He’s One Of The Only Humans At Work — And He Loves It

from WaPo

Inside a warehouse the size of seven football fields, hundreds of robots pack roughly 200,000 boxes each day and ship them to customers across China. Four humans babysit. 

One is Zou Rui, 25, a soft-spoken engineer who stands for much of his eight-hour shift in New Balance sneakers, monitoring a milky-white mechanical arm. It plunges up and down like a pecking chicken, grabbing parcels with a suction-cupped hand and dropping them into containers on a conveyor belt.

If something looks odd, Zou rushes to fix it. Otherwise, he said, he jots notes in a binder, tracking the arm’s performance for his remote bosses. Or he chats online with his colleagues: two men and a woman, all about his age. 

Here, Zou is far from his family’s cornfields in the eastern province of Anhui, far from the bustle of his old workspace with 100 or so people. But he doesn’t feel isolated. 

“I don’t get lonely,” he said, “because of the robots.”

Zou works for the Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com, which lauds this warehouse on the outskirts of Shanghai as one of most automated in the world. Analysts say it’s a peek at the future of manual work in China and beyond — a place where a chosen few tend to the machines, while most workers have been rendered obsolete. 

Thanks to a “strategic partnership” with Google, that future could be coming soon to the United States.

But chief executive Richard Liu wants to take the high-tech concept even further in a country once known as a hub for cheap labor.

“I hope my company would be 100 percent automation someday,” Liu said at an April retail conference in Madrid. “No human beings anymore.” 

More here.

, , , , , ,

24 Responses to He’s One Of The Only Humans At Work — And He Loves It

  1. Yash Wagle September 21, 2018 at 5:35 pm #

    Technology is rapidly advancing, artificial intelligence and the automated frontier is set to make work more efficient than ever, yet with the rise of innovation their will undoubtedly be pitfalls yet to be expected. It is only a matter of time that automated machines will be more cost-efficient for business owners than hiring actual people. In fact based on the contents of the article certain e-commerce businesses have already made the change from a human workforce to a predominately machine one. Based on this understanding my overall impression of this article starting from the title was bit confounded.
    The article begins by talking about a man named Zou Rui, a Chinese engineer working for JD.com a Chinese e-commerce business. JD.com as of recent has made a big name for themselves as they continue to grow in scale, the company made more than 55.7 billion dollars in revenue last year. Yet, what is perhaps even more amazing of a feat is that the company built the first fully-automated warehouse (in which Zou works) beating out its competitors Alibaba and Amazon to that race, an achievement that even prompted Google to invest half a billion dollars with the company. Needless to say JD.com is not simply in the business of e-commerce, but in fact the CEO hopes to perfect its automated technology hoping that one day the company will be hundred percent automated, once that happens the CEO hopes to sell this automated system to other companies seeking to lower their labor costs. Imagine that, China, a country once known for its significantly cheap labor is finding it more cost effective to switch to machine labor! After based on this information I can’t to be confused by the fact that Zhou likes the predicament of his job as understood straight away from the article’s title. In all reality, I believe Zhou and other people in the similar job situation should be far more concerned than exited. As I alluded to before JD.com CEO, Richard Liu said “I hope my company would be 100 percent automation someday” and “no human beings anymore.”
    By delving deeper into the article we begin to understand that full automation risks displacing millions of workers worldwide working in retail and manufacturing. Furthermore according to McKinsey consultancy “robots could replace almost a third of the American workforce by 2030 – a new crop of highly skilled positions will emerge” Yet, there is still question of what the skills needed for the jobs entail and how many of them will be even required. In my opinion there isn’t any guarantee that the number necessary for the “new crop” of jobs will ever makeup for the jobs that were lost. Even the article seems pretty contradictory about this as Peter Yu, chief technology officer of XYZ robotics, a company at the forefront of supply-chain automation, said “workers shouldn’t fear the change”. And that the new job’s created will be “better-paying and more stimulating work”. Yet if we come back to the fact that JD.com which once employed thousands of workers per warehouse, and now hopes to soon have all of its 500+ warehouses fully automated it just doesn’t jive with the idea that all workers will in fact get these new jobs. In the one warehouse plant that is already fully automated, and in which Zou is works, only 3 others are employed. Even then we begin to learn what these “better-paying and more stimulating work” require as the article states “but higher education didn’t prepare him (Zou) for the specifics of the JD job. Zou completes a training course every two months”. To me this work simply doesn’t sound fulfilling as much as it does hectic, this new crop of work is not only extremely competitive to receive, but also makes it necessary for you to constantly adapt. Failure to adapt, renders a worker useless and essentially jobless. Even if you are able to keep up with technology, as I stated multiple times before companies like JD.com have a goal to make their work 100% automated. Eventually even Zou will theoretically end up jobless.
    Yet, manufacturing and retail jobs are not the only jobs at danger, jobs even in the medical field are being taken by robots. Some of these robots even have the ability to self-learn. Making the prospect for human workers even in the most advanced fields vulnerable.

