Skip to comments.The Minimum Wage and the Rise of the Machines: The robot future is coming
Posted on 12/06/2013 8:54:25 AM PST by SeekAndFind
After you heard President Obamas call for a hike in the minimum wage, you probably wondered the same thing I did: Was Obama sent from the future by Skynet to prepare humanity for its ultimate dominion by robots?
But just in case the question didnt occur to you, let me explain. On Tuesday, the day before Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage, the restaurant chain Applebees announced that it will install iPad-like tablets at every table. Chilis already made this move earlier this year.
With these consoles customers will be able to order their meals and pay their checks without dealing with a waiter or waitress. Both companies insist that they wont be changing their staffing levels, but if youve read any science fiction, you know thats what the masterminds of every robot takeover say: Were here to help. Were not a threat.
But the fact is, the tablets are a threat. In 2011, Annie Lowrey wrote about the burgeoning tablet-as-waiter business. She focused on a startup firm called E La Carte, which makes a table tablet called Presto. Each console goes for $100 per month. If a restaurant serves meals eight hours a day, seven days a week, it works out to 42 cents per hour per table making the Presto cheaper than even the very cheapest waiter. Moreover, no manager needs to train it, replace it if it quits, or offer it sick days. And it doesnt forget to take off the cheese, walk off for 20 minutes, or accidentally offend with small talk, either.
Applebees is using the Presto. Are we really supposed to believe that the chain will keep thousands of redundant human staffers on the payroll forever?
People dont go into business to create jobs; they go into business to make money. Labor is a cost. The more expensive labor is, the more attractive nonhuman replacements for labor become. The minimum wage makes labor more expensive. Obama knows this, which is why he so often demonizes ATM machines as job-killers.
Just a few days before Obamas big speech on income inequality, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos launched a media frenzy by revealing on 60 Minutes that hes working on the idea of having a fleet of robot drones deliver products straight to your door. I can only imagine the discomfort this caused for any UPS or FedEx delivery guys watching the show. There are still a lot of bugs to be worked out, but does anyone doubt that this is coming?
You might take solace in the fact that there will still be a need for truck drivers to deliver the really big stuff and to supply the warehouses where the drones come and go like worker bees. The only hitch is that technology for driverless cars is already here, it just hasnt been deployed yet.
None of this is necessarily bad. Machines make us a more productive society, and a more productive society is a richer society. They also free us up for more rewarding work. As Wireds Kevin Kelly notes, Two hundred years ago, 70 percent of American workers lived on the farm. Today automation has eliminated all but 1 percent of their jobs, replacing them (and their work animals) with machines.
While some hippies and agrarian poets may disagree, most people wouldnt say wed be better off if seven out of ten people still did backbreaking labor on farms.
That doesnt mean the transition to a society fueled by robot slaves wont be painful. The Luddites destroyed cotton mills for a reason. Figuring out ways to get the young and the poor into the job market really is a vital political, economic, and moral challenge. My colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, James Pethokoukis, argues that one partial solution might have to be wage subsidies that defray the costs of labor, tipping the calculus in favor of humans at least for a while.
Of course, Pethokoukis notes, wage subsidies are an on-budget, transparent cost which politicians hate while the costs of the minimum wage are shifted onto business and hidden. But the costs exist just the same.
The robot future is coming no matter what, and it will require some truly creative responses by policymakers. I dont know what those are, but Im pretty sure antiquated ideas that were bad policy 100 years ago arent going to be of much use. Maybe the answers will come when artificial intelligence finally comes online and we can replace the policymakers with machines, too.
Jonah Goldberg is the author of The Tyranny of Clichés, now on sale in paperback. Y
Robots - You can’t get any more ‘minimum wage’ than that.............
We’re gonna need robots to fix the robots too.
Because policymakers always do such a bang up job in responding to the effects of creative destruction.
Of the 203,000 jobs created last month,
41% or 83,200 jobs are in government!
Every government job is overhead on private sector.
More people in government to suck blood of hard working
people who must be productive enough to make a profit
just to stay in business.
The enemy is not robots, it is the bureaucracy and
regulations from the government.
In Boise, ID on the corner of Overland and Five Mile, there is now a motorized sign waving device that mimics a person waving around a sandwich board sign. Robots are even replacing the guys that wear foam pizza costumes and stand outside on street corners. Also, there are now automatic sky writing devices which make perfect messages. All you need is a drone to fly it. I hope the blue skies don’t get littered with ads...
I don’t think it’s a problem right now - but this has always raised a question in my mind about the future.
Given that technology always advances and it does more and more of those chores and duties for us - at some point in the future, it’s conceivable that robots could do every bit of “work” required in society. Perhaps it wouldn’t be 100% of the total “work” available, but the overwhelming majority - anyway (with a very few people to “manage” certain situations).
I wonder WHAT EXACTLY is the majority of human beings on this planet going to do in order to “earn income”.
Is this going to completely change the entire economic structure to be something completely unrecognizable to us today. It seems it would have to be something completely different - because the majority of people could not “work” to earn income - no matter what.
Oh, I can see this at McDee’s...
tap tap tap
two cheeseburgers, medium fries, diet coke, swipe, ding!
$15 / hour is about what I'd expect for a low-end tech to receive for keeping the fast food robots running. Not high-end work, mind you, but low-end, keep things on track and running, type-stuff. However - it would be more skilled than punching buttons with pictures on them, and asking "Would you like fries, too?"
It would be ridiculously easy to replace many of the behind-the-counter staff with automation. A couple of $15/hour people to keep the automation in line would be what I'd expect, and dump many - if not most - of the rest.
Dems and FF workers should be careful what they wish for.
It's too cold today for a human sign waver, anyway. (Currently 19 degrees, 8 with the wind chill)
Will the off shored manufactures use Cantonese speaking robots?
The service industry in our society has grown leaps and bounds. People don’t wipe their own butts, anymore. All while manufacturing jobs have decreased.
Automation, robots might reverse that a little. Where service jobs are replaced, manufacturing and engineering jobs will be created to design, assemble, program and maintain automated systems. They will require higher skills, they will be fewer but they will pay better.
Thank you Winston please report for reeducation. Peace is war.
Big deal. In the 60’s and 70’s the burger chain called King’s had phones at every booth.
You just picked your menu items and picked up the phone to give your order.
Somebody still has to bring it out to your table.
This is the exact some thing but updated for modern times.
When thye actually have androids coming around to your table, I’ll begin to worry.
I think that is only a matter of time. Further, I think the mechinization of fast food places is very near.
Tap, tap your order onto a screen then the computerized fry basket automatically drops into the fryer, and the cheesburger conveyer process starts and the drink machine automatically dispenses. Done. A total of 3 or so workers max at each fast food location.
“I wonder WHAT EXACTLY is the majority of human beings on this planet going to do in order to earn income.”
I dunno. If what I hear about “Agenda 21” is correct, most of them won’t be around to worry about.