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Raising minimum wage will raise something else: An army of robots taking away folks' jobs

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Coat

Got to wonder if the Professor has a brother called Robert

Mine's the one with a copy of "Count Zero" in the side pocket.

But really.

Increasing recurring costs encourages employers to invest in machinery with higher initial fixed costs but which runs 24/7/365.

Who knew?

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Yup

I now order using the touchpanel at the local McDonald's. I don't have to deal with a person and my order is accurate, and it's faster.

It's not a "robot" but it's automated, and it's taking a cashier's job away.

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Re: Yup

Eggs 'n toast while I'm in the shower - automated.

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Re: Yup

@ Gene Cash

"I now order using the touchpanel at the local McDonald's. I don't have to deal with a person and my order is accurate, and it's faster.

It's not a "robot" but it's automated, and it's taking a cashier's job away."

I like the touch panels at McDs. My ability to make sure that my order is entered correctly is in my hands. If only they would use the labour savings to actually serve the food in a decent period of time. They used to be the best but have had poor service for years.

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Trollface

Re: Yup

I like the touch panels at McDs. My ability to make sure that my order is entered correctly is in my hands.

I'm reminded of a story shared with me about a visit to a Taco Bell. A hapless cashier accidentally added a side of guacamole to a medium diet soda. To the shock of onlookers, the manager went absolutely ballistic on this kid.

Upon hearing this story, I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him. It seemed to me that whoever performed Q&A on that POS system should have caught and prevented combinations like that.

...

Please do let us know if, when using the self-service touch panel, you succeed in adding hotcake syrup to your Royale with Cheese.

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Stop

Re: Yup

I had to stop reading at the part where you said you went to McDonalds. Thats just gross...

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Unhappy

Re: Yup

I now order using the touchpanel at the local McDonald's. I don't have to deal with a person and my order is accurate, and it's faster.

It's not a "robot" but it's automated, and it's taking a cashier's job away.

I think that means you have now become the robot.

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Re: Yup

Came here to say roughly the same thing. Why should I care about the opinions of people who think McDonald's offering qualify a food, eh?

That and: "may have unintended consequences" = "may have zero consequences"

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Re: Yup how you like your eggs - soaped up?

"Eggs 'n toast while I'm in the shower - automated."

Soggy toast and slippery slimey buttered eggs getting into every fold, crack and orifice?

Either yeugh!! - or better than tentacle porn (oh so much fun you had last night, situation).

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Re: Yup

No but, on the autoteller at KFC, I often get seduced by the offer of bacon for 30p (or at least it used to be) - totally forgetting they neglect to inform you of the cheese they use to glue it on.

Chicken and cheese?

To be fair the meat cashier often doesn't give warning of this either...but at least you can customise here and try to get a bespoke order 'without the cheese please' (as the Americans might say (at least in the old ads 'hold the cheese' - although I wouldn't want to hold the horrible synthetic crap)..

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McDonalds touch screens

Touch screen surfaces are remarkably good at keeping viruses alive such as cold, flu and norovirus (gastro). After learning this I avoid using any public touch-screen devices. If I do use one, I wash my hands soon afterwards.

I also put in place a protocol to disinfect the fleet of testing tablets and phones that my team used. It reduced sick leave by 30%.

So I prefer to give my order to an employee, who also has a much better chance of spending some money at my business, and thus delay my replacement by automation or redundancy.

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Re: Yup

I saw they were rolling that out to the first restaurant in Germany, in I think Frankfurt Airport. The one drawback over here, in Germany, is that most people wouldn't pay with plastic or NFC for such small amounts.

That said, I haven't been to a McDonalds in about 7 years.

I work in IT, but I still prefer personal service.

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

"I also put in place a protocol to disinfect the fleet of testing tablets and phones that my team used. It reduced sick leave by 30%."

Seriously? Are you running a phone shop in Yemen?

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

"So I prefer to give my order to an employee, who also has a much better chance of spending some money at my business,"

Here is a point I don't understand, if all of the semi-skilled and unskilled workers are pushed out of work by robots/automation, shirley that is a significant proportion of the consumer base that manufacturers depend on.

How does a consumer economy work well with a diminished number of consumers?

I suppose the alternative is to redirect the redundant to the Soylent Corporation to make fertiliser, food and with the fat left over, some grease for the robots out of them.

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Re: Yup

"I work in IT, but I still prefer personal service."

Same here. When I go to my local supermarket, if it's busy, I'll use the self service checkouts, but if it's not, I'll opt for a human cashier, if they sit idle, their jobs will be in danger, so I do my bit to help justify their employment.

