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China bought 36% of all factory robots sold last year, more than any other country, and it intends to ramp up its own production of them — another sign of its determination to be the pre-eminent technological superpower.
Writes Axios' Kaveh Wadell: With the U.S. and China locked in a race to master artificial intelligence and quantum computing, robots are a third, quieter competition between them. Mastery of any or all of the three technologies is seen as key to geopolitical and economic power in the coming decades.
"If you are an industrial robotics supplier, China is a short-term sales opportunity, but a long-term competitive threat."— Gregory C. Allen, Center for a New American Security
China’s robotization has unfolded extremely quickly. The number of industrial robots in the country nearly doubled between 2015 and 2017, according to the International Federation of Robotics.
Because of the speed of these changes, China has been importing robots in huge numbers. But if all goes according to Beijing’s plan, the flood will only be temporary.
The big picture: China's ascendancy to a robotics giant would represent a significant global shift.
Pauwels says China will look next to entering markets in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
A potential harbinger: drones.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Scientists in Chicago are trying to create the embryo of the first quantum internet.
Why it matters: If they succeed, the researchers will produce one, 30-mile piece of a far more secure communications system with the power of fast quantum computing, writes Axios' Andrew Freedman.
David Awschalom, an Argonne scientist and University of Chicago professor who is the project's principal investigator, tells Axios that the concept is difficult to grasp, even for experts.
What they're saying: Prineha Narang, a Harvard researcher who studies quantum materials and isn't involved in the project, says it's a promising effort to provide real-world proof of techniques that have only been studied in labs.
"Fundamentally what they’re doing has been done before but just in a much, much smaller setting. And it sounds like, 'Ok, so it should just scale.' But something we’ve noticed with quantum technologies in the past, particularly doing things reliably, is that when you try to scale them over long distances things don’t always work."— Prineha Narang
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The financial strain of raising children is a major factor in a stubborn pay chasm between men and women 45 and older. They earn almost the same starting out in their careers, but then diverge when children come into the picture.
Writes Axios' Erica Pandey: At a time of a critical U.S. labor shortage, companies are largely failing to resolve pay and child care questions, the main issues for women when deciding to return to and stay in the workforce.
"One desirable thing about child care benefits is that they're really a win-win from workers' and employers' perspectives. ... Women return to work sooner if they know their child will be well cared for."— Francine Blau, Cornell economist
By the numbers:
North Korean soldiers. Photo: Kim Won-Jin/AFP/Getty
Montreal — the world's AI startup powerhouse (James Temperton — Wired)
North Korea's weak spots: Poker, games, petty crime (Joe Uchill — Axios)
A 5,000-robot map of the universe (Glenn Roberts Jr — Berkeley Lab) (video)
Investors see signs of economic trouble ahead (The Economist)
The world's longest sea bridge (WSJ) (video)
Tokyo thrift store. Photo: Getty Images
The average American throws out 70 pounds of clothing a year — and 85% of it ends up in landfills. Now, some outdoor retailers are seeing profit in the trashed clothes, Erica writes.
What's happening: Apparel companies like Patagonia, REI and North Face are reselling used, returned or damaged gear at discounted prices, reports Retail Dive.
The other side: This summer, Burberry was criticized for burning about $38 million worth of unsold clothes and bags and shoes. The company has since vowed to recycle its extra inventory.