Party newspaper hails role of robot, dismisses downside in rare encomium to robotics
Robotics should be harnessed to better serve the needs of mankind, China’s state-run newspaper Guangming Daily said in a rare editorial published today on wider adoption of robots in the country.
The paper, considered to be a Communist Party mouthpiece alongside People’s Daily, began by saying that AI, new energy, new material, 5G and robotics are becoming deeply fused. In particular, the boom of robotics has significantly changed the way people work and live, it said.
The editorial cited the “Robot+” Action Plan, jointly released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and 16 other ministry- and commission-level departments in January 2023, which states that the country should work hard to promote the use of robots in 10 sectors.
They include manufacturing, agriculture, architecture, energy, commerce and logistics, healthcare, senior care, education, business and community service and work safety and emergency response.
“In the future, robots will definitely appear in more application scenarios,” Guangming Daily editorialized.
It went on to say that the presence of robots has been acutely felt in daily life. For instance, some restaurants are staffed by delivery robot servers and even robot chefs. Robot mowers can tell weeds and crops apart and remove weeds with accuracy. In factories, row upon row of robotic arms move in unison to assemble components into finished products. At hospitals, doctors operate on patients using surgical robots with dexterity and deftness.
Based on these existing user cases, there are ample reasons to expect the involvement of robots in different industries will lead to a better life, said the newspaper.
The paper, however, did not brush aside the “controversy”, as it puts it, sparked by the robotic industry.
What people are most concerned about is nothing less than the likelihood that robots will replace some jobs filled by humans.
The newspaper surprisingly took a much more sanguine view than most skeptics of the threat posed by robotics and disruptive AI innovations like ChatGPT.
It said technological innovations are destined to phase out backward production methods, and this is an “inevitable” outcome of technological development.
Meanwhile, however, more advanced production methods will arise, giving rise to new job opportunities.
Therefore, rather than replacing humans, robot actually enables a role transition, the editorial pointed out.
For instance, robot not only frees construction and powerline maintenance workers from the risks of operating at heights and adverse working conditions. It also improves work efficiency and enables them to transition into robot repairmen and operators, said the editorial.
To make the role switch a reality, companies and government agencies need to provide more training opportunities to nurture skilled talent and help workers adapt to new roles and working environments, Guangming Daily noted.
To succeed in this endeavor, and broaden the depth and breadth of robotic application, the country needs sound policies and a congenial environment, to encourage innovations covering product design and technique development, and continuously enhance the safety, stability, reliability, ease of use of robotic products.
This is to make China’s robotic industry independent and robust, the newspaper concluded.
The Guangming Daily editorial is one of a raft of high-profile official documents, statements and media commentaries of late that spoke of robotics in glowing terms, prompting many market observers to believe an era of robotics is afoot.