If the robo-apocalypse does eventually happen, it might not as dramatic as films like The Terminator have suggested. The robots probably won't launch the nukes, or create death-machines, instead they might just end up taking your job.
A new report for the Cornerstone Capital Group suggests fast-food employees might on their way out. Instead, robots - not too dissimilar from the machines now currently used to build cars on assembly lines - might be the future.
According to the report, climate-change induced rise of food prices, uncertainly from ObamaCare - which increases the costs of employees - and income distribution trends are behind the shift and were described as "increasingly a point of social and political contention."
Food and labor costs make up a super-sized portion of a fast-food outlets' overheads - accounting for 60-70% of outgoing expenditure. However, the fast food industry is not able (or at least willing) to simple hike up the price of their products, as the sector is incredibly price-sensitive and competitive. Faced with this, the top brass' preferred option is to reduce costs - which is basically a euphemism for eliminating staff.
However, John Wilson, the head of corporate governance, engagement and research at Cornerstone Capital, claimed we're unlikely to see automated kitchens for at least another decade. Having said that, the role of the cashier could become increasingly redundant. Instead, Darren Tristano, executive vice-president at Technomic, claimed mobile apps which allow ordering online and in-store could remove the need for shop-front personnel altogether. He claimed:
When possible, technology used in ordering (kiosks, mobile, online ordering) can speed the process, improve accuracy and decrease labor cost to the operator, allowing them to maintain their current cost margins.
But this automation of the industry might not be to everyone's taste. Tristano suggests this could also backfire, claiming customers may be turned off by impersonal robots:
With regards to the back of house, automation in the kitchen — which can help improve labor efficiencies — will also reduce cost, but to some extent, takes away the personal touch of a cook or chef. These changes may be less desirable by consumers. Overall, automation today will likely save a few dollars, but likely will not be a big impact on restaurant operators who have and will continue to focus on service, hospitality and a friendly smile.
Of course, there's another major issue here. The development of new technologies, such as robotics and online applications, are rendering many people unemployed, or at the limiting jobs an already competitive job market. Apps such as Uber and Lyft are increasingly facing criticism for damaging traditional taxi and bus services, with many cities seeing large protests and even legal proceedings. Prior to this, it has also been claimed online retail has also essentially killed the high street retail sector. Of course, others simply blame these older business models for failing to adapt and innovate with the times.
However, whereas these changes at least create jobs in other sectors, the automation of entry level manual or service labor could be seen to result in a net decrease in unskilled labor roles - upon which many people depend. The jobs which they create are often limited to managerial and advanced engineering roles - positions not available to the kind of workers who are generally replaced by automation.