Foxconn replaces ‘60,000 factory workers with robots’

Foxconn replaces ‘60,000 factory workers with robots’:

One factory has “reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots”, a government official told the South China Morning Post.

Xu Yulian, head of publicity for the Kunshan region, added: “More companies are likely to follow suit.” China is investing heavily in a robot workforce.

In a statement to the BBC, Foxconn Technology Group confirmed that it was automating “many of the manufacturing tasks associated with our operations” but denied that it meant long-term job losses.

Donald Trump likes to talk about how China is kicking our ass and taking our jobs. Hardly. Robots are taking our jobs and those jobs are never coming back.

How are people going to pay for iPhones without jobs?

We’re quickly approaching the point where we’re going to need to pay people to be unemployed.

Apple and Big Data

Marco Arment worries that Apple isn’t skating to where the puck is going to be:

Today, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are placing large bets on advanced AI, ubiquitous assistants, and voice interfaces, hoping that these will become the next thing that our devices are for.

If they’re right — and that’s a big “if” — I’m worried for Apple.

Today, Apple’s being led properly day-to-day and doing very well overall. But if the landscape shifts to prioritize those big-data AI services, Apple will find itself in a similar position as BlackBerry did almost a decade ago: what they’re able to do, despite being very good at it, won’t be enough anymore, and they won’t be able to catch up.

It’s interesting that Google riffed off of Amazon’s Echo with their Google Home, rather than what they’ve usually done in the past: riff off of something Apple has made.

RAZR: Not a Classic

Jacob Kastrenakes at the Verge on Lenovo’s new ad:

Lenovo put out an ad this afternoon teasing the unveiling of Motorola’s next… something… that’s all about reliving the Razr’s incredible success in the mid-2000s. The phone really was everywhere. And as a former high school student who owned a Razr (which broke after like a year, by the way) and maybe had long hair, I gotta tell you, this ad is speaking to me in a very embarrassing way.

And after watching this, I have to say: Lenovo, please just make your next phone a Razr. Not a Razr smartphone. Just bring back the classic.

Let’s get something straight. The hardware design of the Razr might be a classic, but the software was shit. This applies not just to the Razr but every other mobile phone from 2005.

Mobile phones were horrible and frustrating to use.

The only exception to this could be the early smartphones (pre-iPhone) like the Palm Treo I relied on before I got my iPhone in 2008.

The Unbearable Heaviness of iTunes

Vlad Savov at The Verge asks how many Apple engineers does it take to fix iTunes?:

In the ranking of unpleasant life experiences, using Apple’s iTunes lies somewhere between filing your taxes and having your wisdom teeth pulled out. It’s not good even at the best of times, but two weeks ago it was downright harmful to one James Pinkstone of Atlanta, who found 122GB of his own musical creations had been deleted by Apple’s renegade software. The response from Cupertino has been swift and decisive, with two engineers being sent out this weekend to diagnose the cause of Pinkstone’s agony and try to fix it.

Excellent fucking question!

The problem with iTunes is that iTunes does waaaaaay too many things now. It manages not just your tunes, but your movies, podcasts, apps, and, if you like, your iPhone/iPad syncing (I rarely use iTunes to sync my iPhone).

Originally, iTunes handled your music, and then syncing your music to your iPod. It’s actually doing the same thing now, only with many more different media types for multiple devices.

Something clearly has to change, whether it’s rebuilding iTunes from the ground up, like they did when they scrapped iPhoto for the new Photos app or breaking iTunes up into discreet applications for different tasks/media types.

Self-Driving Employment Snatchers

A group of ex-Google engineers have just launched Otto, an autonomous trucking startup:

Otto’s first vehicle is twice as long and six times as heavy as Google’s cute prototype car, but has exactly the same number of drivers: zero.

Founded by four ex-Google engineers — including Anthony Levandowski, the man who built Google’s very first self-driving car — Otto is applying Google’s all-or-nothing approach to commercial big rigs: ditch human drivers, avoid thousands of road deaths, help the environment, and if all goes well, make a ton of money along the way.

I can tell you who won’t be getting ‘a ton of money’—the drivers that used to drive those big rigs.

Are technology companies putting enough thought into ramifications of phasing out entire sections of the workforce?

