Robot Gold Mine

Written By Christian DeHaemer

Posted September 12, 2013

There has been a lot of talk lately about robots and robotics and the future of the global workforce.

Despite record corporate profits and an economy that is larger in the U.S. than before the Great Recession, the number of people in the labor force is the smallest it has been since the Reagan administration.

Part of this can be explained by demographics — that is that baby boomers are retiring at record numbers…

Part of it can be explained by the rise of people on disability, or those people working two or three jobs…

But one overlooked factor is the boom in robotics.

Foxconn, maker of the iPhone in China, reported earlier this year that it was planning to replace more than a million jobs previously done by humans with robots.

And the recent walkout strike by fast-food workers has increased the demand for robotics in that industry.

A San Francisco company called Momentum Machines has created a robotic assembly line that can assemble 360 hamburgers an hour. The company says the device could save fast-food outlets $135,000 a year in labor costs.

So much for a higher minimum wage…

Boring Job? Look Out

Technology has already replaced secretaries and the office pool.

Now it’s moving up a notch. Jobs that require sitting in front of a computer doing repetitive tasks can be automated.

Law school applications are down around 25% this year because software that automates going through reams of documents and figuring out which ones are important for a court case have replaced entry-level lawyers and paralegals.

If you have a boring and repetitive job — even if it requires a lot of training — you’ll be one of the first to be replaced.

Replacing workers with technology is nothing new. It is a story as old as the Luddites, who protested against newly developed labor-saving machinery by destroying the then new power looms back in 1811.

This concept goes back centuries, even before John Henry was replaced by a steam drill.

Technology is a creative and destructive force that changes the norm of the workforce.

There will be both pain and profits. And know this: It is unstoppable.

You can fight a rearguard action and lose, or you can embrace the next wave of robots and profit.

The choice is yours.

Here at Energy and Capital, we prefer winning to whining…

What’s Next: The Robot Mine

You’ve heard about self-driving cars from Google and Audi.

What you may not know is that Rio Tinto, the global mining behemoth, is already moving forward with autonomous mining.

Perhaps tired of strikes, pensions, and lawsuits due to injuries, the company now employs self-driving dump trucks.

Technology magazine DVICE reports:

As part of Australia’s mine of the future, the dump trucks make up the Autonomous Hauling System (AHS), and are capable of navigating their surroundings and delivering rock to on-site processing machinery. How they navigate their surroundings can be preset and altered by off-site human operators, similar to how military drones function.

While drivers are no longer needed for the trucks, the excavators are still manned. These operators are capable of sending signals to their domesticated robot dump trucks, informing them when they’ve been fully-loaded.

Two systems are in place to keep the dump trucks in line. First, the very same SatNav systems that keep the dump trucks from careening off a cliff are wired to recognize the signals from manned vehicles. When a manned vehicle is in range, the dump trucks know not to come too close. If drivers need to exit their vehicles, they can even tell the dump trucks to stop in their tracks when they get within 150 feet of their ride.

Robot Profits

There are three ways to profit from the acceleration of robots:

1. Buy the companies that make robots;

2. Buy the companies that make the components, like sensors and software; or

3. Buy the companies that will benefit the most from automation.

All the best,

Christian DeHaemer Signature

Christian DeHaemer

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Christian is the founder of Bull and Bust Report and an editor at Energy and Capital. For more on Christian, see his editor’s page.

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