Robots Flipping Your Burgers

Jul 29, 2014 by

Written by Amanda Delgado

Couldn’t find a job this summer? You are definitely not alone. With the unemployment rate for those under 25 years of age higher than ever, many teens will no longer to be able to get their first job to help pay for college. Although new technology has brought us many great things, it is also taking away our jobs.

A staple job among teens has always been the fast food industry. You don’t need much experience to flip burgers at McDonald’s; however that will soon be a job of the past. Momentum Machines has created a robot that cooks burgers to perfection. The plus side for businesses is that they no longer have to pay several low-wage workers to make the food and it will all be cooked to perfection, meaning less unhappy costumers. It will also be more sanitary than having the food touched by human hands.

According to a paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, jobs in the United States that pay at or around the minimum wage are much more likely to be displaced by “computer-controlled equipment.”

These jobs include sales clerks, cashiers, waiters and waitresses – jobs that are typically held by young workers.

Employers find it more economically friendly to invest in technology (i.e. tablets to take orders instead of a waiter or waitress) rather than workers since a raise in the minimum wage can end up to be more costly than using technology.

Small businesses prefer technology over minimum wage workers, considering hardware and software prices have lowered significantly in the last ten years (tablets went from costing $1,330 in 2009 to $394 by the end of 2012). The Roomba 610 Professional Series, for example, was created for small business owners to vacuum the entire floor. No need for human hands. This would mean that if you’re looking to get a job as a janitor or cleaning staff then you’re out of luck.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have estimated that there is a 92 percent change that fast food preparation and service will be automated in the next few years. Robots with artificial intelligence like IBM’s Watson can be designed to provide sophisticated interaction with customers. In fact, IBM’s Watson has just been approved to work alongside doctors and nurses. Watson is capable of answering questions and making medical decisions with 90% accuracy. If artificial intelligence like this was introduced at fast food restaurants, no kid straight out of high school would be able to get a job. Tablets have already been introduced at Applebee’s and Chili’s to take orders instead of waitresses. Soon, tablets waiting tables at restaurants will be mainstream.

That pizza delivery job you were hoping to get? Forget about it. Deliveries will be performed by self-driving cars rather than delivery drivers once they come out in the market.

Though a robot can replace a low-wage worker, there are significant downsides to using technology rather than an actual person. Employees tend to perform various tasks such as answering a customer’s question and mopping floors. Although the Roomba 610 was created for small businesses, it cannot clean tables or big chunks of debris. Human workers would still be needed. Robots will also not be able to answer to a customer’s complaints or answer their questions if they have not been worded correctly or if the information the customer is seeking has not been downloaded onto the robot.

Despite technology evidentially taking over the jobs that were once held by young workers, some people believe that the growing accessibility and reliance on technology will not replace workers but rather displace them, meaning that the workers will not be jobless but will have other jobs. However, the young worker should be very worried regardless. The reality is that there is no where for them to be displaced to, unless it’s doing maintenance on the robot that took their job. Unfortunately, even these jobs will most likely require some special training or degree.

So although technology displacing thousands of workers hasn’t become a widespread problem yet, it is a problem that is becoming bigger each day. Soon you’ll be losing your part-time job flipping burgers to a robot. No job is safe.


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