[Side thought: I wonder if they got the name of their startup from the idealized thermodynamic cycle that describes the functioning of a typical spark ignition piston engine]

Grit

David Brooks on grit:

Success is about being passionately good at one or two things, but students who want to get close to that 4.0 have to be prudentially balanced about every subject. In life we want independent thinking and risk-taking, but the G.P.A. system encourages students to be deferential and risk averse, giving their teachers what they want.

Creative people are good at asking new questions, but the G.P.A. rewards those who can answer other people’s questions. The modern economy rewards those who can think in ways computers can’t, but the G.P.A. rewards people who can grind away at mental tasks they find boring. People are happiest when motivated intrinsically, but the G.P.A. is the mother of all extrinsic motivations.

He also mentions Angela Duckworth’s new book, Grit.

Microsoft Stores: Throw in the Towel

Microsoft tried to clone the Apple Store. It still hasn’t worked:

Microsoft’s stores have a warm decor, plenty of helpful staffers and an array of PCs, phones and devices. They could use a few more customers, though.

It’s hard to know exactly how the stores are doing since Microsoft won’t comment on either sales or traffic figures. It is fair to say, though, that it is not uncommon to visit stores in which workers outnumber customers.

In San Francisco, even the tiny Amazon kiosk a floor below often has more customers than the far larger Microsoft store.

This is a remnant of the Steve Ballmer Era Microsoft.

They can probably afford to keep them running, but I’d throw in the towel.

If you hand over the keys, you hand over the money, control, and responsibility.

Over the weekend The New York Times published a piece, Podcasts Surge, but Producers Fear Apple Isn’t Listening.

Marco Arment, a prominent iOS developer and podcaster, responded:

And if that ill-informed New York Times article is correct in broad strokes, which is a big “if” given how much it got wrong about Apple’s role in podcasting, big podcasters want Apple to add more behavioral data and creepy tracking to the Apple Podcasts app, then share the data with them. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that.

By the way, while I often get pitched on garbage podcast-listening-behavioral-data integrations, I’m never adding such tracking to Overcast. Never. The biggest reason I made a free, mass-market podcast app was so I could take stands like this.

Big podcasters also apparently want Apple to insert itself as a financial intermediary to allow payment for podcasts within Apple’s app. We’ve seen how that goes. Trust me, podcasters, you don’t want that.

It would not only add rules, restrictions, delays, and big commissions, but it would increase Apple’s dominant role in podcasts, push out diversity, give Apple far more control than before, and potentially destroy one of the web’s last open media ecosystems.

I agree with Arment. Be careful what you wish for.

You don’t hear these complaints from less popular, underdog podcasters, like me. I’ve been producing my (sometimes) Weekly Exhaust podcast for over a year with my co-host Bryan, and it’s hard work, but that’s how it goes. Anything worth doing takes hard work. It takes me having to figure out how to market and advertise my podcast to get exposure.

If I hand that responsibility over to Apple I also hand over money that could go in my pocket. I also hand over my relationship with my listeners. I don’t want to do that.

Porsche 911 R

Porsche is dropping a new 911 R this summer:

Despondent over Porsche’s migration with the rest of the auto world to boosted engines and automatic transmissions? Behold this ray of sunshine: Porsche has a new 911 R that combines just what you want/need—a hot naturally aspirated engine, six shift-’em-yourself gears, and a clutch pedal all in one tantalizing package.

So awesome.

Porsche is only manufacturing 991 of these and even though they’re supposed to go out the door at $185,950, they’ve been going for over $1 million.

Healthy Competition

Uber enables global e-hailing through Alipay to fend against Lyft/Didi alliance:

Now, riders will be able to pay for and hail a ride in the Alipay app in the more than 400 cities in which Uber operates. It’s an extension of Uber’s existing partnership with the company, which initially only allowed passengers in China to pay for their rides using Alipay.

The move comes just a few weeks after Lyft and China’s Didi launched a similar integration that allows Didi riders to hail a Lyft in the U.S. using the Didi Chuxing (formerly Didi Kuaidi) app, and vice versa. That partnership is part of a larger global ride-hail alliance that also includes South East Asia’s Grab and India’s Ola.

The goal of big business is constant growth. This is why there are laws against monopolies, because it’s the natural end state of any capitalist business.

Despite this, I grew up being told competition is healthy and keeps a business on it’s toes. But with Uber, it seems theres no room for competiton and any competition is an extreme threat that must be destroyed.

I continue use, and many times rely on, Uber, but I also continue disapprove of their record of shady business practices.