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Here are some thoughts about manufacturing after seeing your "Made in America" post (SoundOff! http://community.controlglobal.com/content/made-america-pauto-mfg-automation-manufacturing) and also listening to the "bring back manufacturing" rhetoric ad nauseum on the TV machine. I've been trying to wrestle with the notion of what manufacturing in America actually would look like once the unions are all busted and the robot apocalypse arrives.
If U.S. workers can accept the conditions of Foxconn on our soil, then maybe we have some sort of future for almost any type of manufacturing here. But maybe high tech manufacturing will never come back in the United States.
If the robots do all our work for us, how exactly do we plan to pay our bills? What were we going to do all day with a growing population that needs food and has a seemingly limitless appetite for consumption of gizmos?
Our Roombas vacuum for us, but what if the "Paveba" and "Bridgeba" take care of our roads? And what if our "Lineba" and "Gridba" upgrade our transmission grid? And then, if our assembly lines are fully automated, our CNC/MakerBots are fully capable of printing our furniture, cars and appliances. Then could we "download" our couch from Amazon.com and print it in our living room (or big box store)?
We would then have a pretty radical shift in how our world works—or doesn't.
On one hand, maybe that's an upgrade for the humans—fewer stories like Foxconn. On the other hand, our economy is predicated on having a job and buying stuff.
Anyway, thinking about the costs, sustainability and impacts of the larger ecosystem is interesting because it's not just a U.S. problem—and it's not just a manufacturing problem (once we talk about food, water and living conditions). It's an everything problem.
Gregg Le Blanc