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MAF

Re: Yup

And you also have the added benefit of sharing bacteria and viruses with the lowest common denominator of hygiene of those who used it before you...

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

"How does a consumer economy work well with a diminished number of consumers?"

Indeed, I once heard a missive from one of our CEOs, and he said 'We're not in the business of employing people'. And it struck me what a tiny mind he must have. Who does he think his customers are, if not employed people, and if everybody took his attitude and offshored jobs, there would be no customers for any service.

Of course some people think UBI will save us. I think not, I think we already have UBI, and it's called the dole, and it's not much fun.

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Re: Yup

"And you also have the added benefit of sharing bacteria and viruses "

Prevention is better than cure.

Don't touch McDonald's touch screens.

Or their products.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who does he think his customers are, if not employed people

If you're BAe Systems, or US equivalent, who are your direct customers ? It's not the man in the street, it's not even the purchasing directors at Tesco/Walmart?

If you're not keen on that particular example, there are plenty similar. E.g. Big Pharma. Google. Maybe even Microsoft in the days when PCs were still seen as the answer.

The idea that ordinary market forces allow Joe Public to routinely exert any significant influence over multinational businesses is laughable.

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

@ GruntyMcPugh

"'We're not in the business of employing people'. And it struck me what a tiny mind he must have."

Actually he is right. It is the same problematic thinking that makes people think a large public sector is not a drain because the workers pay tax, or that an employer is good for employing lots of people. The more people you add the more it costs and the fewer people to do other things.

At one point we would almost all (about 90%?) be working in a field for a lord and literally be working to live with little else in life. I am very grateful not to spend my days out in a bloody field from sparrows fart to pitch black. I feel sorry for those in countries who still do.

The idea that Henry Ford paid his people more so they could buy his cars is nonsense. If that was his customer base he would have been bankrupt. We all have needs and wants, and the less we need the more wants we find which is where the customer comes from. There are always desires and so always demand for someone who will fulfil the desire.

Personally I am glad we outsourced a great deal of agriculture and low paid manufacture. If we didnt I expect I would be dead in a field or dead trapped in some machine working for a pittance and with none of the comforts we take for granted.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: glad we outsourced ... low paid manufacture."

"I am glad we outsourced a great deal of agriculture and low paid manufacture."

Maybe that's OK while the offshore suppliers are your friends, or are willing to accept your paper money.

When that changes, then what? E.g. when China no longer wants to be paid in near-worthless USD?

Short termism is great (for the lucky few), at least until the inevitable happens.

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

You might want to wash your brain afterwards too.

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

How does a consumer economy work well with a diminished number of consumers?

It doesn't. You may have noticed there has been a recession going on pretty much since broadband replace dial-up.

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

The idea that Henry Ford paid his people more so they could buy his cars is nonsense.

However, his employees effectively became employers of the people whose goods and serviced they were able to purchase, and so on down the line for a very long way. It would go on for ever, but there is a tax that bleeds away the benefits with each layer of interaction. If the tax rate is high, then there are very few layers. This is the legendary "equality" sought by the left, who view "working for others" as degrading.

I am not aware of their views on working for robots. However, I suspect robots do not engage large numbers of employees to serve them burgers and fries, or clean their windows, and their sexual needs are probably met by sexbots (its a guess). (The robots needs, not the left's ... wait ...)

The ultimate goal of the Left will result in a completely failed economy (See Venezuela).

The opposite, is the right's view: "You have the right to be a slave".

Clearly the most attractive for most people is somewhere in the centre. However, the masses prefer extremes - so long as its the opposite of what we have now! (Bikers may recognise "tank slapper" syndrome.

The solution to this is partly damping (a political system where no one has much power) - additionally additionally, you need an outside force that favours mediocrity - generally not hard to achieve. This is why the UK system is one of the better ones, and attempts at improvement tend to make it worse.

The alternatives look like Venezuela or North Korea.

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

I wasn't working in the public sector when the CEO gave his speech. I didn't mention the public sector either, but as you have, do you think it better to have people get paid by the public purse to do something, or do nothing under UBI?

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Re: Who does he think his customers are, if not employed people

I think you are missing the point, that without employment, there are no customers for any business. Wealth is created by moving money around, not siphoning it offshore.

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Stop

Re: McDonalds touch screens

"How does a consumer economy work well with a diminished number of consumers?"

Tell THAT to the idiots that keep on raising "minimum wage" and just assume that employers of restaurants, janitorial services, and mom+pop shops that just need "someone to help out" have _INFINITE_ piles of money to throw at hiring people.

