I spent around 10 years of my career writing all sorts of automation - I don't think automation is a good thing

I spent around 10 years of my career writing all sorts of automation. Whenever I hear another company working on yet another breakthrough in automation it gives me a bitter smile. Let me explain why. (and it is not another `automation is impossible` rant)

The other day I was having breakfast at McDonald's, where I noticed how few employees they had on shift, yet able to serve quite a few customers. I worked at McDonald's and I remember that cashier work was particularly challenging - usually one had to take orders and prepare orders at the same time, all in 120 seconds 9 (it was in Russia 20 years ago, I might be slightly wrong with figures, but you get the point). A Cashier was also supposed to smile and let you feel welcome.

Now they have self-checkout stations, leading to funny results:

  1. Order preparation is nowhere near 120 seconds. It takes ages now, to be honest.
  2. They employ fewer people. You know, crew members at McDonald's don't usually have a line of job offers to choose from, so they may not appreciate the argument `people could have more interesting jobs`. When they lose a job they may as well lose it for good (or bad).
  3. The bloody machine does not make people any happier. Customers wait longer, employees being let go (or not hired), we have fewer human interactions, which, apparently, not beneficial for mental health and wellbeing
  4. Companies developing, promoting or using this kind of automation don't seem to give a shit regarding the wider impact on society.

I am not against automation per se - automation does not hurt by itself. But I am against mindless tools and profit obsession - while we, in fact, should think what we're going to do with all these shiny tools and nice profits.

Thoughts, suggestions, something?


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