Marc Andreessen : It’s time to build



Marc Andreessen

Every Western institution was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, despite many prior warnings. This monumental failure of institutional effectiveness will reverberate for the rest of the decade, but it’s not too early to ask why, and what we need to do about it.

Many of us would like to pin the cause on one political party or another, on one government or another. But the harsh reality is that it all failed — no Western country, or state, or city was prepared — and despite hard work and often extraordinary sacrifice by many people within these institutions. So the problem runs deeper than your favorite political opponent or your home nation.

Part of the problem is clearly foresight, a failure of imagination. But the other part of the problem is what we didn’t *do* in advance, and what we’re failing to do now. And that is a failure of action, and specifically our widespread inability to *build*.

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In the age of automation, technology will be essential to reskilling the workforce


Employees sort parcels with automated guided vehicles (AGVs) at a logistic centre of a postal service in China last November.

Manufacturing as we know it isn’t quite dead – but it will be soon. We’re at the cusp of a major transformation where the classic factory worker’s tasks will soon be digitized and managed by robots and intelligent software.

Human jobs have been sacrificed through every major industrial revolution and this change will be no different. Unfortunately, the speed at which this next displacement is taking place exceeds the speed at which people are being retrained for the new factory roles that are now required. In this environment, technology companies will have new responsibilities to reskill their workforce and the workforces impacted by their products.

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How AI is helping reinvent the world of manufacturing


Throughout each industrial era, the companies best able to embrace change have become the most likely to succeed. This dates back to the development of steam and combustion engines through to electricity, microprocessors and now artificial intelligence.

In The Future Computed: AI and Manufacturing, Microsoft Senior Director Greg Shaw explores how AI, automation and the internet of things (IoT) present new challenges and opportunities.

Here are some of the manufacturers already demonstrating how the latest tech advances are changing the way they work.

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The future of manufacturing technology


The global manufacturing market reached $38 trillion in 2018, contributing a 15% increase in global production output. Within this market, a broad range of goods is produced and processed, spanning from consumer goods, heavy industrials to storage and transportation of raw materials and finished products.

To sustain ongoing growth, today’s manufacturers are hyper-focused on three key mandates. First is to improve utilization rates of expensive fixed assets that are below optimal capacity. Second is to fill the current and increasing void of specialized labor. Deloitte estimates that by 2028, the skills gap in the US will result in 2.4 million unfilled seats out of a total of 16 million manufacturing jobs. Lastly, manufacturers must protect operating profit as industry average EBITDA margin continues to decline from 11.2% in 2015 to 8.6% in 2018.

Many startups are now starting to offer tailored products and services to help traditional manufacturers meet these goals. Until recently, hardware components such as sensors were expensive and had unclear ROI. Data was siloed, and no solution to scale insight was available. However, since the AI revolution in the early 2010s, startups are finding ways to overcome these challenges through technical innovation.

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Robots ‘will take 20 million manufacturing jobs over the next decade’, report warns



People have long been nervous about robots and artificial intelligence taking over human jobs – but the next decade will see the process shoot into overdrive.

During the next decade, machines will displace 20 million manufacturing jobs, a report by analyst firm Oxford Economics suggests.

That amounts to 8.5% of the global manufacturing workforce, with each robot displacing 1.6 workers on average.

The report says that robotisation is accelerating due to falling costs, with the average unit price of a robot falling 11% between 2011 and 2016, CNN reported.

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How China’s ‘Cobot’ revolution could transform automation


The cooperative robot model that China is expanding could hold vital lessons for other developing economies that also rely heavily on small businesses.

There’s a “factory of the future” being built in Shanghai, with $150 million in investment from Swiss-Swedish automation giant ABB. Slated for completion in 2020, the factory is a place where “robots will make robots,” according to ABB. But the cutting-edge robotics technology the facility hopes to showcase won’t cater only to heavy industrial needs. It will also largely feature “collaborative automation solutions” — known as cobots — that work with humans instead of replacing them. The facility is evidence of an emerging Chinese automation strategy that’s beginning to reshape the world’s approach to robotics.

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The ‘Hexbot’ transforms your desk into a 3D printer and high-tech assembly line


And yes, you can also play games with it.

In the early-to-mid 1960s, sci-fi television shows like The Jetsons and Lost In Space introduced America to the idea of personal, at-home robots (Rosey and “the Robot,” respectively) that also served a practical purpose. Rosey was primarily used for domestic chores, while “the Robot” helped the Robinson family with travel and security. And as the years went on, countless other science fiction series and movies further cemented the idea that it was only a matter of time before we’d all be using robots at home to solve real problems.

Fifty years later, an extraordinary amount of technological progress has been made. But we still seem to be lacking the personal, at-home robots we were promised. Sure, AI-assistants like Alexa are common, but they lack the physical presence we’ve come to expect. And while there are plenty of amazing toy robots and robot companions available, most lack any practical value. But a new Kickstarter campaign hopes to introduce the public to a robot that is both intelligent and practical.

Continue reading… “The ‘Hexbot’ transforms your desk into a 3D printer and high-tech assembly line”

Exoskeletons debut at Ford factories


Staff will now be augmented by exoskeletons in Ford factories across the world.

Following successful trials, Ford will now offer employees the use of exoskeletons to reduce the strain of factory work.

Despite the emergence of Industry 4.0, smart factories, sensors, and data analytics, much of the heavy-duty operations of today’s industrial and manufacturing still rely heavily on human input.

Over time, the physical demand of such work can cause injury, muscle stress, and accidents.

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Why China is spending billions to develop an army of robots to turbocharge its economy


Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a robot revolution in manufacturing to boost productivity.

Wages in China are rising, and it’s becoming harder to compete with cheap labor.

An aging population in China also necessitates automation. The working-age population, people age 15 to 64, could drop to 800 million by 2050 from 998 million today.

Chinese robotic growth is forecast to exceed 20 percent annually through 2020.

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As long as there are humans, there will be jobs


By Deb Frey: Automation will dominate some fields. But people will want new things, and new industries will arise.

Predicting the course of technological progress is extremely difficult. Just because worries about human obsolescence ultimately turned out to be misplaced in the Industrial Revolution doesn’t mean that the same happy result must necessarily prevail this time around. So the persistent question about artificial intelligence — or “robots” in common parlance – is whether they will make human workers obsolete.

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Seeking a roadmap for the new American Middle Class


Over the past few months, Starbucks, CVS, and Walmart announced higher wages and a range of other benefits like paid parental leave and stock options. Despite what the brands say in their press releases, the changes probably had little to do with the Republican corporate tax cuts, but they do reflect a broader economic prosperity, complete with a tightening a labor market. In the past couple of years, real wages hit their highest levels ever, and even the lowest-paid workers started getting raises. As Matt Yglesias wrote at Vox, “for the first time in a long time, the underlying labor market is really healthy.”

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