Thursday, February 25, 2021

Raise the minimum wage? Hello, robot labor!

 

I've long warned that automation threatens tens of millions of blue-collar jobs (and, increasingly, millions of white-collar ones) over the next couple of decades.  With the pressure on the Biden administration from the progressive left to increase the minimum wage to $15/hr, the responding pressure to reduce or eliminate labor costs is going to become well-nigh irresistible.  We've already seen how one supermarket chain, faced with "politically correct" city wage regulations, simply closed some of its stores in response.  (I'm sure the workers there are grateful to their councillors for dumping them on the dole, instead of letting them earn their daily bread.)

Now we see how cost and other pressures are driving automation in the farming industry.  Here's a video from Israeli company Tevel Aerobotics Technologies.



An article about the technology states:


The FAR robot can work 24 hours a day and picks only ripe fruit. It uses AI perception algorithms to locate the trees and vision algorithms to detect the fruit among the foliage and classify its size and ripeness. After choosing the right fruit, the robot then works out the best way to approach the fruit and remain stable as its picking arm grasps the fruit.

Several FAR robots can harvest the orchards without getting in each other’s way thanks to a single autonomous digital brain in a ground-based unit. Tevel’s fruit picking robot delivers the highest performance at the lowest cost, along with high levels of flexibility that enable the harvest of multiple fruit types, including apples, pears and avocado. They also work on thinning and pruning functions.

“There are never enough hands available to pick fruit at the right time and the right cost. Fruit is left to rot in the orchard or sold at a fraction of its peak value, while farmers lose billions of dollars each year,” the company says.

Such robots and artificial intelligence always bring up the topic of human unemployment. However, the company states that its robots are designed to complement human fruit pickers rather than replace them.

The Israeli start-up Tevel wants to market its first autonomous fruit picking robot-drone by 2021. To help it, the Japanese agricultural machinery manufacturer Kubota has recently invested $20 million in its project.


There's more at the link.

By all accounts, there are tens of millions of seasonal workers engaged in harvesting America's crops every year.  Many are from Mexico and other countries, some with legal work permits, others illegal aliens.  If legislative pressure to pay them more becomes too great, I can see an awful lot of farms - particularly those owned and operated by Big Agriculture - saying "Enough is enough!", and switching to automated farming on a large scale.  The field is developing fast enough that it won't be long before that's entirely feasible.

What will become of those deprived of earning their living?  I'm betting most will become public dependents via the welfare system - which the Biden administration will encourage, because the more people they can make dependent on the government for handouts, the more control they can exercise over how they vote.

Don't ever think the "minimum wage" pressure is about justice for labor.  It's not.  It's all about the politics of control.




Peter


12 comments:

Jonathan H said...

I wonder if they intend to offer waivers to favored companies and withhold them from disfavored companies?
Some states in the past have increased fees and taxes and then allowed companies (and even non-profits) to either apply for lower rates or to do politically correct activities in place of the extra payments.
- See Illinois higher corporate taxes a couple years ago.
- See Maryland's large rain fee of several years ago - when small churches couldn't afford to pay it, they were given the option of doing environmental sermons and activities in place of the fee.

Platobird said...

I'm 60 years old, and I was a Telephone Operator for 23 years starting at the age of 17. By the time they shut down the office and laid me off the job was robotized mental torture.

Ultimately it's neither possible or moral to keep wages low to delay automation.

With massive unemployment and growing social unrest thanks to Lockdown Insanity, Universal Basic Income has just been pushed forward by a few decades. Capitalism 2.0.

Tax each Robots.

Love and Light
Tara

ps. Hilarious. I just ticked the box 'I'm not a Robot' below. ha ha

Beans said...

Increases in minimum wage has always resulted in increased agricultural automation. Always.

Oh, California increasing the min-wage? Hello mechanical tree shakers for olive and nut harvesting. Which also works on others. Mechanical collectors to pick up the fruit and nuts. Mechanical separators and selectors. All done before AI and ag-robots became possible.

