SkyNet has taken over the market, it now appears poised to make labor and wages redundant (and while we hardly welcome our new robotic overlords, we doubt anyone would shed a tear if the House and Senate replaced its 535 corpulent windbags with a bunch of Johnny 5s engaged in binary colloquies). The world's biggest non-debt based slave-driver, Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn, also known as the place where all of your iPhones, Pads, etc, are made, has just announced that it will deal with rising wages by doing what US-based quants have figured out years ago: outsource it all to robots. About a million of them. The irony is that the last time we looked at Foxconn, we asked: "what happens when this million realizes it can only buy half a McRib sandwich with the money it makes, courtesy of the primary US export to China, and demands a pay raise. What happens to Apple margins then?" We now have our answer. Per Xinhua: "Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn will replace some of its workers with 1 million robots in three years to cut rising labor expenses and improve efficiency, said Terry Gou, founder and chairman of the company, late Friday. The robots will be used to do simple and routine work such as spraying, welding and assembling which are now mainly conducted by workers, said Gou at a workers' dance party Friday night." As a reminder, with over 1 million workers, Foxconn has enough people on its payroll that if mobilized would be the 5th largest army in the world, and just after WalMart in total number of employees, albeit instead of spread out around the world, are all concentrated in one small space.
The company currently has 10,000 robots and the number will be increased to 300,000 next year and 1 million in three years, according to Gou.
Foxconn, the world's largest maker of computer components which assembles products for Apple, Sony and Nokia, is in the spotlight after a string of suicides of workers at its massive Chinese plants, which some blamed on tough working conditions.
The company currently employs 1.2 million people, with about 1 million of them based on the Chinese mainland.
What happens when other Chinese companies, flush with CapEx-beckoning cash decide to do the same, and engage in a worker-for-debt swap? Sure margins will surge, Chinese imports will drop in price, but what about the imminent wave of discontent courtesy of tens of millions of laid off workers replaced with machines?
Is it time for another dystopian Philip K. Dick-esque novella looking at our increasingly roboticized future? Or do we all know by now how it ends?