Robots vs. the economic apocalypse?

It’s probably not quite what you think.  As countries around the world are dealing with geopolitical turmoil, skyrocketing inflation and supply chain problems, Singapore’s manufacturing industry has managed to expand.

According to Nikkei Asia, advanced integration of robotics and automation is making the difference.

A key to Singapore’s success was in laying out a long term vision for developing the right environment to promote and support high-tech production companies.

The nation is one of the few in recent memory to have been able to stop the decrease in the manufacturing sector’s proportion of the GDP, a recent Nikkei Asia opinion piece noted.  The piece was written by James Lambert, director of economic consulting at Oxford Economics in Singapore.

The Trends Journal has previously forecast how automation technologies might prove to be crucial in countering other systemic negatives and policy failures of politicians, to spur economies. (See “AUTOMATING OUT OF WORLD CRISIS?” 22 Jul 2022.)

Singapore has made a number of smart moves in recent years, including developing world-class tech personnel through programs like sponsored research collaborations with well-funded local colleges, and subsidizing  employee training.

Lambert pointed out that by maintaining a relatively open economy to import necessary intermediate goods, and encourage investment, it has ensured its appeal to international investors. 

In addition, the region has strong intellectual property protection provisions, and the government offers incentives to local businesses who collaborate with international manufacturing and engineering firms to establish cutting-edge production facilities on the island.  That has further facilitated knowledge acquisition and access to cutting-edge technologies, according to Lambert.

As a result, Singapore now stands as the second-most robot-intensive manufacturing sector in the world, behind only South Korea—and a very productive one.

TRENDPOST: A question that remains is how widely the economic benefits being created by robotics are being shared in Singapore and elsewhere. There are important factors regarding displacement of workers, and concentration of wealth, that currently have no real framework addressing those imbalances.

As The Trends Journal noted in “AI IS LEARNING YOUR JOB,” (24 May 2022) many industry professionals are predicting that AI and robotics will displace huge numbers of human workers in the near future.

Our article pointed out that according to a spring 2022 Pew Research poll, about half (48 percent) of experts surveyed felt that robots and digital agents will displace a significant number of blue- and white-collar jobs. Their concern is that this will increase income inequality and create a mass of virtually unemployable people.”

About half of experts expressed faith that human ingenuity would leverage the innovations of robotics and AI to create new jobs, industries and ways to make a living.

A 2020 commentary at concerning rising inequality exacerbated by automation did point out that Singapore has offered adults personal SkillsFuture credit accounts which they can use to buy job training, or-retraining.

It also mentioned Singapore’s mix of grant programmes and tax incentives “to encourage firms to invest more in low-wage workers, those most at risk from technological job displacement.”

But is that enough? Would something like offering shares in companies to residents according to certain criteria, be an effective way of spreading the wealth?

In the case of natural resources, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was a trailblazer, developing a framework where Alaskan citizens receive payments for the natural resources that companies use.

The entire Singapore community contributed in one way or another to create the environment, incentives and subsidies that allowed the city to thrive in tough times. The entire community should benefit from the productivity that automation and robots are now creating.

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