A wage is an exchange of money for work. If the work is not worth the wage, then NOBODY will be hired to do it, and ROBOTS will do it instead. That's the whole point.

I'm just glad someone at El Reg had the GONADS to write the article, even though it's like "Captain Obvious" to many of us...

And to answer the question: In many ways, diminishing the number of consumers does NOT help a consumer economy. So _I_ say, allow people at the low end of the wage scale to be paid what they're worth, not what some GUMMINT DWEEBS "*FEEL*".

And for everyone who disagrees with me, just ask yourself this: why do so many teenagers and young adults have a HARD TIME finding part-time (or even FULL time) work without prior experience? ANSWER: MINIMUM WAGE HIKES.

(and it's not a "living wage", it's an "entry level wage", for people without experience who do low-skill tasks and if you have a "career" earning only minimum wage, YOU need to do something about it by getting training, education, experience, whatever)

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

@ GruntyMcPugh

"do you think it better to have people get paid by the public purse to do something"

This reminded me of an interesting story of someone who went to India and saw a load of people digging with shovels to make a canal. He asked why they didnt just use an earth mover which would be much more productive. The answer being the diggers were the unemployed on a government work program. The answer being 'then why not give them spoons instead of shovels'.

Paid by the public purse assumes something of value paying into the public purse. The public purse has no value nor existence without something of value paying into it. The public system can take but it cannot give. Not a slur on the public system but a realisation that must be accepted to appreciate it correctly.

"I think you are missing the point, that without employment, there are no customers for any business. Wealth is created by moving money around, not siphoning it offshore."

No. Wealth is not money. You cannot eat money, sleep under money nor use it for anything but warmth by burning it instead of the many cheaper (in resources) things. The wealth is in producing what people want and keeping up with/defining new wants and desires. As much as we offshored work to China the best they could do was copy what we sent them, they dont create so much because it isnt worth it without intellectual protections, stability and the freedom to pursue desires.

There are always customers. People will always want to eat, drink and have shelter. In this country we also demand communications, entertainment, etc. Hell people pay over the odds so they can have a cup of coffee made for them. And we trade money in place of labour and we get money by trading our labour.

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Happy

Re: McDonalds touch screens

a lot of grocery stores have disposable hand wipes handy for wiping down the cart handle. So a similar 'wipe station' next to the automated order entry screens? And instead of taking Big Mac orders, you can be the guy that delivers the hand wipe refills (until a robot does the deliveries for you).

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Re: Who does he think his customers are, if not employed people

I think you are missing the point, that without employment, there are no customers for any business. Wealth is created by moving money around, not siphoning it offshore.

Wealth is not created by moving money around. The only thing that happens when moving wealth (money) around is that, erm, the money is moved around, or "redistributed" in other words. Wealth is only created by the controllers of the financial system creating more money and releasing this into the public domain somehow. This is a simple process because these days almost all money is nothing more than lines in a database somewhere. If the rate of creation of this money is too high then it will trigger the devaluing of the currency however if the rate is too low then the parts of the financial system which accumulate the money will have too much and there will not be enough to go around elsewhere - which for everyone else is a very bad thing. Taxation is a governmental method of slowing down the accumulation (hoarding) of money and to push it back into the public domain through later expenditure.

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Re: Yup

I dunno about faster, but yes, what you get is what you ordered.

it's certainly not intuitive.

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

"Touch screen surfaces are remarkably good at keeping viruses alive such as cold, flu and norovirus (gastro)."

A transparent layer of sputtered silver would do wonders for that. The problem is that most oils wouldn't pay for it.

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Re: Yup

"When I go to my local supermarket, if it's busy, I'll use the self service checkouts, but if it's not, I'll opt for a human cashier,"

I go for whichever is faster - that's self service for a couple of items and a human for anything more.

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

"The idea that Henry Ford paid his people more so they could buy his cars is nonsense. "

Yes. the actual reason was to cut staff turnover because training was a significant line item on the accounts, even for a production line job. It saved more than it cost.

That's something that many employers have forgotten in their race to minimum wage (or less).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: money is nothing more than lines in a database

"these days almost all money is nothing more than lines in a database somewhere."

Sssshhh. If enough people stop believing the emperor has lovely clothes, what on earth do you think will happen to the financiers and their powerful friends?

Mind you, Galbraith's "Money: Whence it came, where it went" was based around that idea back in 1975 and the powers that be have so far managed to make sure the idea has not become widespread, and are still trying to do so (e.g. by redefining the meaning of "austerity").

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Kenneth_Galbraith#Money:_Whence_It_Came.2C_Where_It_Went_.281975.29

"The study of money, above all other fields in economics, is the one in which complexity is used to disguise truth or to evade truth, not to reveal it.

