The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work

Key points

  • “Globotics” or Globalization + Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the world. Globotics means globalization mixed with new kinds of robotics, from artificial intelligence to technologies that make it easier to outsource services jobs. Particularly, globotics is injecting pressure into our socio-politico-economic system (via job displacement) faster than our system can absorb it (via job replacement). Overall, AI and robots will take jobs — but make the world better.
  • Past globalization and automation were mostly about goods— making them and shipping them. However, the era of globotics is about service-sector automation—driven by information and data.
  • The competition from software robots and telemigrants will seem monstrously unfair to white collar works who lost their jobs. When white-collar workers start sharing the same pain [as blue-collar workers], some sort of backlash is inevitable.
  • As technologies reduce the need for face-to-face contact, some developing nations stand to benefit. For example, India, with its sizeable English-speaking population and armies of techies, could become a hub for services outsourcing, just as China was for manufacturing.
  • Future jobs (that are left) will be more human and involve more face-to-face contact since software robots and tele-migrants will do everything else. In other words, the future economy will be more local and more human.
  • The problem is the short-term. In the era of globotics, it is important to make the rapid job displacement politically acceptable to a majority of voters. Governments may set the policy goal to protect workers, not jobs.

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

5 thoughts on “The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work”

  1. As much as increasing technology benefits society as a whole, I feel that it may have some negative effects for the working environment. If factories begin to run only by machines, then thousands of workers will not have jobs. Will the government find them new places to work? If countries like Bangladesh are only paying their workers $37 per month, how are they going to afford to pay for these new expense technologies? Although, I do think overall these technologies have many benefits, I think the negative consequences are overlooked.

    1. I agree – Americans have already been complaining for years that machines are replacing them/taking their jobs in other industries, and if apparel is next it could have bad political, industrial, and economic consequences. Additionally, jobs in the apparel industry in countries like Bangladesh has grown their economy and put them on the map of apparel exporters and have given them the opportunity to trade with other countries, and has pulled millions of people out of poverty. If jobs are automated away in Bangladesh, the economy could massively suffer and chances of becoming a developed, industrialized nation will be gone.

  2. I thought it was interesting to learn how machine learning is changing fashion, and how the industry is responding to it. I thought it was interesting how Baldwin made the point, that many jobs will go but occupations will stay and used the analogy of the farmer and the tractor. This shows that although machine learning can help us us in many different areas, there is still a human touch to many occupations that cannot be replaced by machines. In the future, I will be interested to see how many more processes will continue to be automated, and how this will effect the need for human labor.

  3. I discovered that automation is changing the way manufacturing works. Processes that used to require manual labor can now be done by robots. Manufacturers are looking at the efficiencies that automation technology brings, and its rise in manufacturing means that robotic labor is taking over roles that people used to be responsible for. The result of this shift is a rapid increase in manufacturing efficiency. Machines do not need to rest like humans and can work faster. Manufacturers have faster turnaround times and wait times between projects will be reduced. As more and more processes become automated, manufacturers begin to rethink their daily operations. As they are able to take on more projects without the need for additional manpower, the apparel industry today is polarized. Advanced robotics and artificial intelligence to automate processes and procedures have the potential to fundamentally change the global economy. For example, I am a Chinese student and it is clear to me to feel that China is now one of the larger robotics markets in the world, and I have learned through the news that in my country, automation could replace one-fifth of all manufacturing jobs and nearly 100 million workers (12% of the workforce) will need to find new jobs. Work. The service-based economy faces similar challenges.

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