January 3, 2013

A Future Of Work - Robots Coming To A Restaurant Near You

the-future-of-workthe-future-of-workThere have long been people writing about the future of work and where it is headed. An oft repeated consensus is that we will all be sitting at home in our jammies - communicating and collaborating across the internets, no central buildings needed, but - is that really where we are going and what we really want ?

I myself have written about ‘the death’ of the corporation. that knowledge workers will operate virtually and with ’value contracts, where the beneficiary is paid for value delivered - not for time involved. (Of course that is kind of what happens now - though disguised. The partner in a law firm is paid a lot more per hour than a junior associate - that is reflective of value. But I think it needs to - and will - go a lot further.

From where I sit, there is a lot more going on. We are already witnessing the uprooting of what I might call the creative industries - music, photography, art, illustration, writing are all feeling the pressure of the changing economy. In these worlds I have argued that

  • if your product can move through the internet - so can your competition
  • the barriers to entry to those industries are removed since there is no gatekeeper (which is good and bad - but that is a different article).

In that model, I have suggested that if your offer is in fact a ‘local model’ for example like in the service industry - you will be harder to replace. The argument being that (for example) if I need a musician to play at my party - that my pool of choice is only those musicians that are available

  • at that time
  • in that geography

I think this starts to explain the rise of importance of concerts to the artist. Apart from the fact that they are often far more in control of the concert they deliver today, than their catalogue owned my a music publisher - the catalogue is a product that has been sold - over and over again in format after format - the live concert is unique and different and original. This goes across the board waiters, cooks, shop keepers and and …. in fact

At least 50 percent of the people working in the American job market today are working in people-powered industries like fast-food restaurants (McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, etc.), retail stores (Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target, Toys “R” Us, etc.), delivery companies (the post office, Fedex, UPS, etc.), construction, airlines, amusement parks, hotels and motels, warehousing and so on. All of these jobs are prime targets for robotic replacement.

… this from an article by Marshall Brain who posits that robots are ‘a-coming’. Of course they are - but how quickly. Real quick apparently, which is throwing up/out the future of work models before they have even been understood - much less implemented. Do you think waiters will be replaced by robots in the next ten years ? Supermarket checkout staff are already being replaced by technology - so who is next ?

More to come on this topic, but first I would love to hear from you and what you think. Comments below please. Let’s have the conversation.

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