  2. Petar Micevski September 21, 2018 at 6:36 pm #

    When Zou Rui said that robots “reduce the jobs that are boring”, it really made me question my viewpoint on the cause and effects technology has today and in the future. My biggest concern for my generation of students would be whether or not our degrees come with an employment opportunity. Working for your Bachelor’s Degree or Masters doesn’t mean anything if a robot is preferred to do the job you have been studying and practicing for your entire college life. In the following years, robots will undoubtedly take over the workforce, specifically 33% by 2030 according to McKinsey. My concern isn’t whether or not robots will take our jobs. I understand that with the replacement of old jobs come newer jobs that haven’t been necessary until now. What I’m worried about is whether the rate of the new jobs will surpass the rate of the old jobs lost. This is because I have seen some of these robots in action. Thankfully, I have an inside connection with someone that works at one of Amazon’s warehouses and monitors both the labor force and the technological force simultaneously. The interesting thing about those warehouses is that the robots and workers work side by side, where paths are specifically taped for the robots and separate paths are for the workers. While the workers are quicker in organizing the boxes, the robots are better at carrying more packages simultaneously. It’s interesting because it shows that even though the robots took some of the jobs, people will always be needed, but at a decreasing rate. Amazon’s strategy for organizational planning is perfect in my opinion. By keeping some of the labor force and utilizing technology for a certain amount, they were able to maximize efficiency and keep up with the demand of the consumers. Technology in moderation should be the next big thing because it would solve the dilemma with the ratio between the loss of old jobs and the creation of new ones. On a smaller level, the newer jobs created due to the robots would definitely require higher understanding and education. Since technology is constantly growing, the newer jobs created would have to equally grow as fast because it requires that the person managing it understands how it works. That is why Zou Rui had to take tests of his understanding every two months. Eventually, I believe that most jobs would have to adapt to this notion because of their involvement with technology. Areas that were thought to be technology-free are now more technological than ever, questioning the bounds that technology really has on our society. What makes the decision hard as to whether or not technology is advancing too much is derived from the involvement at which we are comfortable with that technology in our lives. If we continue to expand technology in the labor force, at what point does it become too much?

  3. Tyler Peteraf September 21, 2018 at 6:39 pm #

    Everything in today’s society is moving towards technology. You are really able to find people using it more and more in every facet of society, whether it be homes, schools, or the workplace. The reason why so many more people are looking towards technology are because of a few reasons. One, most people are able to see the inevitable shift that society will take in the coming years as we put an emphasis on the use of technology. But really the reason and the main purpose of technology is to make our lives more efficient and improve productivity. It is for this reason why so many people believe that workplaces in America will eventually be taken over by technology and robots. While this is for the most part the main point of the article, their is also an emphasis on the idea that technology in workplaces does not mean that numerous amounts of people will inevitably loose their job. This article actually argues the exact opposite.
    While this article’s starting point could be solely the idea of robots taking over work environments and taking jobs from people, instead it chooses to focus on a man who spends his days at work working with robots. His name is Zhou Rui and he works for JD.com. He spends most of his time taking notes on the robots and then informs his superiors. The point that this is able to emphasize is that the improvement of technology does not mean the end of the world for the everyday worker. With the installment of robots rather jobs won’t disappear but rather turn into more fascinating jobs then the ones that people have right now. Technology will hopefully improve workplace productivity while also helping the workers who are employed at their respected companies.

  4. Doug Tkac September 21, 2018 at 6:57 pm #

    I’ve read this article about five times now, and I still can’t really wrap my mind around how this story of the and the story behind the companies (such as JD, Alibaba and Amazon) that do this are real. It seems that the story and interview is too crazy to comprehend, like an updated version of George Orwell’s “1984”. Alas, it isn’t however, and after reading this article, I felt uneasy and a little on-edge, to be honest.

    The reasons for me feeling on-edge is mainly due to the background of this story that isn’t really picked up so well: you have a chief executive company of JD.com saying that he hopes in the future to have no human employees and to have the whole work force of his company be automated. That is terrifying to imagine all the potential lost jobs in the grand scheme of things, as more and more large mass distributors will (and are doing things similar) to this. Can you imagine this happening with a company such as Walmart in the U.S? All hell would break loose.

    However, there are perks to this advancement of technology. Utilizing this technology in warehouses could in fact limit any potential injuries on the job, which would save a lot of workers from any impending physical health risks, and would make their lives much easier. I’ve known friends and parents of friends who have gotten injured on the job, and it is not fun whatsoever from what I’ve heard from them. Sure, it might be nice to get hurt and to receive a check from either worker’s compensation or a lawsuit (in my peer’s case, Jewel-Osco, a Chicagoland grocery chain), but the long term effects are brutal and taxing on many individuals. If those robotics were there back then, then it could’ve saved a lot of people.

    Overall, my opinion is very mixed, more so leaning toward uneasy. With what JD.com is doing may seem smart for all the heads of businesses and for making more profit for them, in terms of the workforce, it might seem like it could be very beneficial for the citizens for China, as well as around the world. However, that can just as easily blow up in our faces, leaving us to try and pick up the pieces.

