Amazons Fast Car
I'm a Tracy Chapman fan and one of the songs I like the most is Fast car. There is a part in the song where she sings about working in the supermarket as a checkout girl. I feel if she rewrote the song she may have to change the lyrics slightly. The reason for this is the checkout girl will soon be checking out for the last time. I say this because of Amazon's venture into the supermarket retail space with Amazon Go. Amazon go has recently opened a store in Seattle with no check out staff. The staff that would have been working at the checkout are now standing around waiting to see if people need help using their phones to enter the shop or to check ids for alcohol purchases.
Walk Out without paying
So how does the Amazon store actually work?
The Amazon distribution warehouse is a sea of robot pickers. These pickers cover miles of warehouse space per day loading up orders from Amazon.com. There is still a human element to the Amazon warehouse but it can be only a matter of time before the human element is cut out of the distribution centre.
Unexpected item in the bagging area
Now what I would worry about is the removal of that human element from the checkout and supermarket experience. For some people, that chat or little session of Banta maybe the highlight of their day. This now has been removed as we remove the human element from the retail experience.
This is only one area of retail to be taken over by AI what will be next? I think the next area to be taken over will be clothing retailers. You may need a person to man the changing areas but as for the checkouts, well all that's being done is scanning an item and charging a card. These are two processes that don't need to have a member of staff Is this a good thing?
The removal of staff has been happening slowly for some time. The introduction of self-service checkouts has been the main driver of this and cost-cutting. These self-service checkouts can be extremely frustrating to use speaking from personal experience.
Some of the self-service checkouts lack an easy to use user interface which can lead to people walking out of the supermarket without paying. Nearly 45% of shoppers in a 2014 survey stated that they almost always need staff assistants at the self-service checkouts. 83% of people surveyed stated that "Unexpected item in the bagging area" message from the machine was extremely annoying. I can testify to this. It is also embarrassing as well. Badly designed user interfaces on these machines lead to delays and cause queues of people waiting to use the machines.
Jobs for us
Technology has done the heavy lifting for us humans for hundreds of years. The rate at which technology is advancing is increasing year in and year out. What I find both interesting and scary both at the same time is how long will it be before all these types of jobs are automated?
Many jobs over the last 100 years have been replaced by technology. If you look at the Horse and Cart Driver he or she was replaced by the car and the Taxi driver will in time be completely replaced by autonomous vehicles.
I'm up, I'm up
If there was one job that I can say I'm happy it was replaced is the Knocker upper. No, I had never heard of a Knocker Upper prior to writing this blog post. Knocker uppers were human versions of alarm clocks used in the early 19th century in England and Ireland. They would use large sticks or wooden mallets to knock on peoples doors and windows at a given time to wake them up in the morning.
This continuation of replacements of jobs will only continue. We as humans can only learn to adapt to the changes. So maybe that fast car will be driverless, thus giving Tracy Chapman more time to write great songs.