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Coming soon, fast food joints staffed by robots

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According to a Saturday post at Legal Insurrection, demands by fast food workers to have their salaries boosted to as much as $15/hour is having the unhappy but predictable consequence of companies starting to replace them with robots. A McDonalds in Illinois has replaced its cashiers with machines, similar to the ones people pay for items at the self-serve checkout lines at the grocery store. Meanwhile an article in Singularity Hub reports on an automatic assembly line that puts together burgers without human intervention.

The combination of what appears to be overreach by fast food workers in their salary demands and evolving robotic technology seems poised to change how we get a Big Mac forever. Instead of driving up to the drive through or going to the counter and making out order verbally, we are likely to punch it up on a touch screen, pay for it with as swipe of the card, and moments later get a fully prepared meal delivered without having to interact with a person.

In the future, instead of five or six minimum wage workers to operate the cash register and cook the food, the typical fast food place will likely just have one or two people to keep the food machine filled with ingredients, call the repairman when needed, and keep the books. The savings in labor costs will inevitably drive the fast food industry toward this future. Those people protesting for a “living wage” are going to be out of luck.

“Hamburger flipper” has been the synonym for “dead end job” for decades. But fast food has often been the first job a teenager takes to earn a little extra cash and learn a work ethic that would serve him or her well when getting something better after college. Retired people would sometimes take such jobs to supplement their social security and to pass the time. It looks like that is going to be a relic of the past.

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