Same thing with planters and seeders and the whole panoply of ag tools.

I watch "Cole the Cornstar" channel, which is about some post-college kid working on the family farm. The degree of automation on just a corn and soybean farm, over what would have been found 20 years ago, is amazing.

Gray said...

As for taxing robots, any increase in costs leads to production moving overseas to escape them. Already China is purchasing more robots then the US.

if an employee wants more income, they need to become more valuable. Most positions today require some skills at math, computer use, literacy, and above all an ability to think. Our education system graduates students with few if any of these skills.

Add to this the false promise of socialism's equal outcomes instead of equal opportunity and I can see no other conclusion that the USA is headed to a societal collapse.

Greg said...

I've written before, and I'll keep asking "Who's going to fix the robots?" My career in medical technology morphed from chemistry in test tubes to troubleshooting electro-mechanical systems. A small talent in troubleshooting focused by years of practice becomes a skill that will be in ever increasing demand. Field service engineers are already in short supply, and that will only get worse. The good ones will command princely wages.
My favorite illustration is the first Star Wars movie wherein Luke Skywalker says "Uncle Owen, this droids got a bad motivator!" The point being that droids are idiots, and can rarely tell you what's wrong with them.
If you know a kid who likes to take things apart to see what makes them tick, GIVE THAT KID A TOOLSET FOR CHRISTMAS!

Roy said...

The minimum wage always and everywhere is the same - ZERO.

Steve said...

Same thing in dairy milking parlors. Robotic milkers, no people needed. My grandfather milked by hand (the hard way). His son (my uncle) got electricity and didn't have to use his hands, but it was still hard, being tied to the farm for twice-a-day milkings. His daughter (my cousin) is now looking at robotic milkers so they can actually be freed up to: 1) have a life, 2) move up the productivity chain, 3) not have to hire help and thus save some money.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoWpxWBlMpg

Aesop said...

Mechanical pickers is why your cherry tomatoes at the salad bar are now oblong, instead of round: easier for the machines to pluck.

But I fear we're about to inherit a society designed by idiot-savant kids too young to have ever seen all of The Jetsons episodes, and thus missed the cautionary tales therein.

Burke got it right in The Axemaker's Gift.

Uncle Lar said...

The official estimate on the impact of a $15 minimum wage is 1.4 million jobs lost, the government's own numbers.
I suspect far wrong as it fails to account for the effect on entry level workers.
Hiring someone with no experience is always a risk for a company, but one that they will take at $7.25. At $15 probably not. Even as far back as 40 years ago the C&NW car repair shop had a firm fixed rule, no new hires without either military service or five years of credible job history. They calculated that it cost the company an investment of $3,000 on day one of a new employee's service and were not willing to risk it for an unproven hire.
Another thing not being considered is just how many currently making a decent living will suddenly find that they after struggling in their jobs sometimes for years have now over night once again become minimum wage workers.
And again minimum wage was never intended for someone to support a family on. Most such jobs are either entry level or part time employment for students and such looking for a bit of extra cash.

Ray - SoCal said...

Covid has been an accelerant for automation as a way to reduce potential liability, increase up time, and reduce costs.

Skwab said...

Gray, I'll take issue with one part of your comment. I'd figure that at least 50% of all employees CAN'T learn more math or go to school for more and enhanced skills. Everything has to line up exactly right for an adult with a family and a job, to get more education.
And the ugly secret no one is willing to mention, is that from a cognitive standpoint many people simply cannot learn more or increase their skills. There is a reason the Median IQ is 110. (and now slipping to 105)

Aesop said...

Point of Order: The median IQ is 100. Always.
That's the whole point.

The average IQ in the US is 98.

It varies by state, with a range from 94 to 104:
https://www.inc.com/bill-murphy-jr/we-compared-average-iq-score-in-all-50-states-results-are-eye-opening.html