  5. Joseph Capouch September 21, 2018 at 7:53 pm #

    Danielle Paquette’s article, “He’s One of the Only Humans at Work- and He Loves It” is certainly one that will raise a reader’s curiosity. Even though topics such as artificial intelligence, and the idea of robots taking jobs from people are fairly common, I found this article was able to teach me things I haven’t learned from reading any other. To begin with, JD.com’s warehouse discussed in the article, is the first I have heard of, of that size, that relies so significantly on robotic workers. Also learning that the company only plans to decrease human workers even more, really caught my interest. Even though this means fewer jobs for myself, and my entire generation, I actually found that this article brought up a lot of hopeful ideas.
    The first of these is that labor jobs being taken by robots increases the quality of jobs that will be offered to people. These jobs are likely to be better paying, more enjoyable, and more beneficial for furthering a person’s skillset. In a way, this is taking a bit of a quality over quantity approach towards the job market. The increased reliance on machines opens of a variety of employment options, such as management positions like the one held by the young man interviewed for this article, Zou Rui, who enjoys his work. Other jobs include people in charge of creating these machines to begin with, programming them, and innovating new ideas for them as the market grows. Furthermore, the decrease in low-paying, labor intensive jobs, means young people won’t be taking them up as often. As the article states, the number of jobs help by young people in China is projected to decrease by millions. This means many of them will be able to spend more time and effort on their education. Balancing this, their parents or others who support them will be making more money in the higher-paying job market, or if necessary students can feel more confident taking out loans because of that same job market. Another important aspect of this topic is that the companies that are increasing their reliance on mechanical or robotic workers, are doing so to be more efficient. This also benefits everyone as a consumer, a more efficient company that can save money and time can potentially afford to charge less, ship items more quickly, have fewer product errors, and overall maintain a happier client base.
    I have always been unsure regarding the replacement of human workers with machines, but this article gave me a more positive outlook on it. The idea of improvements in the workplace such as higher paying jobs, fewer labor jobs causing more complex and engaging work, and fewer injuries are all exciting to me as a member of the job market. The potential for companies to continue improving themselves through innovation and offering better products pleases me as a consumer. And lastly, after reading this article, the future of machines intrigues me even more, as a person born into a world immersed in technology.

  6. Michelle Vekshteyn September 21, 2018 at 8:20 pm #

    Reading this article, I was honestly not surprised at all. It has become clear that robots have already started taking over the world with all of the outbreaks in technology. Technological advancements such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and other actual human-like robots have been created and improved upon in the last few years. Artificial intelligence is going to run the world in the near future. In a way I find it funny how Zou Rui is okay with the fact that he is the only human in a warehouse full of robots. To me that sounds a little lonely and creepy, but it is becoming a reality in this world. All that Zou really has to do in this warehouse is fix things, make note of things, and chat online with his colleagues. The robots do all of the physical work for him. The article states that, “Thanks to a “strategic partnership” with Google, that future could be coming soon to the United States”. Although this could be a more efficient way of manufacturing products, I do not believe that it will be a good idea. Even though robots can assemble, pack, etc. products quicker than humans, the more robots that replace humans will lead to less jobs for humans. This will not be good for the work force nor the economy. I think that it is great that humans have discovered that they are able to utilize and build these robots in the first place, but having robots aid in certain tasks is different than having robots complete the entire task for you.
    Richard Liu, chief executive, in this article says, “I hope my company would be 100 percent automation someday, no human beings anymore.” Like I said before, this would be great for the owner since it would be efficient and they would not have to pay employees to work for them, but that leaves out a lot of job opportunities in whichever country this happens in. On the other hand, there would be a lot more work getting done by robots, with humans just making sure that it is running smoothly.

  7. Warren Vetter September 21, 2018 at 8:26 pm #

    Before I read this article I thought to myself, “How can one man not be bored while standing around with hundreds of robots?” Zou Rui, a 25-year-old engineer goes through this on a daily basis where he has barely any human interaction. Rui states, “He jots notes in a binder, tracking the arm’s performance for his remote bosses. Or he chats online with his colleagues: two men and a woman, all about his age.” I can’t seem to wrap my head around how one man would not be bored out of his mind while he stands there looking at a robot all day. Another piece about this article that really grabbed my attention was that the CEO of one of the biggest E-commerce businesses in the world hopes for no humans in the factories.
    Richard Liu the chief executive of JD.com, is taking the one big giant leap that all white and blue collard Americans are worried about. That is losing their jobs to robots. Everyday life is turning more to technology whether it is self-driving cars or even a smartphone or watch to track your daily steps and/or exercises. For years now industries have been talking about using more robots than humans, but in the United States, that idea has been happening very slowly compared to China. There are of curse the disadvantages and advantages of using robots instead of low-skilled workers.
    One of the main advantages of robots in the workforce is that things will get done quicker and with better performance. There is a less amount of risk at hand when a robot that is specified to do one job is doing the work. If a robot does break down there is a man or women right there to repair it and send it out back to work. Another advantage coming from a CEO expective is that it is, of course, cheaper in the long run. In the short run, it is going to be expensive because you have to buy all the robots and program them specifically for what the company wants to use them for. The CEO does not have to worry about paying all of his hundreds maybe even thousands of factory workers their wages on a weekly basis, which can be expensive.
    A disadvantage, of course, would be that the unemployment rate will skyrocket because there are millions of low-skilled workers that will be out of jobs. This will force these workers to go to school to be able to get better jobs, but some of them will not be able to afford that. This will force a lot of people to move into poverty because they will not be able to find a job because of their education and maybe even work experience.
    In conclusion, my feelings about robots taking over low-skilled workers jobs are that I feel sorry for them. They work hard every single day to provide for their family and they make sure as well that we stay happy. We all get upset when our package is a day late, but we do not think about the people who put that package together and how hard they are working. All in all, get ready America, the robots are coming.

