Will Robots Really Take Over? That Depends
Hitchcock’s Bates Motel film is scary? The i-care-bot (what I like to refer to as the i-[can’t]-care-bot) is scary too. And it’s real. Get this:
Inside the Japanese hotel where the front desk is staffed by ROBOTS and guests scan their faces to enter rooms, a menacing-looking dinosaur, a female humanoid with blinking lashes and a small android greet guests.
Hi, welcome to Japan minus the Japanese. Welcome to the world of no teenagers. Its’s great if you wanted to be in Japan with no contact with actual Japanese.
A billionaire has warned that it could trigger social unrest elsewhere:
How is society going to cope with structural unemployment and the envy, hatred and the social warfare?” he said. “We are destroying the middle classes at this stage and it will affect us. It’s unfair. So that’s what keeps me awake at night.”
I used to think that scenario was unlikely. But maybe I was wrong. One must distinguish.
The i-[CAN’T]care-bot fronted for old age homes really won’t work (probably not even in Japan) because fundamentally the bot can’t care, and caring is the biggest part of the job. (I speak as someone who visits an old age home daily. Don’t care? Don’t be there!)
But automating jobs like carrying luggage — where caring is certainly a major asset but not the business end of the job — may be easier.
One industry due for conflict in this area is fast food.
A key issue is demands to raise the minimum wage. Heartless as it may sound, from an economic perspective one reason automation never proceeded as quickly in fast food as it did in the automotive industry, is this: Low minimum wages paid to teenagers, pensioners, and stay-at-home moms prevented automation from becoming economically attractive to corporate owners.
A large proportion of the fast food workforce in many communities was not dependent on the income for sheer survival anyway. Raising the minimum wage may be socially just, but each increment makes automation more economically attractive, as machines do not have rights or concerns, or require wages.
Automation is probably the industry’s future. I don’t know what it will mean for many low birth rate countries’ future.
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