Chapter I, Money, p. 5

The process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled.

Chapter III, Banks, p. 18"

And many many more.

Once upon a time, before the BBC was allegedly taken over by alleged lefties who used to work for the Conservative Party (e.g. Kuenssberg) they broadcast whole series from Galbraith and others similar.

Nowadays, "nation shall speak peace unto nation" is a distant memory.

Or there's this, from Oliver Postgate (yes, *that* Oliver Postgate):

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/oliver-postgate/2008/02/money-devil-god-bank

"[...]

The Devil said "High finance isn’t real. It is a vast, on-going confidence trick.”

[...] Explain, said God. [...]

“Right then,” began the Devil, “Basically it is all about money, which also doesn’t exist, or rather, is, in itself, worthless.”

“Eh?”

“You can’t eat money,” explained the Devil. “You can’t mend the roof with it. Money is just a token by which the giver undertakes, when requested, to hand over to the receiver material of a certain agreed value . . . OK?”

[continues]"

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Re: Yup

Bacteria on touch screens? Bacteria on door handles. On railings. On anything you and others may touch. Bacteria in the air. Bacteria everywhere.

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

"A wage is an exchange of money for work. If the work is not worth the wage, then NOBODY will be hired to do it, and ROBOTS will do it instead. That's the whole point."

A cleaning robot is going to be expensive and will miss spots, requiring a human to followup, all for fuck-all money. Notice that McDs automated the easy part of the job (front of house), but isn't putting robots on burger flipping duty and is unlikely to for a long way to come - employees not cooking are cleaning. Robots don't clean themselves (yet), etc and frankly, given what's already happened in US burger joints that have tried this, I suspect the backlash against not having a human server will kick in eventually as loss of sales once the novelty factor wears off (my first encounter with chez Ronald's house of zombies was irritating and likely to be my last unless they improve the UI. The monarch's offerings taste better anyway)

The low hanging fruit of the robotics revolution is white collar stuff and has been for the last 50 years. There are already hundreds of thousands of office jobs (mostly tedious administrative stuff like accounts clerks) which no longer exist thanks to advancing technology and the higher-paid decision making or advisory positions are now in the firing line. It's far easier to automate if you _don't_ need to replace a human with a mechanical device.

On the subject of mechanical devices it's worth noting that when they replace humans for dirty, dangerous or unpleasant jobs, no one complains too much. The classic example of this is robots on car assembly lines - workers didn't mind when they were welding/painting and suchlike, or when line workers got mechanised assistance to make heavy handling much easier, but even japanese factory workers dug their toes in when robots started spreading across the factory floor from those areas.

That's one of the reasons the standard way of automating these days is to build an entire new assembly line in a different factory in a different town, making everyone in the old factory redundant, rather than using a sinking-lid policy to wind down the workforce as robots expand their roles. Doing it any other way is highly susceptable to industrial unrest and sabotage.

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

Are you a Trump science and medical advisor? It is well established that humans are 'dirty' and spread diseases. The more group touching the more susceptible to pass something along. I suppose you never wash your vegetables and fruits either. I guess all those other peoples germs help your immune system, right? s/not paranoid but scientifically and medically literate

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"I'll use the self service checkouts, but if it's not, I'll opt for a human cashier, "

I think that's sort of the idea.

Y'know, load balancing?

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Re: Who does he think his customers are, if not employed people

No, wealth is what your money buys you, food in your cupboard, clothes on your back. The money you spend is then spent by somebody else, and they get something, and the revenue from that sale moves on, etc etc. Money moving creates wealth. Money going offshore does not. Maybe you don't remember the closure of the coal mines in the UK. It wasn't just the mines that closed, but a lot of the local service industry, Thriving wealthy communities ground to a halt, because money was no longer moving through them. If you think the financial system creates wealth you are crazy, we profit by what we dig out of the ground, and what shines out of the sky, everything else is derived from that. Gambling of stock prices doesn't actually create anything, that is just data, and you cannot eat it or wear it.

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

I didn't say wealth was money. I said wealth was created by moving money around. We get paid, we spend, we get food, heat, clothing, the roof over our head. The person we spend that money with gets the same,... and on, and on.

Onto being paid by the public purse, haven't you just dismantled the concept of UBI? I think it's flawed too, but I also think people aren't going to get paid to do nothing. UBI won't be a basic income, it'll be a basic job, because Govts won't want to give tax money away for nothing, and private companies won't want to pay that much tax in the first place.

