back to article Amazon to spend 11 days of annual profit developing robot warehouse workers

Amazon today announced the creation of a $1 billion venture investment program with the aim to spur innovation in three areas close to its heart: fulfillment, logistics, and the supply chain.  The Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund (AIIF) will be bankrolled using 11 days of the US giant's $33bn annual net income from 2021 (or …

  1. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Will they be complaining "robots are taking my job?"

    I certainly hope not... this is where we need robots, in the sh*tty repetitive boring tasks that are so far just difficult enough that no one's spent the money to make a robot do it. - not stupid crap like "can we deliver potato chips by flying drone?"

    But in unrelated topics, there used to be "mule spinner's cancer" where oil from cotton mule spinner machines hit workers in the crotch on a constant basis and turned out to be carcinogenic.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mule_spinners%27_cancer

    File that under "they used to do what?" that hopefully things like warehouse-stock-fetching will be filed under with a "that was before they had robots" tag

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Will they be complaining "robots are taking my job?"

      I would agree with you completely if not for that fact that, if those workers got a job at Amazon shifting boxes, it's likely that they didn't find a job anywhere else.

      I doubt very much that any Amazon employee set out one morning with the urge to get a job where pissing in a bottle to not take a break is almost a routine procedure.

      So, yeah, I'm all for making robots to handle dull, repetitive tasks, but what happens to the people who lose their jobs to it ? Are they going to be able to find work somewhere else ?

      And if they could, wouldn't they already have ?

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Will they be complaining "robots are taking my job?"

        @Pascal Monett

        "if those workers got a job at Amazon shifting boxes, it's likely that they didn't find a job anywhere else."

        Same can be said for the many who worked in the fields and there were far more of them before we moved to manufacturing. Same with the shift from manufacturing to services. While people want things there are jobs.

        "So, yeah, I'm all for making robots to handle dull, repetitive tasks, but what happens to the people who lose their jobs to it ? Are they going to be able to find work somewhere else ?"

        This seems to be a continuation of a Mc Problem. The workers do something worth little money but demand more. The next complaint is that fewer of them are needed and automation takes over.

    2. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Will they be complaining "robots are taking my job?"

      @Gene Cash

      Funny the type of industrial diseases that lodge in our memory.

      I always remember the first industrial related cancer recorded, Chimney sweeps scrotum (same carcinogenic material exposure scenario as the mineral oil one, though idea for this one is that although (carcinogenic) soot all over the body of those climbing in a chimney, sweat / gravity would mean it travelled down and accumulated in the wrinkly areas - so disproportionately high concentration in the scrotum, hence this area usually first to show cancer symptoms).

      .. Men, if it's a disease & it affects your nads you tend to remember it

      1. NoneSuch Silver badge
        Joke

        Meanwhile...

        Amazon workers have begun wearing wooden shows to work.

        (Few will get the reference, but I though it punny)

    3. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Re: Will they be complaining "robots are taking my job?"

      Thanks for the link. I had images of dizzy donkeys until I followed it.

  2. Alpharious

    Was the Wagie Cagie not cost effective?

    What happened to the wagie cage? They patented it. They had researchers and engineers design a mobile cage to entomb workers in for their 8-to-10-hour shifts. Did they change their minds or did meme magic scare them away??

  3. martinusher Silver badge

    I don't understand this rabid reaction corporate America has to unions

    I reckon its people believing their own propaganda. Unions are treated as evil here in the US, there's never a kind word said about them in the media or by politicians despite them being an important workplace institution in those industries that still have them. We prefer our workforce weak and disorganized so we can impose some very strange work practices on them (corporate America isn't exactly generous with benefits and time off and its forever finding ways to chip away at whatever benefits have been customarily offered to workers).

    There is, though, a thriving industry of consulting firms that can be employed to keep unions out of workplaces so this probably explains the persistence of union busting. I think corporations should learn to live with unions, properly conducted they can be a significant asset.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't understand this rabid reaction corporate America has to unions

      Management doesn't like to relinquish any control of their operations to outside entities. Not OSHA, State dept. of Labor and Industries. Or unions. It's partially about the benefits. But often one can make a case for increased morale due to better compensation and the resulting productivity increase.

      I've particated in a number of studies of workplace efficiency. And often, there are improvements to be realized if management can move workers around as they are needed. But this often runs headlong into issues of seniority and negotiated job classifications.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: I don't understand this rabid reaction corporate America has to unions

        Look at the similarity between America's attitude towards Unions and their civil war that ended slavery, replacing it with low wages - the people driving the Amazon Prime delivery vans and packing them are about 80% black, the people running Amazon and other companies are almost 100% white.

  4. Falmari Silver badge
    Joke

    Because that's all you needed :)

    “Mantis Robotics is building a robotic arm with tactile feedback capabilities that can be used to work alongside humans.”

    My first thought robotic arm was, where’s the rest of the robot? Big Bang Theory.

    https://youtu.be/voJD9tN-pSs?t=24

  5. steviebuk Silver badge

    Join a union, we'll just replace you with bots

    Wouldn't surprise me if that is what this is mainly about.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Join a union, we'll just replace you with bots

      Yeah, workers want a 5% pay-rise costing $millions. Let's spend $billions replacing them. That'll learn 'em!!

  6. Big_Boomer

    Gawd darned Commie bahhsterds!

    How DARE they unionise to protect themselves from exploitation! Don't they know that Billionaires Greed needs a never ending increase in it's income and to achieve that they MUST treat people like animals. Now I'm no fan of Unions and have never been a member of one but the US attitude to them is beyond reason. Mind you, they do have some pretty poor examples of unions like how the Teamsters used to be under Hoffa, but the corporates are every bit as corrupt and greedy as their unions were/are. Personally I would welcome the replacement of repetitive manual jobs with robots as that inevitably leads to an increase in everyone's standard of living and has done so since the man first knapped flint or discovered that fire hardened thigh bones made good clubs. In the short term it's difficult for those who were employed in these menial jobs, but they need to find alternative employment and could do a lot worse than getting a better education and better employment.

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