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No More Shopping Carts?

21 Mar

Korea has opened the world’s first virtual shopping center. All the products are just LCD screens that allow you to order the items by touching the screen. When you get to the counter, your items are already bagged and ready to go.

 

Automation1

 

Pretty cool.  No more shopping carts.

But also, a lot less stock boys to stock the shelves and fewer, if any, people hired as a check-out clerks and bag boys.  Where will these people find jobs?

Will we simply leave those who’ve been replaced by automation and robots to be unemployed, homeless and short-lived?

Or will we pass laws to feed, cloth and shelter everyone who can’t or won’t work in an increasingly automated and “robotized” economy?

Last year, I saw a report that the #1 industrial province in China expect to replace up to 90% of it workers with robots by A.D. 2020.  That’s just four years from now.  If Chinese robots are not only more efficient than Chinese workers but also less expensive to operate–I guarantee that they’re less expensive to operate than American workers. That means most American blue collar and clerical workers are going to be replaced by robots–and not so long from now.

The economics of automation guarantee that, one way or another, technology will soon render most people unemployed.  Will these millions of unemployed be provided for or disposed of?

This robotized technology will be introduced as something wonderful and exciting.   For example, here’s a 3 minute and 21 second video from Domino’s Pizza advertising the “wondrous” advent of the “autonomous pizza delivery vehicle” (“autonomous” is polite, non-technical term for “robot”):

 

 

Gee!  What’ll they think of next?  Makes us all feel like we’re living like one of the Jetsons, doesn’t it?

The Jetson's--a TV cartoon show from the 1960s.   [courtesy Google Images]

The Jetson’s–a TV cartoon show from the 1960s.
[courtesy Google Images]

Well, thanks to the happy face on that video, almost everyone feels like a Jetson–except for the pizza delivery guys who’ll be unemployed.  And, soon enough,the cooks who currently make the pizzas and the clerks who take the telephone delivery orders will also be unemployed.  Perhaps the “autonomous pizza delivery vehicle” should shed its bright, optimistic colors and be painted pure black to signal the bad news it implies for current pizza workers.

How will society and our system of values be modified to accommodate a population where most people don’t have to work to earn their keep?  On what basis will we value others if they don’t have or need jobs?  On what basis will we value our selves?

How many of us can sustain our own lives without the work that not only gives many of us our only sense of self-esteem, but also provides us with evidence that we are each somehow “important” to this world and even “necessary”?

What’s the importance of a father (or mother) to children who are supported for free by the robotized state?

What’s the life-expectancy for a man who knows his life has no meaning and he is unneeded and unnecessary?

I’m going to assume that in our “brave, new” robotized world, the government will guarantee that each of us gets an equal share of whatever “pie” is produced by our robots.  I’ll also assume that at some point, the supply of “pie” will become relatively fixed.  (We’ll call it “peak pie”.)

Then, if you’d like more pie, how could you get it?  You can’t work harder because you don’t have a job.  But suppose you could kill most of your friends and neighbors and thereby reduce the number of people claiming a slice of the “pie”?  If you could kill half the population of your country, you could double the size of your slice of the pie.

We live in times that are far beyond “interesting”.

Our times are radical, volatile and increasingly scary.

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 21, 2016 in Revolution, Robots, Technology, Values

 

Tags: , ,

2 responses to “No More Shopping Carts?

  1. AuBrix

    March 25, 2016 at 8:19 PM

    One way to reduce Loss Prevention. Now if you could come up with a system where no people, employees or Management makes physical contact with the products.

    Risk Entitles Reward, BUT minimize those risks as much as possible.

     
  2. Adask

    March 25, 2016 at 9:15 PM

    Actually, the system you described (no human contact between grocery store employees and public) is an inevitable consequence of the system described in the article. I.e., why bother to have the store and all of the monitor screens that allow shoppers to select products? Why not display all of the grocery store products on a website. Let customers visit the website and see the products on their own home monitors, place their orders, and then either drive to the grocery store to pick up their orders, or wait at home for a delivery van driven by a driver, or by a robot, that delivers the grocery order to your door?

    The only obstacle to completely eliminating grocery stores is a cheap delivery system to people’s homes. Inevitably, that system will be devised and the grocery business will not only eliminate products on its shelves and eliminate more grocery store employees, it will eliminate the grocery stores themselves.

    If you want a generic investment tip, I’d suggest looking closely at any new technology that uses robots to make home deliveries. I don’t know what we’re going to do for jobs when the robots invade (and perhaps send many of the illegal aliens scurrying back home), but economics makes robotizing our distribution systems virtually inevitable. Amazon (and others) sees this inevitability and has looked into using drones to delivers relatively small packages by air. I don’t know that the flying drone system will ever be as efficient as a ground-based system. For the moment, I’m thinking that ground-based drones relying on GPS could each take a series of packages (like pizza deliverymen or the mailman) to run on a circuit and deliver those pizza, envelopes and packages) to everyone’s front door.

    I suspect that one big question that remains to be worked out is drone delivery system security. What’s to prevent the local teenagers from hijacking and robbing ground-based drones? What’s to prevent the public from shooting airborne drones out of the air to see what they find inside? At the point where the product changes hands from the seller to the buyer, you might need two living people to guarantee security. Maybe the ground-based drone could be a small truck that’s driven by robot, but doesn’t drive up to your front door. Maybe it just drives up to curb in front of your house and a living man riding in the drone walks the package the last 40 feet from the drone in the street to your front door. That living deliveryman’s days would be numbered. Inevitably, he’d also be replaced by a robot.

    In fact, as I think about it, it seems possible to have a robotized truck that hauls a large number of packages destined for a large number of customers. Then, that robotized truck would carry several airborne drones that haul the packages from the truck out on the street over the last 20 to 100 feet to the customer’s door. Cover the majority of the distance from warehouse to customers’ homes by truck. Cover the last few steps (which could blocked by cars, bicycles and toys on the sidewalk) with a flying drone. The truck would have some means of automatically loading packages into the drones. As soon as a drone hauled a package to a front door, it would fly back to the truck, but loaded up with the next package for the next next address, and take off as soon as the truck reaches that next address. The truck would have a recharging system to recharge drone batteries. Sounds plausible to me.

    But the large and dangerous question remains: If, thanks to robots, we don’t need many people to produce products and we don’t need many people to sell and distribute products–why do we need most people?

    As I view the future of robots, it seems to me that robots will inevitably render most people irrelevant and unnecessary–at least when it comes to work.

    Why will the robots keep us around? As pets? As gods?

    What is a man who can’t or doesn’t support himself through his own efforts? A pet? A god? A parasite?

     

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