Science fiction movies have been predicting this day for about a century, the day when machines truly start completely replacing the need for humans in the workforce. Up until this point in our history, humans have utilized machines and automated tools to execute a job task more efficiently. The big difference in the past is that humans were in direct control of the machines operating functions and provided direct oversight on the work being done by a machine, but for this fully automated McDonald’s that is not the case, and it is downright freaky to experience.
The social media comedians are dropping some amazing one-liners and jokes on Instagram and TikTok about this location opening as the first fully automated fast-food restaurant. Derek Hollingsworth commented,” But the Ice Cream Machine will still be broken.” A person going by the tag Freedom from Books wrote, “Maybe now I’ll finally get a hamburger without onions.”
These are from the long list of classic fast-food restaurant complaints that customers have had for decades. Vanellope Belle took a shot at the common morale of a fast-food employee by commenting, “Good. No more dealing with bad attitudes.”
Surprisingly, I haven’t come across any obligatory references from the Terminator movies like, “Good Afternoon, and welcome to McDonald’s. My name is Skynet what can I get for you today?” Even better yet in my best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice impression, “Thank you for choosing McDonald’s, you’ll be back.” The jokes and tie-ins to that movie series are endless, but I will leave one more, “Order to go for number 8291997 (the date Skynet became self-aware) or “Pick up order for Sarah Conner.”
Everyone that has ever been through a McDonald’s or any fast-food drive-thru line knows the frustration of getting home with your order and discovering that either an item is completely missing or special preparation requests were not fulfilled correctly. It’s good advice not to drive away from the window until you have checked the bag to double-check that everything is correct. So, McDonald’s attempt to take human error out of the equation is a welcome change for some of us who have griped about this issue in the past.
There are additional benefits for consumers beyond the relief from some of these long-held frustrations of fast-food dinners. Another benefit would be that McDonald’s will be able to maintain lower price points because maintenance costs are projected to be much lower than labor costs for a location’s full-time staff. It would also lead to a reduction in corporate management costs since there are fewer employees to supervise.
However, with all those positive reasons to automate, there is certainly a whole bucket full of negative impacts. The most dramatic being that ever since fast-food workers started demanding a $15-per-hour minimum wage, the point was brought up that this would increase labor costs. In turn, the corporations would look to automate more of their processes, which in turn would cost the economy jobs.
If this project is successful, it won’t be long until other fast-food chains get on board with moving in that direction which would cost our economy hundreds of thousands of lost lower-wage employment opportunities. It won’t stop there as the dominos fall, we will see this trend move into other industries like movie theaters, and game arcades, we already see it at car washes. This will mostly impact the already struggling lower class of our society.
History has taught us that when the lowest class in society gets put in a position where survival becomes nearly impossible the proverbial pot begins to boil and almost always leads to civil unrest. This has been the major cause of every revolution and civil war in our recorded history. Artificial Intelligence is scary enough, but it is not hard to draw a correlation between this step that McDonald’s has taken to the end of our current society’s structure and moving into a new structure.
Maybe in 200 years when people of the time look back, and machines are running everything including producing more machines to serve us and our descendants are all sitting on a beach not having to work a day in their life, they will be thankful for our ingenuity and sacrifice to have led humanity down this path. Or they might be in a trench fighting for humanity’s survival cursing us for being so relaxed and not doing more to stop this eventual overtaking of human existence.