As hair-raising as it may be, the observation does not leave the shadow of a doubt in the eyes of the Chinese authorities. The humanoid robot constitutes the next great technological revolution, like the computer, the smartphone or the electric car before it. “These robots will profoundly change the production methods and lifestyles of humanity,” indicates the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in a note published this week. Based on this prognosis, China is organizing itself to massively produce these robots with human features from 2025 and to establish itself as the world number 1 by 2027.
The Chinese government's note details the measures that should make it possible to achieve these objectives. The strategy essentially aims to build a sizable industrial ecosystem, comprising two to three international giants, a resilient network of small and medium-sized businesses, as well as two or three clusters on Chinese territory. A reminder of the industrial artillery that China was able to build to compete, for example, with American GAFAM during the 2010s. The Chinese authorities also set the supply of essential components for robotics as an absolute priority for the years to come. .
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This five-year plan on robotics, characteristic of China's political organization, is part of a context of economic war with the United States. The Middle Kingdom clearly displays the ambition of becoming the world's leading economic power in 2049. However, the country retains some weaknesses with regard to the development of humanoid robots, a market which could grow by 40% per year by to 2026. The Chinese market alone could be worth $51.4 billion by 2030, according to the national news agency Xinhua.
China's strong ambitions in terms of humanoid robots resonate with Elon Musk's worried comments (coincidentally made on the same day as the Chinese government's publication) about this technology. According to the American new technology tycoon, “we should be very concerned” about these machines which “can follow you anywhere”. During that speaking engagement in London, he asked, “What happens if he ever gets a software update and he’s not so friendly anymore?”
His anxieties did not prevent Elon Musk from developing a humanoid robot himself within the factories of his famous electric car brand Tesla. Named Optimus, this biped of wire and steel should, according to him, eradicate poverty by inaugurating an “era of abundance” accompanied by a “high universal income”. The billionaire and fanciful futurologist wants to make it accessible (around $20,000) to be able to sell millions of copies. The Optimus robot, by populating factories, homes and businesses, should make it possible to “fundamentally transform civilization”, according to the formula of its instigator.