Robots & Jobs – expect a hard transition

Today we see a story about Seattle hotel workers worried about losing their jobs to robots. I expect to see thousands of stories like this over the next several years. There is almost no routine service job that will not be threatened by robotics + artificial intelligence + automation in the next decade. The transition is starting to happen at breakneck speed. Almost every day there is a new company rolling out new technology that will replace human workers. Just in the past couple of weeks Amazon and Walmart announced majors initiatives to roll out robotics that will replace jobs in their stores and warehouses.

Just walk into a McDonald’s now, it is almost weird to interact with a human in many of the stores. Kiosks greet you on entry, and if you didn’t already order from their mobile app, you can use their huge touchscreen order menu boards. Pay via Apple Pay or any of the other electronic payment methods – your order is sent to the kitchen- and it is — for now — brought to you by a human. Won’t be long before that is a robot too. The transition of McDonald’s has happened so fast – it so smoothly that it was almost unnoticeable. That’s how good the new technology is, and how much better it is than humans. We actually choose interaction with the machine OVER the human.

It’s less awkward touching a screen, browsing through the various menu options, deals of the day etc. No snarky look from an unhappy fast food employee. No odd language or body language interaction. The humanity of the experience is wiped clean, and it seems we prefer it that way. Few could have seen this rolling out so quickly and with such minimal resistance. On the contrary, we love it!

And because we love this – we are going to get a lot more of it. Hotels will deliver room service with robots. And we will greatly prefer it. No more weird interactions with bell staff while you are trying to lounge comfortably in that hotel robe and slippers. No more scrounging around to find a tip for the guy who delivers that extra pillow to you. It feels better, less awkward, somehow more private. Again we prefer the awkwardness of humanity to be taken out of the equation.

This transition is going to make the industrial revolution looks like child’s play. Out lives, out politics, and out investments will all be changing at a speed we will be lucky to keep up with as a human race.

I will be writing about how to invest in this transformation, and occasionally I will discuss policy issue as well, largely because these things will intersect in hugely important ways. Expect regulators and politicians will battle industry as disruption courses through the economy killing old jobs and creating new opportunities.

The best thing you can do for your own future is to invest and profit from the coming changes. When I say invest I mean both your money AND your time. To not do both will leave you behind, and dependent on the whim of government and society to take care of you. You don’t want that, as things will likely get worse before getting better.

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