July 12, 2018

First They Came for the Immigrants. Then They Came for the Robots.

Special to Foreign Policy

The phrase “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet” has been used as the title of several pop songs and a French film. It could also aptly describe the future of politics across the globe as the twin specters of nationalism and populism intensify and people grapple with the social and economic impacts of increased automation and the spread of artificial intelligence.

In key respects, this future has already arrived. In 2016, there were already 309 installed industrial robots for every 10,000 manufacturing workers — a measurement known as robot density — in Germany, 223 in Sweden, and 189 in the United States. The use of robots had risen 7 percent in the United States, 5 percent in Sweden, and 3 percent in Germany in just one year. That may not sound like much, but at that rate, robot density would double in the United States in about a decade. And these numbers are only likely to grow because next-generation robots are already highly cost competitive. The average hourly cost of a manufacturing worker in Germany as of 2013 was $49, in France it was $43, and in the United States $36. The hourly cost of a collaborative robot — a machine that does not require skill to interact with — was $4, according to a recent study by Bain & Company.

Read more at Foreign Policy