A few weeks ago, during the introduction of new minimum wage levels, a picture was floating around the internet which showed some supermarket self-checkout machines with text which said that “these are the only “workers” who are smiling about the increase in the minimum wage.” Actually, of course, it will be the fairly well paid people who build, install and maintain those machines who are smiling because their jobs are made more secure when low wage, low skill jobs are priced out of the market. It struck home to a lot of people ~ I know some people, mainly, but not exclusively, senior citizens, who don’t like them ~ they want real, human face-to-face interaction with a cashier. I’m afraid I’m not in that group; I often prefer to use the self-checkout because it’s faster and more convenient, same as self-service banking and self-service gas pumping … if I need human assistance I’ll go to a human; mostly I don’t and machines are faster and more accurate.
There is an excellent article by Ben Thompson on his stratechery blog entitled “AMAZON GO AND THE FUTURE.”
amazongo is, for those who haven’t been following the tech/business news, that giant corporation’s bold step into self service grocery shopping and one wag noted that there is “a line to shop at the grocery store whose entire premise is that you won’t have to wait in line.” Mr Thompson explain why this is good business and even better capitalism … and his explanation is likely to drive social progressives and real socialists right around the bend.
People, not just those in governments and bureaucracies, but people like me and you and our friends and neighbours have to understand that the nature of work in still changing, as it has for hundreds, indeed thousands of years …
… there is less room for a man (especially a young man) with a strong back but a weak or, at least, untrained mind and less room for a girl with quick hands …
… and the newest “SewBot” may be cheaper than third world labour.
As the stratechery blog article points out, there are still humans in the process, making sandwiches and stocking shelves and the like, but they, too, can be and, eventually, will be, replaced …
… there are bugs to be worked out and costs to be managed but the message from my local Loblaws through Walmart and, now, amazongo is that a lot of low skill, low wage, often part-time jobs can be, profitably, “outsourced” to cheap, reliable machines that are highly skilled at repetitive tasks and never need a break and can work day and night.
It really doesn’t matter that my neighbour, the 78 year old lawyer, who still works a bit because she cannot imagine sitting alone in her condo, hates using self-checkout machines, and, in fact, likes to walk a few extra blocks, in nice weather, to shop in little specialty shops in the quaint market district … she can afford to indulge her fantasies. Most people will have to embrace “self service” because it is one of the ways that Safeway and Costco and Amazon keep a tight reign on the prices they charge.
We had all better get used to the idea of change … not the pretentious bits of “real change” that the Liberals promised in 2015, but profound societal change that will dictate how our grandchildren live.
Edited to add: and see this: a pizza delivery robot in London/