  8. Anthony L September 21, 2018 at 10:25 pm #

    The centerpiece of this article is a large warehouse in Shanghai, which is, “the size of seven football fields,” What is of particular interest in this warehouse is that it only has four on-site employees. This is because most of the tasks that would normally be done by humans are done by, “hundreds of robots,” This factory is a glimpse into the negative impact that increased automation will have on the labor market of the near future. The company that owns this factory, JD.com, “lauds this warehouse…as one of most automated in the world,” as automation technology improves and becomes less expensive, more companies will look to invest in automation of this scale. This is because unlike human employees who come with extra expenses like a salary and do not require time off. The chief executive of the company, Richard Liu, demonstrates a desire to reduce costs by getting rid of low skill workers when he says, “I hope my company would be 100 percent automation someday…No human beings anymore,” This attitude is shortsighted because it considers the money companies can save before the damage that this would cause by drastically decreasing the amount of low-skilled positions available.

    Despite the fact that JD.com is a Chinese company, these innovations will impact the American labor market. The company has already made, “a ‘strategic partnership’ with Google,” This partnership will facilitate Google competition with the company Amazon who also is investing in the technology. This danger is touched upon in the article, which states that this shift is predicted to, “displace millions of workers worldwide in retail and manufacturing,” While many jobs throughout history have been replaced by technological innovation, there is a key difference between the innovations of the past and modern automation. This is that the innovations of the past created enough new jobs to give those who lost their jobs somewhere to go. For instance, when improvements in farming technology reduced the amount of work available to farmers, those farmers were able to move into newly created factory jobs. Automation by contrast, makes obsolete more jobs than it creates. CNBC, summarizing a paper published by, Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research , states that, “about half [of American jobs] could be replaced by automation,” This shows that automation has the ability to create an unemployment crisis.

    The advantage of automation for companies is that it reduces the amount of employees that companies need to hire. For instance, at the time of this article, “JD employs roughly 160,000 full-time workers,” while their chief executive hopes that, “[over] the next decade…that number dwindle to ‘less than 8,000’,” There is also a skill gap between those who will be replaced by robots and those who will be hired to make sure the robots work. According to CNBC, “Jobs most at risk of being replaced by automation are often lower-income,” This is because the jobs that can be automated are often low skilled positions. In stark contrast, the jobs created by automation are, “highly skilled positions,” This means that those who will lose their jobs will not have the technical skills to be applicable to the new jobs which will be created. Also, because of their income level, they will often not be able to afford the education to gain the skills required for these new jobs. If trends continue the way they are, automation of low skilled positions will create an unemployment crisis not only in China and the U.S. but in the global labor market. Large scale unemployment is almost guaranteed to create social unrest. Thus, politicians of the near future will have to struggle with how to solve this crisis. I believe that there will be movements to regulate the amount of automation companies can use to increase employment.

    Works Cited

    Devaraj, Srikant, et al. “How Vulnerable Are American Communities to Automation, Trade, &
    Urbanization?” Projects.cberdata.org, Center for Business and Economic Research, Ball
    State University, 19 June 2017.

    Wells, Nick. “Half of American Jobs Are at Risk from Automation, New Study
    Suggests.” CNBC, CNBC, 19 July 2017.

  9. Schron B September 23, 2018 at 7:34 pm #

    The idea of robots being implemented in our everyday lives as well as the general takeover of technology has constantly fascinated people. Richard Liu said “I hope my company would be 100 percent automation someday” and then continued with “no human beings anymore”. While the excitement around these new developments in technology are all very exciting I hope that more people are aware of the risks. While the idea seems perfect because less people have to work, that right there is the problem. The advantages for the company is undeniable, it cuts costs in the long term by reducing the amount of employees the company has. But how much is too much? Only four humans were actually overlooking what was going on in the warehouse while hundreds of machines did the unpleasant work. That’s hundreds of jobs that could’ve went to other humans and benefited them. But I do understand that it is a business and due to that the main motivator is profit. I just hope that world doesn’t get carried away with our fascination to make everything automated while also thinking about the long term effects on the people.

