One of my predictions is about to come true: the burger chain, Wendy’s, wants to get rid of it’s human workforce. Apparently, they’ve crunched the numbers and think that paying humans is too costly.
I wrote a story, Robo-Burger, about a burger chain that was purely automated. In the story, the automated burger joint was the tipping point to a revolution.
The story is about how Americans are on the cusp of losing a LOT of jobs without any new ones to take their place. I, apparently, got the actual year wrong by about 10 years – I thought we’d have to wait until the 2020s. Ooops.
But this is a big theme, not just in my writing, but in our life. About a third of US jobs are low-wage, service industry jobs and they’re threatened – as are some service jobs that aren’t low wage, like over-the-road trucking, which is about to be quashed out of existence by self-driving vehicles. There are about 3.7 million fast food workers in the US. There are about 3 million drivers in the US. Within ten years, I doubt many of them will have jobs.
What will those six and a half million people do? The, well, lie that classical economics teaches is that as people are shifted out of businesses due to automation and capital development, that industry opens up new avenues of business. This has never been true. The development of industries in the industrialized world has absolutely ravaged the less developed world. So in the 1820s, you have English steel obliterating South Asian metallurgy, turning whole regions of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan – which were once known for their excellent steel manufacture – into economic wastelands. In most ways, they still are economic wastelands. This has happened all over the world, which is why we in the industrialized world live in downright opulence while half of the world lives on a buck a day.
So while the industrialized world has been able to, so far, contain the global increase in unemployment and underemployment primarily to the developing world, it appears that the chickens are coming home to roost. Capital development has progressed to the point where human labor is being wiped out in developed nations, too.
It was inevitable, if you ask me.
We need to start developing a solution to this problem, now, because in a very short time we’re going to see waves of unemployed people enter workforce where capital development is not only constantly pressing wages down but also removing whole multimillion job sectors altogether.