Martin Ford is the author of the book Lights in the Tunnel (2009). Ford – what’s in a name;-) – predicts that people in the service and knowledge economy will lose their jobs because their work is taken over by robots and artificial intelligence. In the article Could Fast Food Robots Steal McJobs, Ford focuses on the impact of these technologies in the fast food sector. What happens to them when their work is done by machines?
The classic example is the Japanese sushi chain Kura, where efficiency is paramount. Absent are the traditional chefs with their meticulous attention to detail. Their place has been taken by robots. Also absent are the waiters who have been replaced by conveyor belts. From three control centers external managers oversee the 262-Kura restaurants and act from a distance if something goes wrong.
This post was written with Jaap Bloem
360 hamburgers per hour
At the end of 20120 Momentum Machines announced that they developed the Burgeon; a device that can produce 360 hamburgers a minute. And if there is any doubt on the potential impact of these machines, the quote on their website says it al: “Our alpha machine replaces all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant. It does everything employees can do except better.”
In Harbin, located in China’s Heilongjiang province, you can visit the Robot Restaurant. Twenty robots are in charge here. They take orders, cook dumplings and noodles, serve the food and entertain guests. Chief Engineer Liu Hasheng says that the whole creation cost 5 million yuan (about 580,000 euros), and the robots from 200,000 to 300,000 yuan (between 23,000 and 35,000 euros). After a charging time of two hours, the robots are able to continuously five hours of nonstop work.
Robots want your job
Martin Ford thinks the future is not so bright for humans. He sees few alternatives for employees in the fast food sector. Ford expects the work that these people might otherwise do, will also go to robots:
If jobs in the fast food industry start to disappear, or even if the rate of job growth slows significantly, the implications for the workers that depend on these jobs of last resort will be dire. There may be few other alternatives for workers at that skill level, especially since other low-wage retail jobs may be similarly threatened.
If you think that technological unemployment stops here, think again. Technological unemployment will be structural, because our technology is pushing us humans out of the market.