Not just one, but a handful of recent surveys have revealed Aussies are the most nervous nation in the world when it comes to automation. Seems we’re all a bit cagey about the idea of robots and machines taking over our jobs.
Aussie tech consulting firm, Infosys commissioned the Future Foundation to conduct research into young people’s sentiments about automation. They polled 9,000 16-25 year-olds from a range of countries including Australia, South Africa, Brazil, India, China, Germany, France, the US and the UK. Australians reported the highest concerns with around 50% worried about their future job security in a world of robots. This is a duplicitous figure that can be interpreted as pessimistically as it can be optimistically. While some news services chose to focus on the positive side of the equation with headlines like “Aussie Youth Optimistic about Automation,” most went with a glass-half-empty angle along the lines of “Half Australia’s Youth Fear Robots are After Their Jobs.”
Another survey conducted by Airtasker and Pureprofile found 25-34 year olds were the most concerned about their job security with 71% believing their position would be overtaken by automation not just in the distant future but within the next five years. However, this cohort did also report some hope that the rise of the bots would create different jobs to replace the old ones.
Then there’s the latest Deloitte 2017 Millennial Survey which found 37% of Australia’s youth believe technology poses a serious threat to their working future. Between them, these surveys have covered different subsets of Australia’s millennial generation group (all those born after 1982) and, while their percentages differ somewhat, there is an undeniable current of concern.
Interestingly, Andy Puzder—CEO of the company that owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. (both famous US fast food chains)—has found in his establishments, this very same generation will go out of their way to have a machine serve them rather than a human.
“Millennials like not seeing people. I’ve been inside restaurants where we’ve installed ordering kiosks… and I’ve actually seen young people waiting in line to use the kiosk where there’s a person standing behind the counter, waiting on nobody.”
So the youngsters of the world are engaged in a strange embrace with the very thing they fear.
If Puzder’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he was the bloke Trump was gunning for as his Labor Secretary. Puzder withdrew his nomination to take the heat off some dodgy allegations that were getting more and more press time with his entry into the political arena (surely if anything that would’ve made him a perfect fit for Trump’s cohort?). However, as a restaurant magnate, he still knows a thing or two about the hospitality labour force. And he reckons robots are the perfect replacement for humans in the industry. Speaking to Business Insider, he gushed:
“They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case.”
Seems he hasn’t heard about the various issues China has been facing with its robot waiters. Showing up for work on time and not being racist are desirable employee qualities (in robots as much as humans). But so are things like being able to take orders and carry food. A whole crew of robo-waiters in Guangzhou recently got the sack for failing in these basic duties; demonstrating the fact that we need to make sure the androids have these skills locked down before getting too excited about them.
While the Guangzhou crew fell abysmally short of the benchmark, there are some unlikely hospitality and catering roles being infiltrated by actually talented machines.
Fully automated health food
Somehow automation makes more sense in fast food joints than healthy establishments. That vending machine feeling of pressing buttons and getting an unhealthy snack just kind of makes sense. But, across the world, more and more health food establishments are popping up with such streamlined automation they get food in your face without you ever having to lock eyes with another human.
Eatsa started in San Francisco and it’s fully automated system of health food provision has been so successful they’ve since opened up stores in New York, Berkeley and Washington D.C. It’s a futuristic take on the vending machine restaurants that have been popular in Japan for many years.
Bar tending and drink mixing
If you’ve ever watched a bartender delicately, skillfully and sometimes acrobatically craft a killer cocktail, you’ll be surprised to know even this fine art has already been usurped by machines. Since 2014, luxury cruise line, Royal Caribbean, has been sporting a bionic bar. The robots can mix two drinks per minute and will never get frazzled, distracted or drunk on the job.
The future for hospitality workers
While millennial hospitality workers face an uncertain future, the same surveys that revealed their discontent showed they aren’t just going to give up on work and invest their hopes in getting a Universal Basic Income (UBI). The Airtasker-Pureprofile survey found a massive 85% of hospitality and construction workers planned on taking advantage of the blossoming sharing economy to find innovative and convenient ways to boost their income as the roles they’re used to become obsolete. So, while they may be concerned about the security of their current jobs, they’re not concerned about their ability to shift with the changing times and find new and exciting ways to live.