I, for one, salute our new robot… oh, forget it

In the past, I’ve mentioned my sense that 3-D printing — a technique to manufacture a variety of useful objects using a device that can fit into your office or garage — could radically alter economies of the future. If you can print out a desk, why buy one from IKEA, and thus why would IKEA employ their own workforce? Suddenly you have a lot of unemployed people.

Of course, one might say that 3-D printers only endanger the jobs of people who manufacture things that can be printed out as one unit, not complex things that have to be assembled. (Though, my understanding is that 3-D printers can print out pretty complex, interlocking objects. There is a 3-D printed car, though I believe it requires a certain amount of assembly.) In theory, assembly line type jobs would be somewhat safe. However, I just stumbled across this interesting video on a new robot that can be easily trained to do repetitive work. You program it by simply by guiding it through the motions of what you want to do, and then the robot will keep doing those motions. And it only costs $20,000. (And doesn’t take cigarette breaks. It could work 24 hours a day, I suppose.)

Could robots easily replace humans for assembly-line tasks? Let’s recall how well humans have fared at such work.

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