  10. Paul Lee September 24, 2018 at 6:33 pm #

    Around the world, human beings have constantly used technology to improve human lives. In this century, many business companies have been working with robots or automation to improve business efficiency. Zou Rui, a soft-spoken Chinese engineer, witnesses mind blowing, innovative technology every time he goes to work. He currently works for JD.com, an e-commerce Chinese company that is using cutting edge technology in its warehouses. Zou Rui works in one of the many JD warehouses, which is about seven football fields, that is located in the outskirt of Shanghai. Moreover, he and three other human beings organize and manage this enormous warehouse. When I first read that only four total human beings manage such a ginormous packaging warehouse, I was in utter disbelief. I did not believe that Zou Rhui and only three others could be effectively managing these packaging robots. However, in my disbelief, Mr. Rhui is able to perfectly carry out his position which include Mr. Rhui to solve ny problems that arise with the robots. Otherwise, he would write notes into his binder or track the arm’s performance for his bosses.
    I am very jealous of Zou Rui as he is one of the few employees that is on the forefront of automate changing the manual labor business. JD and many other top named companies such as Google and Amazon are trying to develop the most innovative e-commerce super machines. JD wants to change from human employees to automaton in the future, a major transition for the company that has many to believe it will disrupt the economy itself. Nonetheless, the company has a brilliant plan that they intend to employ less than eight thousand workers who will be better financially stable and will work for two or three hours daily. If this were to happen in the near future, it will make many jobs simpler and safer for the person because there have been a multiple account of people working grueling and unreasonable hours. Also it seems that many of these warehouses have an overpopulation of employees that causes terrible conditions for themselves. Another account is that many employees, especially in China, describe horrible working conditions that are very unsanitary and should not be worked in. They have also described appalling wage rates that does not justify how many hours the person has worked.
    Many of these companies want to use automaton for not only efficiency but to improve the education and working conditions for many of its employees. That is a certain future that I wish many companies across the globe can try to fulfill. I am fully supportive of having automaton take over employee jobs because, again, it will improve many aspects of life for these employees that do stay with the company. Artificial intelligence will eliminate a bulk of simple jobs and take over for human beings but new highly-skilled positions will emerged. New skills will need to be learned for the business world and new positions will start to open up for the community. Many people will be able to improve themselves and learn.
    I believe that technology will constantly improve our daily from being efficient to producing the results we want. More and more companies around the world are looking for employees with technology skills that would include programing and monitoring machines. Technology has been on the rise for the last fifteen years and has been slowly integrated into our lives. In today’s time, many human beings have to learn technology skills and how to work with it as many businesses are starting to or have been using technology to improve its business and profit. High tech is on the forefront and it is up to us, human beings, to learn and keep up to date or else we will fall behind as a society.

    • Paul Lee September 24, 2018 at 11:17 pm #

      I am very jealous of Zou Rui as he is one of the few employees that is on the forefront of automate changing the manual labor business. JD and many other top named companies such as Google and Amazon are trying to develop the most innovative e-commerce super machines. JD wants to change from human employees to automaton in the future, a major transition for the company that has many to believe it will disrupt the economy itself. Nonetheless, the company has a brilliant plan that they intend to employ less than eight thousand workers who will be better financially stable and will work for two or three hours daily. If this were to happen in the near future, it will make many jobs simpler and safer for the person because there have been a multiple account of people working grueling and unreasonable hours. Also it seems that many of these warehouses have an overpopulation of employees that causes terrible conditions for themselves. Another account is that many employees, especially in China, describe horrible working conditions that are very unsanitary and should not be worked in. They have also described appalling wage rates that does not justify how many hours the person has worked.
      Many of these companies want to use automaton for not only efficiency but to improve the education and working conditions for many of its employees. That is a certain future that I wish many companies across the globe can try to fulfill. I am fully supportive of having automaton take over employee jobs because, again, it will improve many aspects of life for these employees that do stay with the company. Artificial intelligence will eliminate a bulk of simple jobs and take over for human beings but new highly-skilled positions will emerged. New skills will need to be learned for the business world and new positions will start to open up for the community. Many people will be able to improve themselves and learn.
      I believe that technology will constantly improve our daily from being efficient to producing the results we want. More and more companies around the world are looking for employees with technology skills that would include programing and monitoring machines. Technology has been on the rise for the last fifteen years and has been slowly integrated into our lives. In today’s time, many human beings have to learn technology skills and how to work with it as many businesses are starting to or have been using technology to improve its business and profit. High tech is on the forefront and it is up to us, human beings, to learn and keep up to date or else we will fall behind as a society.

  11. Amber Stile September 25, 2018 at 12:51 pm #

    This article was very interesting. I’ve known that people say automation will be the main form of employment, but I didn’t realize how soon that would be happening. The idea that four people could manage a whole warehouse for shipping and delivery baffled me. As stated in the article, the more patterned a job, is the more likely it will be automated in the future. For the workforce, this means that people need to start to learn how these machines work so eventually they might be selected to repair, manage, or even create robots. People who have only ever worked on a factory line are used to the motion of their task, but they might not have a higher level of skill required to move up to a higher position when automation takes place. The company head made a good point about safety levels in automation warehouses. Robots are programmed to do the mundane tasks, but they can also handle the dangerous requirements which means human employees can be safer on the job. That would help lower medical costs that a business needs to factor into liabilities. Automation allows for higher efficiency, higher productivity, and less health risks. Automation, however, cannot provide creativity, or empathy, or opinion which are all driving factors for growing businesses and new, innovative ideas.

