Sunday, September 25, 2011


I had an interesting conversation this morning with a fellow who had recently visited a large manufacturing plant of farm machinery and other commercial equipment in Illinois. He told of the number of employees in the plant some years ago compared to today's workforce that continues to increase output of finished products. It is accomplished by replacing human labor with robots. The Internet has a wealth of information on the history and use of robotics. Among the interesting things that I learned is that the term, "robot" comes from the Czech word, "robota" which translates to "drudgery". Hence, robots have come into use during the past 50 years to replace the repetitive work that was associated with manufacturing. However, they have gone far beyond performing simple tasks as they advanced in ability and are utilized in every fields from health care to warfare. I saw my first robot in a center pivot irrigation plant in Nebraska some 25 years ago. It performed a simple spot-welding task with perfection and replaced 2 or 3 skilled workers. Robots do wonderful things these days but it seems we have devoted more energy in their development and use that we have in providing employment opportunities for those being replaced. Then I remind myself that the Vogel Brothers Blacksmith shop that employed several men here is Seward 50 years ago, isn't here anymore either. It has been said that, "Life is a race between retirement and obsolescence", but what do I know.

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