Posted in Life, Uncategorized

Automatons and Service Industry Workers, or Machines vs. the Minimum Wage Worker

Just an idea I had, as my online school had a passage on the Luddite movement. Kind of an interesting phenomenon that occurred in the early 1800s and had to do with a backlash of the industrial revolution. These Luddites as they were called were english textile workers who felt they were being replaced by less skilled workers because of new technology. No longer did business  need their skills, when they just needed someone to help run the machine.

This got me thinking to my old job at Blockbuster. As I am sure most of you are aware, finding brick and mortar video stores is getting more and more difficult. I look at the “Redbox” that is by most drugstores, and at services like Netflix as being primarily responsible. Luckily for me, I left that job before it disappeared, but still, I have a feeling of deja vu in my current employment when I completed a shift at another branch of my bank that has a younger clientele. I spent a good portion of the day watching customers go to the ATM machine. At one point theye waited in line, despite the lobby in the bank being empty. The older people would go into the bank, and deal with actual live people. But most of the younger people preferred the machine.

Another example I have seen is the self check out lines. Sure, they are quirky and you need an employee to stand there, and oversee them, and train the customer how to use them, and get them unstuck. But what happens when people are trained to use them, and it becomes a no brainer? Like using an ATM, or a Redbox? What if the glitches are all but eliminated? Where does that retail worker go?

Sure, there are workers somewhere that are employed to help build these machines. Although machine building itself is becoming increasingly automated, still someone has to make the molds to make the parts, assembly line workers need to put them together right?

Back to the Luddites then. These assembly line workers, what kind of skill do they really need? What kind of wages can a corporation get away with paying them? Are people with this skill set hard to find, or replace? I would argue no, they aren’t. Which is why companies outsource this type of work to countries where there is either no minimum wage, or the wage is much lower than the U.S. These jobs do disappear from here, and the service jobs, do become rarer.

Someday everyone will be comfortable with the ATM, which is now envelope free and can do everything from print statements, to email your balance to you. The next generation will have to figure out another way to make a living as a lot of these jobs will be gone, and the basic factory jobs will be elsewhere.

This all reminds me of one thing, which does give me some hope. There is a scene in the Fifth Element, where the main villain breaks something, and all these little robots come out to clean up the mess. he is making the argument that he is creating life out of destruction, and that he is creating more jobs by using these machines in the end. But, when he chokes on a piece of fruit, the priest points out, “Where is the robot to pat you on the back?”  As long as we still need people, all hope is not lost.



Singe mom, part time writer of primarily sci-fi and fantasy.

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