    Another aspect of this article that I thought was interesting was how the government reacted to Liu’s investigation from the United States. The rape accusation is still being investigated, but it’s fascinating that China’s government could shut down Liu’s whole operation because of his accusation. People talk about government cover-ups, but China is actively looking into Liu’s potential crime and will have no issue shutting down his business if he sheds a poor light on his country by committing crimes.

  12. Anthony Ciaralli September 25, 2018 at 9:19 pm #

    This article is interesting to me because JD.com wants to have no more human employees. This is incredible because they are one of the first companies to do this. Many other companies have a mix of artificial intelligence and humans, but JD’s wants to be totally automated. Having robots, instead of humans, is beneficial because it lowers the costs the company has to pay. It is much cheaper for a company to have robots because they don’t have to pay labor costs, worry about employees getting hurt, and lower manufacturing times. The only employee that works there is Zou Rui. He works alone in the factory and his job is to take care of the robots and make sure they run properly.
    This is also interesting because it’s concerning on what will happen with jobs in the future. Many companies are looking for lowering the cost of production and employees are a significant cost. This raises the concern about jobs for the future, if companies goes automated, millions of employees will lose their jobs. If one company is able to use artificial intelligence, then other companies will also be able to go automated. This won’t just happen in China, it will spread to other countries too.

  13. Arthur Herpreck September 26, 2018 at 11:02 am #

    This article raises several questions about the current business world and its future. Companies are hiring less people because they are replacing the human workforce by the use of robots and this tendency is more likely to push the humans away from all the jobs that the robots are able to do. The chief executive of the company says that he dreams of a company with « no more human beings ». This trend brings up the question of the future of human workers.

    Today, the replacement of labor by machines extends beyond industrial production. An example from everyday life: in supermarkets, cashiers are gradually being replaced by a series of self-service cash machines that allow customers to account for their own purchases under the supervision of a single employee. It may not be automation itself, as the supermarket simply transfers the customer’s task of recording purchases.

    Being from France, I remember a couple of years ago a humanoid robot was placed into work in a retirement home. This was a controversial action for French people because some people were putting in question the lack of humanity of the robot. It was able to speak and recognize people, move almost like an human, but it was still not a conscious person that was able to manage human relationships with the seniors. The robots were removed from the retirement houses since then.

    The first answer that people believed was that they needed to spend more time at school to get diplomas that will allow them to reach jobs that will not be replaced by robots. But in my opinion this is just going to lead to a point where, with the improvements of technology, the only person that are going to be able to keep secure jobs will be the people that create artificial intelligence and the robots. Most tasks will be covered by the new machines and it will get complex to find a job.

  14. Allegra D September 26, 2018 at 5:33 pm #

    With advances in technology, comes a different set of skills and knowledge that humans need to adapt to in the ever changing world. New technology is a catalyst for ease and success. It gives people the ability to save time and money in their everyday lives and businesses to grow and expand quickly. Although advances in technology is exciting and has many positive aspects, it also comes with negative consequences. This article explains the everyday work life for 25-year-old Zou Rui who works at JD.com, a Chinese warehouse surrounded by robots all day. Although he is not afraid that robots will take over, how long will it be until robots do not need supervision from humans?

    Unlike fellow blogger Joseph C, who has had a positive outlook from reading this article, I do not believe that the good outweighs the bad. According to the article, “Robots could replace almost a third of the American workforce by 2030 — and a new crop of highly skilled positions will emerge”. This statement is very worrisome to people at all stages in life, especially because Google has made a deal with JD and plans on bringing this type of automation to the United States global retail system. Students will be getting a degree with uncertainty that a job will be waiting for them. Also, what happens to the people that lose their jobs? Unemployment is at an all time low right now, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but because of the advances in technology in supply chain automation, I believe that unemployment will rise again.

    I agree with fellow blogger Michelle V in the fact that I was not surprised that robots have already started taking over the labor market. Robots and automation is apparent in many job fields today. Although Zou Rui does not fear that automation and robots will take over, I believe that America should be worried about it. With every advance in technology, a revolution takes place. Back then, it was the Industrial Revolution, but today it is the Technology Revolution and the labor force needs to be prepared for future layoffs and fewer available jobs.

  15. Alexander Fialkowsky September 28, 2018 at 6:15 pm #

    Automation and factories have gone hand and hand since their creations. A fully automated factory is not as far away into the future as many would imagine. Factories in Shanghai, specifically New Balance Sneakers, have an almost completely automated factory requiring only four human workers in case of a malfunction. The workers that were interviewed explained that the job has upsides and downs. Imagine being one of four real humans surrounded by hundreds of automated machines, and your only job is to make sure they do their jobs. The idea seems like a lazy person’s dream job. However, there could be potential downside if too many jobs start to become replaceable with automation. For now, the jobs mostly consist of manual factory labor, as well as jobs that are impossible for humans to perform. If more jobs start to become available for automation, the offset must be that more jobs need to be created for those losing their jobs to the machines.
    It would be luxurious if machines were able to do all of our work, the only downside is how would we pay for the fruits of their labor? With machines doing a majority of our jobs, the amount of remaining jobs would decrease rapidly. We struggle with an unemployment problem in today’s day and age. If we were to implement a system that would take more of those jobs away, there would be chaos. Automation may be part of our future, but it cannot be our entire future. Human labor is still required to maintain the flow of income. Without a flow of income, there would not even be people buying the products produced by machines.

