Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Kiosks and the Uncertain Future

I used an ordering kiosk at McDonald's for the first time last weekend.

The woman who normally takes orders badgered me into trying it, seemingly not understanding that the device she is promoting will be taking her job away.

McDonald's denies this, of course. They claim that automating one of the primary things they pay people to do will not reduce the number of people they need.

Seriously, they say this with an absolutely straight face.

Somewhere in Nevada, in an underground bunker, McDonald's has a lab that is testing fully automated food production and delivery.

Okay, not exactly--it's probably not in Nevada, and it may be above ground--but you know they're working on this. A fully automated McDonald's, and if anything breaks, the one guy on staff just 3D-prints a replacement part and off we go.

People as labor are inconvenient and messy and have lives to work around. Robots don't. Game over.

Remember how I wrote a few months back that the next level of automation, after all the minimum wage employees got fired, was going to be middle management? Well, lookie here:
Nordea Bank Chief: Robots Can Help Us Fire Legions of My Fellow Bankers.

Excerpt: Nordea Bank AB CEO Casper von Koskull, who is already trimming some 6,000 jobs as part of a machine-driven approach to banking, thinks that computers and algorithms can severely thin the ranks of banking management.

“You need to ask the question, what value is the human adding, and how does that affect pay?” Koskull told Bloomberg in an interview on Tuesday, rattling off sectors including personal, investment, and corporate banking, liquidity management, and foreign exchange ripe for a haircut.

“The ones who are mostly hit are middle to higher-level management, because those layers aren’t needed, or shouldn’t be,” he added.

Look, I don't normally plant a stake in the ground on non-gaming stuff, but I'm going to plant one now. Where we're headed, a small subset of people will make an incredible amount of money. For everyone else, there will be collapse, and the United States is uniquely ill-equipped to handle that scenario in any kind of equitable manner. 

I, for one, will not welcome our new kiosk overlords.

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