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Facepalm

Re: Who does he think his customers are, if not employed people

"Wealth is only created by the controllers of the financial system creating more money and releasing this into the public domain somehow."

Sounds like a nice trick , why's no one thought of that before? we can all be rich!

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

@ GruntyMcPugh

"Onto being paid by the public purse, haven't you just dismantled the concept of UBI? I think it's flawed too, but I also think people aren't going to get paid to do nothing."

When there is nothing to do because all our desires are taken care of then we wont care will we? Before that point there will always be desires which need fulfilling. I am not convinced by a UBI because I am not sure how that could work.

1) If we have a minimum amount of income that everyone has why would the prices not rise to account for the new 'zero'? You want shelter? Hey look everyone has at least x amount (the new zero) and the same competition as before.

2) It cant work while governments bribe. The concept of a UBI is to provide enough to live on (which is different by region so will it stop migration?) yet people make poor choices. How many people spend all their money on getting blackout drunk and then complain they cannot afford basic bills? These people would have to be allowed their freedom to make poor choices without giving them more. Can you imagine a socialist leaning gov accepting that? Can you imagine a centre left party accepting that? Or even the right wing and pensioners? There is no hope.

I am interested to see how the experiment works in other countries first. If it does work and we can change government methods of bribing and not introduce a new zero then cool. But UBI does not create wealth. Any public money distributed out in any way is taken from generated wealth that is taxed. And assuming sustainability- the more public spending we have then surely the more wealth is being created. Otherwise we have an overspending gov who will leave us a big bill as proven almost a decade ago.

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Re: McDonalds touch screens

"A cleaning robot is going to be expensive and will miss spots, requiring a human to followup, all for fuck-all money. Notice that McDs automated the easy part of the job (front of house), but isn't putting robots on burger flipping duty and is unlikely to for a long way to come - employees not cooking are cleaning. Robots don't clean themselves …."

Somewhere on my computer I have a photo of a burger making machine. It's needs humans to load up the ingredients, but flame grills the meat and applies the required accessories. If you input your order for your burger to come without pickles (damnit), it will not put them on unlike the human that recently discovered the joys of legalized pot and now has the attention span of a cocker spaniel.

I can envision this apparatus as being on wheels and periodically allowed to cool down before it is rolled through a high pressure/temp wash system specifically made for it while unit number 2 takes over burger making duties.

McDs in the USA have an automated drinks dispenser for the drive thru window. Customers provide the labor in the dining room.

Read "A Stainless Steel Rat is Born" by Harry Harrison for a description of the ultimate in automated fast food.

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vir
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An interesting data point would be the effect of minimum wages on total wages: i.e. does raising the minimum wage lead to more money being paid out to the workforce as a whole or does the increase in automation lead to an overall drop?

Sadly, my current wages do not permit me the luxury of purchasing the paper to see if that tidbit is in there.

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For a good discussion of the effects of minimum wages I can recommend this recent article in the The Economist which covered the subject quite well. Minimum wages are neither a panacea nor a job killer; they can act to correct perceived market failure: if people cannot live from their wages then some kind of subsidy is usually forthcoming. But if they are pushed too high then they will inhibit economic activity.

But with regards to automation minimum wages really are a side issue. Capitalism favours rationalised production lines wherever possible with competition encouraging either lower wages or automation of the lowest-skilled, most repetitive jobs.

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Why does no one ever talk about maximum wage? As in, no employees total compensation shall be more than 100 times that of any other employee. Seems fixing the economy's leak at the top would help more than tinkering at the bottom. And it still provides incentive to work harder and earn more, with more incentive to reinvest in business, new employees, and new technology, rather than stockpiling cash.

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@ Random Q Hacker

"Why does no one ever talk about maximum wage?"

What is the point of doing a job if you wont be paid the value of it? Instead when one place caps wages the people earning toward or more will leave because they are obviously not wanted there. As long as it isnt us implementing it then I am all for watching the talent of other countries come here.

Its almost as funny as the demands for various businesses to pay more tax. I am sure the people demanding this are also the same bunch who expect jobs to be provided for them. Both cases can be responded to by the tag line of this website- 'Biting the hand that feeds IT'.

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Tax the economic activity of the robot to replace the lost taxes from the worker to help reeducate workers for the new jobs that will come along and help with the increased welfare costs in the short term.

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Taxing robots and computers would help to slow the tide of automation. Perhaps other industrial machinery too.

However it is naive to think that new jobs will come along for people to be retrained for.

We have been waiting for decades for new jobs to appear for the people freed up from the historically enormously labor intensive industry of farming and agriculture. During this time automation of jobs has been occurring in other industries, and less new jobs have appeared than have gone.

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