Still more incremental improvements on the automation front, according to an article in MIT Technology Review.
That is why Budnick is now considering adding a new member to his team: a robot called Baxter. Baxter was conceived by Rodney Brooks, the Australian roboticist and artificial-intelligence expert who left MIT to build a $22,000 humanoid robot that can easily be programmed to do simple jobs that have never been automated before (see “This Robot Could Transform Manufacturing” and “Rebooting Manufacturing”).
The company hasn't sold any robots as yet but it is getting intense interest from American manufurers.
The ultimate goal is for robots like Baxter to take over more complex tasks, such as fitting together parts on an electronics assembly line. “A couple more ticks of Moore’s Law and you’ve got automation that works more cheaply than Chinese labor does,” Andrew McAfee, an MIT researcher, predicted last year at a conference in Tucson, Arizona, where Baxter was discussed.
We've seen other predictions of the impact on cheap Chinese labor before. Manufacturing will go the way of agriculture, with perhaps only 2-3% of the population working in the sector at very skilled jobs.