Sunday, June 28, 2015

Yet another occupation about to fall to machines?

I've written often enough about the dangers posed to our current jobs by a tsunami of automation, robotics and sophisticated machines.  The latest example comes from Australia.

An Australian engineer has built a robot that can build houses in two hours, and could work every day to build houses for people.

Human housebuilders have to work for four to six weeks to put a house together, and have to take weekends and holidays. The robot can work much more quickly and doesn’t need to take breaks.

Hadrian could take the jobs of human bricklayers. But its creator, Mark Pivac, told PerthNow that it was a response to the lack of available workers — the average age of the industry is getting much higher, and the robot might be able to fill some of that gap.

. . .

Hadrian works by laying 1000 bricks an hour, letting it put up 150 houses a year.

It takes a design of the house and then works out where all of the bricks need to go, before cutting and laying each of them. It has a 28-foot arm, which is used to set and mortar the brick, and means that it doesn’t need to move during the laying.

Pivac will now work to commercialise the robot, first in West Australia but eventually globally.

There's more at the link.

Houses in the USA are mostly not built of brick, so this invention isn't likely to have a huge impact here;  but it will in the rest of the world if it can be commercialized.  It's yet another example of automation in the construction industry.  I've already seen US paving contractors using bricklaying machines such as this one from a Dutch company.

It's yet another example of how the ever-increasing wave of automation is going to crush many of the jobs on which a lot of people rely to earn a living.  It's simply cheaper overall for companies to pay the high capital and maintenance costs of such a machine, compared to the burden of providing a job for human beings.  Machines don't need vacations or sick leave, don't take time off because they have a headache or need to deal with domestic emergencies, and don't incur huge overhead costs in terms of health care, workers compensation and other expenses.  Furthermore, when politically correct administrations try to add yet more burdens such as unrealistically high minimum wage standards, machines won't be affected by them.  They just keep on working.

If your job is one of those in danger of automation, you need to be thinking about retraining yourself and getting into a new career field right away.  Far more jobs are threatened than you might think.  If you're in any doubt, I highly recommend that you read at least some of the following articles and reports.  They're well worth your time, particularly those marked with asterisks at beginning and end.



Old NFO said...

And McDonald's is testing a computerized system now in Japan...

The other robot said...

There is more to building a house than laying the bricks. In addition, when I left Australia, houses were not predominantly double brick, they were brick veneer. That is, they had a timber frame.

In any event, you have to dig and lay the foundations (and let them set.) That alone takes two days. Then the frame, then the roof, then the brick cladding, then the interior, including wiring, cabinets, door frames, windows, finishing and so on.

It will be a while before robots can do all that.

Before that, it will be robots in the fast-food industry ...

Bob said...

More and more people, fewer and fewer jobs.

Something is going to break.

It's mind-boggling how the super rich push for more and more automation so they don't have to pay wages to those finicky humans. The greedy short-sighted bastards can't seem to grasp the fact that it's those very people - by their work and consumption - that made them rich.

Roy said...

You can't blame it all on the super rich, Bob. A lot of it can be placed at the feet of the consumer.

Those machines save costs, and saved costs tend to lower the price of the finished product. If you need to have brick laid, and one contractor has a machine and is $1000 dollars cheaper than the other who doesn't, which one gets the contract?

Graybeard said...

Google "3D printed house"; it's in the works as well. There are two basic approaches: one is mobile and prints out layers of solid concrete, one at a time until walls are built (I don't recall how rebar or its equivalent is handled). The other prints horizontal sections that are a few feet thick with the rebar and lifting metal ropes in place, then they get lifted an fastened into place with a crane.

As The Other Robot says, there's more to it than that, but stacking up concrete block ("cinder block") walls has nothing on this. What we really need is poured concrete with rebar in place that will survive Category 5 hurricanes or EF5 tornadoes.

Unknown said...

Graybeard, for some of us it's the earthquakes and tsunamis, rather than hurricanes and tornadoes (and in places it's all four).