  16. DF September 28, 2018 at 7:11 pm #

    After reading this article I can say I’m truly not surprised by the advancements of technology in this day and age. Growing up I was always aware that technology was becoming more and more advanced. After seeing the movie i,Robot starring Will Smith as a kid I always thought one day would be working next to the same exact robots. Now it is 2018 and it is safe to say I very well may be working with the robots I grew up watching on television. To think that 160,000 workers will be cut down to only 8,000 in the next decade is insane and very unfortunate for the people who lost their jobs. But I believe these people should have seen it coming in this new technology age. Instead of people working the assembly lines and handling good it will be there for the robots to do, and then the new workforce that will be needed are the experts who can program and fix these machines. I think that a company should help provide training, for people who will lose their jobs, in programming and fixing the robots so these old workers can still be of use. As they said a new crop of highly skilled positions will be available for people, so giving former workers a chance to learn a new trade to keep their job could benefit the worker and the company. They wouldn’t have to fill those vacancies with younger greedier workers, instead rain their old employees and give a slight raise to the chosen few who are selected. As Zou said, these robots replace all the boring jobs. So a slight raise and better job for old workers might be in favor of the company in order to save money.

  17. Kent Flores September 28, 2018 at 7:25 pm #

    After reading the article “He’s One Of The Only Humans At Work — And He Loves It” by WaPo, I have learned that the future is already here. Every adult in my life has always stressed about technology being the future, and if you did not learn to stay of ahead of technology, then it would make you obsolete. Reading from the perspective of Zou Rui, technology can and will make millions of jobs obsolete, but it will also create a few selective jobs such as his own. Zou Rui is a machine babysitter, and all he does is make sure that the machines that he overlooks, do not break down or fall out of pattern. From analyzing this article, I noticed that Zou Rui is most likely a young college graduate who had the technological skill sets needed for repairing hundreds of machines and keeping a whole manufacturing warehouse afloat. It is scary to think that one day this type of manufacturing concept will become the norm, causing unemployment rate to reach all time lows. With more and more technology being created, eventually no job will become safe and only software, technological repairs worker, and machine babysitters will be available to the public. With such few jobs available in the market, the economic classes will shift apart at a rapid pace. Only a select few will be able to compete for the limited jobs in the market, and a great majority will become marginally attached workers who depend solely on the government for income. Greed will fill the minds of those who cannot find a job and who are not comfortable with what the government gives them, and this greed will create violence. The future is unpredictable at the moment and many are trying to save up as much as they can in order to invest into technologically adapt companies, hoping that they can squeeze some extra income. I am studying to be an accountant, and all my life I have been told that accountants will always have a job, but something in the technological advances tell me other-wise. Hopefully I can use my technological skills to be like Zou Rui, one in a million, a man who was able to stay ahead of technology and find a job in a company that has a slim window of employment. If I am not able to surpass the technological advances that will come to the United States of America in the following years, then I hope my future self has enough saved income in the bank for the troubling future ahead of him.

  18. Steven Gravlin October 5, 2018 at 6:31 pm #

    Technology is constantly improving our way to do things. Usually, humans use technology to make things easier and faster, but now technology is starting to downright replace humans. There is an ethical dilemma when discussing robots replacing human jobs. There has been a constant battle to improve the wages of employees but that does nothing if most of the employees are laid off because robots can do their job more accurately and for cheaper. Another ethical situation to consider is sexual harassment and assault at work. With the #MeToo movement, women are holding men accountable for their sexual misconduct at work. With Liu in the article being accused of rape, this shows how predatory men could take advantage of women, especially when they are in positions of power. If the employees were robots, at least that would help stop some sexual misconduct at work.
    Another possible effect of robots replacing human unskilled labor is that this leads for skilled jobs to be more in demand which could also drive up the cost of college even more since more people would be forced into getting a college education.
    In my opinion I think there is a line that corporate greed could cross by making a fully robotic company that Liu dreams of. Now that Amazon is paying their employees $15 an hour I hope they do not replace a large number of their employees with robots.

