Convenience versus the Economy


At first this above video made me think the future is here, but then I started thinking and it’s really scary.

Ever use a self check at the grocery store? What about an ATM? How about ordering something online instead of going out into the world for it? Yeah, we are all guilty of it. But what will be the tipping point where our drive for convenience will eventually dismantle the US workforce?

I’ve made a conscience effort to go the cashier at my local grocery lately as I see the 10$/ hr that will go home with them valued higher to my five minutes quicker out the door. And don’t think for a minute once the stores can get rid of cashiers you won’t be waiting in line. You’ll just be waiting on the computers to process your sale.

The national movement to raise the minimum wage, where its spirit is good and human, will only drive the technology to put a large amount of the US workforce out of work. Wendys already announced plans to reduce their workforce this May replacing cashiers with screens. Their competition will be implementing similar things as soon as they can develop their own way of incorporating the machines in their existing structures. Forcing these companies to pay higher wages will only advance this movement.

The problem is of course deeper. Up until the 1990’s careers at McDonalds were entry level usually filled by teenagers and college students. Somewhere along the way our workforce ran out of options and started making the McDonalds model a career, something it’s not viable as. If McDonalds pays living wages for employees, then their will be no more Fast food chains. At least not any with a Dollar Menu. Maybe that’s not a bad thing but the companies will do what they need to meet their bottom line. If that means replacing employees with machines then that is what they will do.

Where then do all these employees go to work next? They’ve already lost a career at what our country considers a job for the uneducated or unskilled. Rightly or wrongly they will find it hard to find further employment.
And it’s not just fast food employees who will be impacted. Uber, a refuge for people who lost careers, has already started rolling out Self driving cars to replace their drivers. Good bye Taxi Drivers careers. This will be followed by Bus drivers, garbage men, and eventually long haul 18 wheeler drivers. If you can pay a one time fee for the robot that will deliver your goods, why keep the man and his family’s health insurance behind the wheel? Wild stuff and as the technology advances all occupations could one day be replaced.

Scary times indeed. So if you believe in supporting people that work, stop going to self check, stop using the ATM, stop ordering your groceries by mail. It won’t stop the incoming wave of jobs being replaced, but it’s the ethical choice, and might, just might be a way to keep food on someone’s table. At least for a while longer.

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