Join 3,561 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


China robot noodles
April 25, 2013 9:34 AM   Subscribe

"It is the trend that robots will replace men in factories, it is certainly going to happen in sliced-noodle restaurants."

"In Japan robots are already being used to make sushi, and a robot in San Francisco can serve up 340 hamburgers an hour. Foxxconn, that builds numerous mobile devices and gaming consoles, is replacing 1 million humans with 1 million robots. As prices for the robots drop, they’ll continue to invade the workplace at increasing an increasing pace. Already China is expected to become the world’s largest robot market next year."
posted by stbalbach (37 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
The hamburger article was pretty cool until they just had to get in that last smug dig at obese americans who will apparently get fatter because robots.
posted by elizardbits at 9:48 AM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, it's Singularity Hub. They were probably mostly annoyed that us Americans haven't replaced 90% of our bodies with robot parts.
posted by koeselitz at 9:50 AM on April 25, 2013


I am annoyed by this as well tbh.
posted by elizardbits at 9:51 AM on April 25, 2013


Cool, but .. is the giant body and head with glowing eyes an essential part of the machine?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:51 AM on April 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


A. Why do the noodle-slicing robots need to look humanoid?
B. If they're going to look humanoid, why do they need to look so angry?
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:52 AM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


San Francisco-based Momentum Machines claim that using Alpha will save a restaurant enough money that it pays for itself in a year, and it enables the restaurant to spend about twice as much on ingredients as they normally would – so they can buy the gourmet stuff.

Translation: The restaurant can keep charging its usual inflated prices and double or triple its profits.
posted by Splunge at 9:52 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The "robot" chef is compared to a set of windshield wipers and has about that much mechanical complexity. The Ultraman head is neat and all but this thing is as much a robot as a deli meat slicer.
posted by GuyZero at 9:56 AM on April 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


That does not look like a robot. That looks a big food processor with glowing eyes.

I mean, by these standards, the Italians replaced humans with noodle-making robots more than a hundred years ago.
posted by koeselitz at 9:56 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Translation: The restaurant can keep charging its usual inflated prices and double or triple its profits.

Prices are driven by market demand, not by production costs.
posted by GuyZero at 9:57 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Foxconn article raises an interesting point, though - is it better to replace the human workers with robot workers in factories that have a long and storied history of gross negligence and worker mistreatment?
posted by elizardbits at 9:57 AM on April 25, 2013


I'm sure that as there are more and more job opportunities for robots they will no longer want to work slicing noodles. In 5-10 years there may be no humans or robots that will work slicing noodles, the job may fall to actual windshield wipers, or some sort of GM noodle slicing animal, maybe part cat part knife. Knifecats are going to be a whole nother can of worms though, we are going to have to watch out when they get sick of slicing noodles.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:00 AM on April 25, 2013 [15 favorites]


im so hungry now
posted by elizardbits at 10:03 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


A knifecat would be cool! It'd be like a normal cat, but with tiny knives at the ends of its cute little furry arms!
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:03 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Times are tough, Ultraman's been reduced to working in a noodle shop.
posted by mrbill at 10:07 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cool, but .. is the giant body and head with glowing eyes an essential part of the machine?

But it looks remarkably similar to its creator. I'd say it's a self-portrait.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:10 AM on April 25, 2013


Isn't increased food industry production problematic when we already have conflicts caused by food and water shortage? Or does the robotification of the hospitality industry lead to less waste in production and consumption?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:11 AM on April 25, 2013


It's like they forget to mention that humans will do almost any work if the pay is high enough. "Oh, it's exhausting work to slice noodles, no one wants to do it." Well gosh, maybe if you paid people more?

Yeah it's the way of the world but come on, don't let people get away with cop-outs on camera like that, you got a robot to do it because humans don't want to do your shit job at the price you are offering to pay.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:25 AM on April 25, 2013


Well gosh, maybe if you paid people more?

Once again, you can't just raise the costs of noodle production above the price people are willing to pay. The noodle shop owner will lose money or people will stop buying noodles and buy something else.

Also, I mean, let's be honest: slicing noodles is shit work that's done much better by a machine. I seriously doubt anyone around here eats hand-sliced noodles on a regular basis, if ever.
posted by GuyZero at 10:36 AM on April 25, 2013


is the giant body and head with glowing eyes an essential part of the machine?

ALWAYS
posted by ook at 10:43 AM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Translation: The restaurant can keep charging its usual inflated prices and double or triple its profits.

Maybe this one, but another one down the street will choose to maintain the product and lower the price.
posted by dgran at 10:44 AM on April 25, 2013


A knifecat would be cool! It'd be like a normal cat, but with tiny knives at the ends of its cute little furry arms!

So, just like a normal cat.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:44 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Prices are driven by market demand, not by production costs.

Only to a certain extent. They can't drop below production costs, so if the "natural" demand rests somewhere south of the price of workers plus materials plus facilities, you can't actually get there without reducing or eliminating those costs - which this business just did.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:45 AM on April 25, 2013


some sort of GM noodle slicing animal, maybe part cat part knife

Why go the long way around? Just genetically modify worms to taste like noodles. A real timesaver, even without factoring in the time you'd spend having to deal with the inevitable herds of vicious feral razorcats roaming the back alleys.

The restaurant can keep charging its usual inflated prices and double or triple its profits.