But to be fair, Ogg worried about the same thing when Grog invented the wheel. The teamsters worried about there jobs when the truck replaced the horse, or mule drawn wagon hauling freight. It could go so much faster and haul so much more and only had to stop for fuel, unlike the animal.

Then the loggers in the Pacific Northwest went on strike early last century over the introduction of the chainsaw, as it would put so many of them out of work.

Technology always replaces labor from the bottom, mostly, and the net effect has always been a wealthier economy.

kurt9 said...

I'm awaiting a 3-D printing technology for both commercial and residential construction.

I am not sympathetic towards the conventional construction industry. I live in the Portland/Vancouver area. Despite having summers every bit as hot as those east of the Cascades, most housing here is not built with either central air conditioning or constructed in such a manner (such as basements and what not) that they stay naturally cool in the summer. This is in an area that routinely has 100degF temperatures.

I do not know why this is. I've even asked people in the construction industry why this is and the only responses I've received are a shrug of the shoulders accompanied by comments to the effect "That's just how it is".

I have no sympathy for any industry that produces sub-optimal results and offers no thoughtful explanation for it.

I believe Silicon Valley style disruptive innovation is necessary in ALL spheres of human endeavor, particularly in health care, construction, and education. An example of a disruptive innovation in health care would be a table-top device that fabricates all of the SENS therapies (to cure aging), stem-cell regeneration compounds, and anything else IN YOUR OWN HOME, thus obsoleting and eliminating the entire health care industry excepting for trauma injury. This is the kind of disruptive innovation we need in EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of human endeavor.

If the kind of technology depicted at the following link comes to pass:

Essentially all forms of large scale human institutions (government, religion, etc.) become totally obsolete. Why would a self-empowered individual such as myself ever need to believe in anything external to my own goals and ambitions if I can create it all myself?

This was my comment to the above link:

"Its clear that technology is enabling the small to have the same capabilities that was formerly reserved for the big. This has implications for the current prominent ideologies in the U.S. The liberal-left, of course, has become as ideologically rigid and obsessed with control as any McCarthy-era conservative. Of course this ideology will not be long for the world. However, many conservatives seem to pine for the “one future” as well, where everyone believes and lives by the same set of values and world-views. The radical decentralization of technology suggests the increasing implausibility of this scenario. Instead of obsessing over the private acts of those who do not share their world-view, might it be more fruitful for such conservatives to focus on using such decentralized technology to create their own societies such that they can live independent of those who do not share their world-view?"

If you want to have some clue as to the kind of society that can be created by such technology, read "Voyage from Yesteryear" by James P Hogan. The "Chironian" society depicted in this novel is the kind of totally decentralized "adhocracy" that allows for the optimal individual libery and flourishing that makes it worth pursuing.

freddie_mac1 said...

Glad you referenced the minimum wage push. A slight increase is one thing, but $12-$15/hr will bring about automation in the fast food industry quite rapidly (watch for the unions to be surprised). If consumers are smart enough to check our own groceries, we can certainly order a Big Mac and fries from a touch screen.

Coconut said...

Basic supply and demand, really. If the labour supply is limited- because workers cost too much to hire in the necessary quantities, say -all sorts of previously uneconomical solutions become practical.

Bob said...

Roy said:

"You can't blame it all on the super rich, Bob."

Very true, the answer is never simple. A lot of it has to do with the endless loss of value of our dollar which made the products manufactured here seem more expensive than imported items.

Naturally, the rising cost of labor was blamed - compared to the slave wages being paid overseas - making the idea of moving offshore irresistible to many businesses. Nobody seemed to care about horrible decisions being made by the government and the FED in every field of endeavor as being culpable.

Even this hardly touches the surface of our problems. Crooked politicians, massive immigration(mostly illegal) and an anti-white administration openly hostile to the American worker

There's lots more, but greed is always way up front when it comes to making people do what they do.

Kyle said...

I expect one of two things on the horizon: either the return of the $20,000 three-bedroom house, or a massive increase in the quality of carpet and crown molding, in order to justify a 10x markup.