an aside, the company also hired about 100,000 new human employees in advance of the next Apple iPhone. So the presumed “iPhone 6” will be assembled by a mixed force of human and robotic labor.

And a number of reports claim the “Foxbots” will actually play more of a supporting role.

ECN will continue monitoring this story as it develops.

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