Amazon Go Get a Job
Distinguished readers, the robot apocalypse is here, and it’s taken the form of a convenience store in Seattle. That’s right, the Amazon Go store, which finally opened its doors to the public January 22nd, is a “checkout free shopping experience,” a store without cashiers. Many journalists are leaping at the chance to call the Amazon Go a “job killer,” and describe it as a grim, asocial experience that left them feeling slightly hollow and unfulfilled.
It’s funny, because you don’t see many disparaging news stories about self-checkout lanes in grocery stores, except, perhaps, to complain about how buggy they are.
So what makes Amazon Go’s “just walk out” modus operandi so much worse than choosing the self-checkout lane? Is it because Amazon’s technology is so sleek, shiny, functional, while a self-checkout machine is just as likely to start screaming because it fails to register the fact that you did, in fact, put that bag of marshmallows in the bagging area? Perhaps it’s those little defects that ensure that inevitably, an attendant will have to come over to soothe the poor robot’s frazzled nerves, and reassure it that you’re not somehow stealing something that you scanned already.
In fact, Amazon is so confident in the overall performance of their technology that they’re not even worried about the rare occasions when it glitches, and customers aren’t charged for items they walk off with. As far as Amazon is concerned, the only way to steal something from Amazon Go is to hop over the high tech turnstiles, an action that will be incredibly noticeable to all of the human employees meandering around.
Yes, human employees. As it turns out, there are about a dozen Amazon employees in the 1,800 square foot store, which is roughly the size of an indoor volleyball court. Or, you know, a gas station sized convenience store, which normally has about three or four people on staff at a time, maximum.
The fear of automation is an old story, one I’ve covered before. Automation is a topic I blog about almost as much as the robot apocalypse, if only because they tend to go hand in hand. But is automation really threatening our jobs? A study by Pega.Com suggests that, though automation will change what our workforce model looks like, as a whole, humanity will adapt and thrive as we have in the past. The rise of automation is just another revolution in recurring cycle of revolutions.
This infographic from Pega.com shows that a lot of people are actually pretty chill about robots in the workplace.
It’s pretty reassuring in the long term, but for many people with low-income who might not have access to the educations required for the high-level jobs that technological experts promise will be created as low-level jobs are phased out, the danger looms a little bit closer than they’d like. After all, Amazon Go doesn’t have cashiers, and many other “unskilled” professions are likely to be replaced by self-service kiosks, automated sensors, and other technological wonders.
But like the self-checkout lane in grocery stores, self-service kiosks in fast food restaurants haven’t completely taken the place of humans. The fact is that automation technology has been around for several years, and while it’s getting better, it’s still being implemented at a fairly sedate pace. Though certain low-level jobs will be phased out over time, no job will disappear overnight, giving people plenty of time to adjust to the changing economy.
So maybe the robot apocalypse isn’t here, yet. Maybe it will never come. Amazon Go is a really display of what automation technology is capable of, but the amount of sensors and cameras needed for it to work mean it’s simply not practical at a large scale. More Amazon Go’s may open up around the country, but for now, they’ll be small and well-staffed to make up for any potential hiccups in the system.