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    Globalization and Robotics – the New Era of Division of Labor
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    Globalization and Robotics the New Era of Division of Labor

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    Peter Lekarev
    Price of Progress (10)
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    Humanity has come a long way. From the invention of the wheel to nanotechnology - humans have constantly strived to solve existing problems. But this coin has two sides, as new problems have arisen from those solutions.

    The world we live in today is a global world. Humanity lives together, makes things together, shares knowledge together. Opening borders to certain degrees to allow travel, trade, and cooperation seemed to be a logical step in developing our civilization. But, like other things, globalization has a darker side.

    Globalization, in an economic sense, is essentially a division of labor between countries on a global scale. However, it seems that some countries have received the short end of the stick in this exchange. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer – factories which pollute the environment get moved to third  world countries, while companies which hold patents and intellectual property rights benefit disproportionally from such collaborations. Dr. Sundeep Waslekar, the President of Strategic Foresight Group, explains the phenomenon in a nutshell.

    What is happening is globalization of opportunities which people talk about. But there is also globalization of risk. On one hand, we have globalization of trade flows, financial transfers, investments going from country to country, communications, media, but also at the same time you have globalization of risk to humanity happening: through WMDs, through terrorism, climate change.

    Only 20 to 25 percent of the population is really participating in the globalization process. Only about 40 to 50 countries make more than 90% of the world trade, and 150 countries make up less than 10% of global trade. Therefore globalization is very lop-sided, which is why globalization of risk is raising its head.”

    As humanity has enveloped the globe, there was no other choice but to learn to work together. Instead of seeking new territories to expand to and new resources to discover and extract, in the pursuit of progress those who called the shots decided that the most efficient way was to provide new opportunities to less developed neighbors, while in turn paying a smaller price for their services. Dr Dabo Guan, who is a senior Lecturer of Environmental Economics and Governance at University of Leeds in the UK, points out that adopting the “somebody else’s problem” approach to, say, pollution, was a bad idea.

    The point we are trying to make here is that because of US consumption, the luxurious lifestyles they had, cheap products from China, they sold the emissions to China, end of story. But actually it is not the end of story. Some of the pollutions will cross over to harm the air quality in the US. So, this is the whole point we are trying to make. Right now China is the world’s largest emitter in the world, and about 1/3 of emissions is caused by the production of goods for export. So, we are trying to make the point that Chinese emissions is not a local problem, it has global consequences.

    As humanity has begun dividing labor among countries, without considering the deeper economic and environmental impact, it has also begun outsourcing some of its labor to another sort of contractor – machines.

    David Grossman, the technology editor of the program BBC Newsnight, highlights the potential problem.

    Let’s go back and examine what the first ‘machine age’ did, that is, the Industrial Revolution. What it did, in essence, was replace human muscle with machine muscle and, I should add, horse muscle, as well. So, you’ve got things like plowing, you’ve got things like manufacture of textiles, you’ve got things like milling, you’ve got things like transport instead of horses or people doing it, you’ve got machines doing it.

    The second machine age is different from that in that it is about jobs that require brains. It is things that human beings have been far better at doing than the machines, that require thinking and require adapting to the real world circumstances.

    So here’s the problem. If humans are no longer needed for more and more jobs – how are they getting paid? The inequality of opportunities and incomes grows larger – and, at the time, this is the course the global economy is taking.

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    Price of Progress (10)
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    robotics, high-tech, technology, globalization
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