  19. Yash Wagle October 12, 2018 at 8:57 pm #

    Beginning with the title of the article immediately agreed with the author, Kai-Fu Lee, that artificial intelligence (AI) would destroy many careers and career paths. I also agree that perhaps this is something that is not spoken quite enough. The rapid advancement of AI presents many inevitable changes to our world, one of which is job security. The reason for this inevitable changes, just as Lee suggests is because of the intense competition in the field of AI, especially the competition between the United States and China. One thing that I was interested to learn in the article is that AI is applied so much more in China, because of the much larger amount of mobile users and internet users in China. The article goes on to even say that China is quickest in progressing in AI research, and actually has 50/50 in winning the AI research race. Much of the rapid advancement in China comes down to the fact that China’s government has made it a goal to win this AI race and has planned “further integration of the internet, big data, and artificial intelligence with the real-world economy.” On the other hand the US Government has made a troubled time with coping with the AI advancements as some public outcry has started. A group of truckers even appealed to Donald Trump to stop the testing of self-driving trucks. Yet, I still am of the notion that these trucker’s pleas are of no value as eventually to compete with other countries like China we must adapt as well.
    Another part that made me want to respond to this article is after reading and responding to the Washington Post article “He’s one of the only humans at work – and he loves it”. In this article we are introduced to a man in China working for the E-commerce company, JD.com, the warehouse that he works in is the first fully automated warehouse in the world. The man only has 3 other coworkers, and is job is to look over the machines. For him the Job feels very rewarding as he is really into the idea of e-commerce. But in my opinion his job situation is a bit frightening, JD.com does not plan to stop with just on ware house, they plan to quickly perfect their technology and apply it to the hundreds of other warehouses they have in China and Indonesia, and later license their technologies to other companies. What would end happeing is that plenty of people will be out of jobs. If this can happen in China, a place that was long known to hire people to manufacture goods cheaply, it definitely would affect the manufacturing of products in America. In the 2016 campaign trail then nominee Trump said that the Mexicans were taking their jobs, and that China was taking advantage of America. But one thing that was not spoken about enough, was that the Jobs that the Mexicans and China was overtaking would eventually be rendered useless through the presence of AI. On top of this manufacturing and other labor jobs are not the only ones at risk, computers have developed the ability to self-learn to the point which they are smarter than any humans. Medical professionals will have to deal with the fact that there are also procedures of which that can already be done by AI more precisely.
    The Washington Post article and this one also shared another similarity, and that has to do with the fact that we need to reinvent the education system to adapt to AI progress. The only issue with this is as education progresses AI progresses with it..

  20. Jonathan Rodrigues October 12, 2018 at 9:07 pm #

    While technology starts to replace human jobs, humans simply need to adjust. Either way, somebody needs to care for these machines, somebody needs to program the machines, and the chain goes on. Blaming technology for replacing human jobs, in my opinion, is pointless. Technology has made life so many times easier. Products are now made for less, at a much faster rate. People who thought they were “stuck” in factories are now pushed to better and safer jobs. The tech industry is one of the largest booming and revolutionary industries on the planet right now, honestly, I can’t see it slowing down either.
    More people everyday are getting tech jobs and these jobs simply pay so much more than your regular factory floor job would. Instead of fighting it, embrace it, just like Zou Rui did.

  21. Sabrina Torres October 15, 2018 at 11:50 am #

    This article is a great example of how technology is taking human jobs away from people. With the advancements of technology, humans are going to need to adapt to the new working environments by finding other jobs that robots can not do. In the company JD.com, Zoi Rui watches over all the technology and make sure that it is running smoothly at all times. Even though he physically is not doing the technologies job, he manages the warehouse. Machines are not going to be perfect all the time and will need to be checked up on every so often. These technology advancements have made it easier for companies to do their job efficiently and effectively. It also saves companies money by not having to pay as many workers to do the task at hand. With the company JD.com partnering up with Google, there will be even more technology advancements that will decrease the need for manual labor workers. It will be a lot safer for workers to find other tech jobs rather than doing the psychical labor themselves. For examples, lifting and carrying objects are one main reason that technology can make it easier for workers. So the worker does not get hurt by carrying heavy objects the robot can do it quicker and safer. Workers in this field can level up in this field to managers with superior communication styles. People who have program and mechanical skills will be a advantage when looking for other jobs outside the factories. Everyday companies are looking for more and more technology for their factories to eliminate the need of workers in there.

  22. Dominic L October 18, 2018 at 5:42 pm #

    Automation and the industrial workplace go hand in hand. To have a facility be nearly completely automated is amazing. I think it will be a while before we see widespread fully automated facilities because the technology is not reliable or precise enough yet. We saw this when Elon Musk tried to make a fully automated Tesla manufacturing plant. Some parts of a process just can not be replaced by technology. In this case Zou Rui had to sit and make sure everything was running okay and problem solve issues that would arise. I think this automation process is part art and part science. It may be a huge investment but in the long run, will bring down operating costs.
    Potential downsides automation has presented, are mass layoffs of factory workers, and increases in greenhouse gasses because of the higher energy consumption. A fully automated factory will be the most efficient and cost effective option for production when technology is cheaper. The world economy will suffer from all the layoffs of factory workers, unless there is some new industry that will require thousands of unskilled people.

  23. Olivia I. October 26, 2018 at 10:44 am #

    I think that this is a fascinating advancement for technology in the corporate world. While robots are a considerable new area professionals are exploring, the idea of incorporating them into warehouses is revolutionary. I think that this is a good idea for businesses to explore. However, I find it sad that many people who once occupied the jobs of the robots no longer have those jobs. This could be a problem for those unable to find jobs, as the rise of robots could lead to higher unemployment.
    The article said that in the large warehouse in China where hundreds of robots do the work of humans, people are used as supervisors in case anything goes wrong. I think this is sad that people are becoming the minority in the workplace. I think while this is a novel idea, that it should be a balance between the old resources and the new innovations. Having both robots and people could ensure success of production and keep mistakes away. Technology is starting to replace people and I think it is important to remember the success of using people before robots.

Leave a Reply