Maybe this one, but another one down the street will choose to maintain the product and lower the price.


And consumers can choose from various product qualities available at corresponding price points! Everybody wins!
posted by ook at 10:49 AM on April 25, 2013


No, no. We just get some very sharp cleats for BigDog and it sort of tap-tap-taps its way across a sheet of noodles.

Then it scoops up a batch with his headarm and flings them across the room.
posted by adipocere at 10:52 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why go the long way around? Just genetically modify worms to taste like noodle

Noodle trees might work. I like the knifecat idea for the same reason this guy put a head with glowing eyes on a motor with a stick and blade and called it a robot. For the spectacle.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:54 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


mister meowface scissorpaws, at your service.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:58 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Suddenly noodles seem irrelevant: somebody must IMMEDIATELY teach BigDog how to tap-dance. I demand this.
posted by ook at 11:05 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


GuyZero: "Prices are driven by market demand, not by production costs."

Oversimplify much? As supply meets demand, cost does indeed optimize to equal the cost of production. (At least, that's the propaganda we feed high schoolers to gain their buy-in into our economic system.)

When people snark about inflated prices, what they're implying is that there are either forces impeding healthy competition (how are the means of production such as real estate and raw materials accessed?) or they're snarking about fancy pants people and their fancy pants desire for fancy pants brand name noodles.

"Buy our artisanal noodles, hand-made by futuristic miracle robots!" as opposed to, "buy our machine-made, mass produced noodles..." Well, that's manipulating the demand curve through hyperbolic marketing, which is all legal and common, if deceptive, but does it maximize the utility of our economy for everyone or does it unhealthily skew it?

Why does all this talk where I'm obviously teetering on the word "communism" matter? Robots change everything. They could break down the barriers to entry, and break down start-up costs because robots can make new robots. The economy is no longer means of production + labor. Labor is no longer required, the means are everything. Because robots are self-reproductive, they could be available to everyone and everyone could share in the means of production. We're seeing this with 3D printing right now.

We can have a cheap robot in every garage. OR, barriers can be invented by humans with power against the future of unlimited competition, perfectly (AND naturally! Without government intervention! Zero tyranny!) distributed profit and minimized cost.

The marketeers are going to be the ones selling our future to us so things are not looking good for the tyranny-free, laissez faire, pure democratic communist robot utopia. Yes, we could have had laissez faire anarcho-communism enabled by technology.

Instead, what we're likely to have is the 1% becoming the 0.1% becoming the 0.01%, as it always was until a commoner revolt resets the scales. Except this time, the revolting army will be put down by robots. 0.001%... 0.0001%. Finally, we are left with one man, one joystick, and all the means of production under one control. Robots change everything.

TL;DR: I want my own home kitchen noodlebot. Yum!
posted by Skwirl at 11:28 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


That does seem a bit over the top for a noodle slicer. It feels like you could strap a whole bunch of those knives on a spinning cylinder and grind through the ball of dough in a few seconds, but I suppose that's not desirable for some reason.

I like these ramen robot arms. They even perform skits!
posted by lucidium at 11:31 AM on April 25, 2013


On reflection, I think all robotic labor replacements should look insane and evil. Just to keep humans on their toes.

Also, coincidentally, I'm working on a production of Mike Daisy's The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, so I'm acutely aware that Foxxconn is among the most insanely evil corporations on the planet. And also totally impossible to avoid supporting if you want to live as a modern human.
posted by cmoj at 11:49 AM on April 25, 2013


When people snark about inflated prices, what they're implying is that...

Well, neither of us are mind-readers. I think that some people sincerely think that all reductions in cost are captured as profits as opposed to offsetting other increases in costs or lowering prices. The comment to which I was responding did use the phrase "The restaurant can keep charging its usual inflated prices" which did sort of imply that the existing prices were above some morally acceptable level and that reducing costs would somehow leave that unaffected.

My personal reading is that when people snark about costs they're just demonstrating their basic ignorance of microeconomics. That I make a simplified statement as opposed to throwing up a 3-d elasticity curve seems like a reasonable response.
posted by GuyZero at 11:50 AM on April 25, 2013


I seriously doubt anyone around here eats hand-sliced noodles on a regular basis, if ever.

Oh, man, there is a guy who does knife-sliced noodles in town and I need to go eat some of them ASAP now. Thanks for the reminder.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:59 AM on April 25, 2013


Skwirl:
I thought Margaret Atwood's vision in 'Year of the Flood'/'Oryx and Crake' was pretty good: these megacorporations employing all of the scientist types who a) design and keep the Big Science happening, and b) are pretty much the only people who get to take part in the robot utopia. (Except, of course, that the scientist in the family has to work pretty much constantly.) The rest of the world is straight-out dystopian.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:59 AM on April 25, 2013


Those noodle-slicing robots look like Dr. Who villains.
posted by gyc at 12:34 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cool, but .. is the giant body and head with glowing eyes an essential part of the machine?


Yes. Absolutely.
posted by slogger at 1:52 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like cartoonist Time Cowboy's take on the robot revolution better, because it is adorable.
posted by emjaybee at 5:19 PM on April 25, 2013


oh god noodles.
posted by Space Kitty at 8:47 PM on April 25, 2013


« Older Matthew Yglesias wrote a blog post for Slate the o...  |  Celebrate the 60th anniversary... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments