However, exactly how much of a risk robotisation poses to those most vulnerable to losing their jobs to a machine is largely underestimated by those most likely to be affected – the region’s giant pool of under educated low- and semi-skilled workers.
It is not for no reason than countries throughout the Asean Community (AC) that are heavily reliant on Industry 3.0 and below are all enthusiastically embracing the concept of Industry 4.0.
While embracing the technology of Industry 4.0 is one thing, in order to ensure robotisation does not result in mass-unemployment, education also needs to be moved up the priority scale – the ability of countries to attract foreign investment based largely on the allure of starvation level salaries is rapidly becoming meaningless. Who cares what the labour rates are if you don’t need any labour?
Particularly at risk is Thailand where almost one-fifth of its population is already aged above 60. Future economic prosperity and the question of whether Thailand can avoid huge increases in unemployment largely hinge on its ability to quickly and successfully transition to Industry 4.0. To do so it will need to simultaneously increase the skills of the Thai labour force.
Thailand’s CPF leading robotisation charge
Perhaps one reason the Thailand government is so enthusiastically embracing Industry 4.0 is because it has seen the rapidly approaching future due to Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group) being one of those leading the charge in robotisation of workplaces; and undoubtedly the prospect of burgeoning unemployment and a faster widening of the gap between the haves and the have nots, in a country where the gap is already increasing at an alarming rate, is not one Thailand’s General’s find appealing. It is the sort of stuff that breeds unrest, rebellion, and dissent.
In the video above a Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) (a wholly owned subsidiary of CP Group) factory somewhere in China churns out many thousands of ready-made meals a day – without a single sign of human intervention.
Cooking containers are washed, filled with rice which is then washed and dispensed in precisely measured ratios of grains to water in a never ending stream. Lids are fitted and after the rice is cooked to perfection it is emptied and fluffed, before being precisely measured into the container that will eventually end up in your microwave.
As the tray continues its journey four almost identically sized crumbed chicken balls are dropped into the empty portion of the container, while a little further along some blanched, diced vegetables are added before some sort of sauce is squirted in to finish off the meal.
The meal containers continue their journey receiving a membrane seal and product labelling before being bagged, stacked in a box, palletised and hoisted up to eight pallets high in an enormous freezer room… again without a human being needed.
Wide shots inside the premises show no signs – a glove, an apron, a cleaning rag – of a human ever having been near the production line, let alone being necessary for its daily operation.
Efficiency, quality, lower overheads
As one of the world’s leading listed agro-industrial and food conglomerates, CPF has historically been an early adopter of leading edge technology to maximise efficiency, improve quality, and lower overheads. How far the company has been able to maximise all three as shown in the video clip above though is sure to surprise many people.
AEC News Today reached out to Maunfun Chiraiam at the CPF corporate communication & PR office in Bangkok in attempt to find out more about the factory, but as at the time of writing no response had been received.
While one might argue that humans are an indispensable part to the whole process, as technology progresses the prospect that humans will be relegated to the sidelines – or even deemed as unnecessary by the artificial intelligence (AI) systems that we create – is increasing.
Just last month Facebook shut down an AI project after the machines developed their own language that their human creators could not understand and began communicating between themselves.
And it is not only those employed in low- and semi-skilled positions that risk losing their jobs to a machine. In a February article produced in collaboration with Quartz, the World Economic Forum (WEF) published a report highlighting the grim future for those entering the legal profession in an article titled Your next lawyer could be a machine.
Joining the legal profession at high risk of losing their job to a machine are loan officers, receptionists, retail sales staff, taxi drivers, and cooks. Journalists and correspondence are, thankfully, at the lower end of the risk scale at just 11 per cent, along with other professions which require creative manipulation and a depth of social perception.
So while dental surgeons, chiropractors, choreographers, and nurses can breathe a sigh of relief for now, sit back, click play, and see why robotisation means you could soon lose your job to a machine.
Feature video Supplied
- Robots Are the Future: Amazon Machines Are Just the Beginning (Newsweek)
- A Human, a Bot, and a Manufacturing Shop: Welcome to the Future Workplace (Machine Design)
- Robot Chefs Could Take Over Our Kitchens Very Soon (Interesting engineering)
He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia, with stints in the Middle East, the USA, and England.
He has covered major world events including Operation Desert Shield/ Storm, the 1991 pillage in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010, and 2014 Bangkok political protests.
In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.
Prior to AEC News Today he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.
In the mid-80s and early 90s he owned JLF Promotions, the largest above and below the line marketing and PR firm servicing the high-technology industry in Australia. It was sold in 1995.
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