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Mapping Robots

Crack open just about any atlas and you’ll find at least one map of distribution: people, wildlife, minerals, places of worship, the density of all of these things can be plotted on the globe. And while observing small changes from year to year in these categories can be interesting and informative, I found the 2008 report published by the Statistical Department of the International Federation of Robotics particularly fascinating. Their Executive summary estimates a “total worldwide stock of operational industrial robots between a minimum of 994,000 units and a possible maximum of 1,200,000.” And they expect this already-impressive number to grow in the years ahead. So where are these robots you ask? Generally speaking, the answer is Asia, a regional production center for a wide range of manufactured goods. But the highest concentration is in Japan. Fully one-third of the total—a whopping 353,300 machines can be found here. In fact, the island nation has approximately 300 robots for every 10,000 people employed in manufacturing.

Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.

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