With a seemingly endless line of talking-heads willing to ignore essentially every study that has been undertaken with regard the effects of raising the minimum-wage; and propose what is merely populist vote-getting 'benefits' for the ever-increasing not-1% who benefitted from Ben Bernnake's bubbles - we thought the following burger-flipping robot was a perfect example of unintended consequences for the fast food industry's workers. With humans needing to take breaks, have at least 4 weekend days off per month, and demanding ever-increasing minimum-wage for a job that was never meant to provide a 'living-wage', Momentum Machines - a San Francisco-based robotics company has unveiled the 'Smart Restaurants' machine which is capable of making ~360 'customized' gourmet burgers per hour without the aid of a human. First Jamba Juice, then Applebees, next McDonalds...
As Brian Merchant ( @bcmerchant ) explains (via The Burning Platform blog),
Meet the Robot That Makes 360 Gourmet Burgers Per Hour
No human hand touched this hamburger. It was made entirely by robots
One robot, rather—a 24 square foot gourmet-hamburger-flipping behemoth built by Momentum Machines. It looks like this:
The San Francisco-based robotics company debuted its burger-preparing machine last year. It can whip up hundreds of burgers an hour, take custom orders, and it uses top-shelf ingredients for its inputs. Now Momentum is proposing a chain of ‘smart restaurants’ that eschew human cooks altogether.
“Fast food doesn’t have to have a negative connotation anymore. With our technology, a restaurant can offer gourmet quality burgers at fast food prices. Our alpha machine replaces all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant. It does everything employees can do except better.”
And what might this robotic burger cook of the future do better than the slow, inefficient, wage-sucking line cooks of yore?
- It slices toppings like tomatoes and pickles only immediately before it places the slice onto your burger, giving you the freshest burger possible.
- …custom meat grinds for every single customer. Want a patty with 1/3 pork and 2/3 bison ground after you place your order? No problem.
- It’s more consistent, more sanitary, and can produce ~360 hamburgers per hour.
Furthermore, the “labor savings allow a restaurant to spend approximately twice as much on high quality ingredients and the gourmet cooking techniques make the ingredients taste that much better.” Hear that? Without all those cumbersome human workers, your hamburger will be twice as good. For the same cost.
I don’t doubt this is where we’re heading; robots are making inroads in manufacturing, farming, and they’re doing more domestic work around the house, too. Yeah, robots are taking our jobs, and it’s not a question of if, but when and how. Economists often treat the service industry as some last bastion of downsize-proof labor, but, clearly, robots will make sandwiches and take orders, too.
A future where we can get gourmet burgers, cheaply and on the quick, sounds pretty nice. But that future will also have structural unemployment, unless we start taking major strides to rethink and reform how we work in a world where robots are doing much of the heavy lifting. If we can, with robots flipping all the burgers, and the right social policies, maybe at least a semi-techno-utopia is on the way…
Of course, in a world of de minimus capital costs (courtesy of an apparently job-creating-mandated Fed), why wouldn't the McDonalds of the world adopt such a strategy. The outcome, as we explained before, is all too obvious...
What happens after that should be clear to everyone: more unemployment, lower wages for the remaining employees, worse worker morale, but even higher profits to holders of capital. And so on. Because in a world in which technology makes the unqualified worker utterely irrelevant, this is what is known as "progress."