Home > Uncategorized > The rise of the robots already happened, household and farming edition

The rise of the robots already happened, household and farming edition

Economists are at the moment discussing the rise of the robots. Yawn. Robots are rising and have done some for some time. The economic discussion about this is a little late. Robotic milking , which enabled dairy farmers to increase the scale of their farm without hiring expensive labour, has been a whopper since about twenty years. And not just the self-employed embrace this technology. I remembered that I once read that there are more household robots than factory robots, a meme which led me to this awesome ´Vacuum cleaners market research´ site with no doubt very good reports like ´Vacuum cleaners in Saudi Arabia´. And with this graph which shows that millions are sold. On Wikipedia one can find a very extensive list of producers (Japan leading the pack). Just like radio in the thirties sales will defy the crisis and households show dynamic adaptions to new technology. Robots changed our life already. Just think of these solar powered lawn mowers! Gadgets like these might help us to cope with the rising number of very old people.

Graph 1. Volume and value of robotic vacuum cleaner sales in the USA and Europe

Vacuum cleaner

  1. Podargus
    December 28, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Yep,it’s all good.

  2. December 28, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    One wonders when will robots start to consume the «excess» production of «everything»… Another way to put it is to ask «what will «they» (the political and economic system leaders» do with people when machines do almost everything» ?…

  3. December 28, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    We (as individuals and as business managers) make decisions every day about how to best utilize our time and our limited resources. The problem with every economy today is that the introduction of new technologies to produce goods and provide services tends to displace rather than redirect labor. Our civic and political leaders may understand in a vague sense that politics dictates economic outcomes, but I know from countless meetings with government officials over the years that they do not grasp the fundamental principles of how to stimulate full employment societies. Economics, as taught in almost all of our universities, is not of much help.

  4. ezra abrams
    December 28, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    I find it rather odd that you think that just because, for a very brief moment in time (~ since 1780) labor saving machines have resulted, with some exceptions (dickensian UK) in increased prosperity and wealth, that this trend will continue.

    At one point, not that long ago, widows and orphans were told, invest in US Steel, the largest, safest company in the world.

    Do we see any sign in the US, today, that these labor saving devices like robot lawn mowers are helping to reduce inequality ? or that the reduction in number of work hours needed has translated into happier people ?

    You note robot milking machines; surely readers here on this blog are not unfamiliar with the proletariazination of large numbers of workers in the US in the midwest farm sector
    or in plain english, the robots in agriculture have resulted in large numbers of people moving from working class to poverty in the rural us (see the movie, “winters bone”)

  5. Thirdculture
    December 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Robots are the best! As the owner of capital, I much prefer dealing with robot makers. I’m uncertain exactly why this is. But, I think it may relate to my preference for technological progress over human labor progress. I think I can more easily control technological progress over human labor progress!

    • Steve
      December 28, 2012 at 7:34 pm

      Ah, but you’d best “pay the wages of the machines” to real human beings…or you’ll quickly have an even bigger problem trying to deal with the inevitable unhappiness those human laborers consequently have.

  6. December 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    In the alternative money system proposed in Money as Debt III – Evolution Beyond Money, your business success is completely dependent on you providing your customers with the full purchasing power to clear your inventory , even if your costs of production are ZERO. This way we all get to share in the benefits of labour-saving technology, while retaining a free market rather than bureaucratic rationing.

    http://www.moneyasdebt.net http://www.digitalcoin.info

  7. merijnknibbe
    December 29, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Thanks for the comments. Three points. 1. I do not think that robots are automatically ´good´, just look at the drones. But they are not necessarily evil, too. 2. We should not underestimate the dynamism of the combination of technological progress and enterprises. In 1925, there were 150 milking machines in Germany. In 1929, there were 9.000. Another example: the labour productivity of ´mowing´ in agriculture has increased about sixty fold (I wrote a Ph. D. about long term production changes in agriculture, hence the examples). You can´t really stop such developments. Even in Afghanistan donkey drawn carriages use tires with roller bearers and air tires nowadays, which makes these carriages much more efficient than many European ones of about 1950. What you can do is to try to direct the change of technology towards a ´human friendly´ direction, i.e. no military drones and the like. 3. I completely agree with the idea that there is a demand problem at this moment. For some decades after WW II, governments tried to increase prosperity for all. I´m, alas, increasingly getting the idea that a rentier class which just tries to get a larger share of the pie and to increase asset prices and which is not interested in prosperity for all has an increasing amount of political influence. But that has nothing to do with robots. And look at this graph, which defies ideas about ´marginal productivity equals wages´:


    Remember that Alan Greenspan considered the crushing of union power to be the main accomplishment of Ronald Reagan.

  8. May 11, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Interesting topic. I guess there’s no stopping this trend. Robotic household tools will continue to get cheaper and more households will be able to afford to buy one.

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