One of the problems that’s not often discussed in our love of technology is the fact that odds are pretty good it was built by labor that was at the very least abused and subject to incredibly dangerous working conditions. So Google is trying to reinject some human decency into buying a smartphone by replacing all those abused workers with their Google robots.
As we all know, Google spent a lot of money on robotics last year, but it wasn’t clear what they planned to do with it. At least one idea, apparently, is to maybe stop killing the people in the Third World who build us high-tech toys, so they’re teaming up with Foxconn to build a better factory robot, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Analysts said the partnership makes sense as Foxconn, the world’s largest contract manufacturer of electronics devices, can provide Google the best testing ground for its new robotics technology. They said Google is expected to build a new robotic operating system for manufacturers, just like the Android operating system for mobile computing devices. A successful robotics operating system would further strengthen Google’s position in the technology industry.
One can argue that this isn’t the best news for the Chinese economy, not least because Google robots will, as they spread, put a lot of factory employees out of work. On the other hand, consider that working conditions at Foxconn are so amazing and human-rights respecting that the company has had to install nets to catch people trying to jump off the roof in a suicidal depression. We’re not talking a unionized, respected labor force, here; in some cases we’re talking about slaves.
Human rights and labor abuses in electronics manufacturing is a fairly serious issue, and it didn’t go away just because we moved on to another topic. In the long run, Google’s robots could save quite a few lives simply by reducing the chance those people will be abused, even if it won’t reduce the issue of minerals we use.