If you’re paying attention to the news, you know Amazon opened a store with no cash registers or tills. Walk in the store, track your purchases with your app, and leave. Abscond? There’s no automation in teaching people a lesson. Bezos himself will hunt you down and beat you into submission to make an example out of you.
If you read the coverage about the new store, we no longer need to fear the United Nations. Amazon has either ended employment as we know it or is making in its grand plan to set up a shadow government and run lives. Could be both.
There are about to be no jobs t.co/o1mTpVAXL8
— Stephen Metcalf (@Metlandia) January 21, 2018
The Amazon store is another sign that retail — and anything related to food, restaurants, hospitality, hotels — has entered the age of automation. While personal shoppers and assistants are important brand ambassadors at high-end retail stores, Amazon just launched the Echo Look so you can figure out what to wear and ask people for their opinions. Augmented reality will eventually show your body in specific outfits before you buy new pieces of clothing.
(I declined the opportunity to buy the Echo Look early. I’ve got mixed emotions about Amazon’s impact on the labor market. I don’t want to put more people out of work before it’s necessary. Although I’m over those ladies at the Lululemon near my house who make me feel like a watermelon when I try on clothes.)
And that is where we are headed. No more retail jobs. Likewise, fewer opportunities for kids to get their first paychecks from McDonald’s. If you watch Alexandra Levit’s new TEDxNorthwesternU talk, the near-term future of work eliminates these task-driven jobs and asks people to use creativity to solve problems that robots can’t tackle just yet.
There’s a spectrum of roles — from housekeeper to a social worker to technical project leader — that require creativity, reflection, and human-to-human connection. So, learn about human behavior and psychology. Translate irrational patterns in work-related activities that can’t be programmed. Discern emotions and feelings. Show empathy and compassion. Come to work (whatever is left of it) and create an experience. Those are some ways you beat the machines and bots.
You can see why I’m worried about the future of work, right? It makes sense why Amazon’s march towards domination freaks me the hell out, yes? You’re teaching your kids to code and asking them to do five hours of homework for their AP classes. You’re not raising kids who are equipped to earn a living on emotional labor.
God knows you can’t even do it.
I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again: the future of work will not work for a majority of Americans, and we’ll need policy discussions on artificial intelligence, education, and universal basic income.
Who will lead that fight? Mike Pence or Lindsey Graham? Chuck Schumer? Sheesh, we’re doomed. Maybe Jeff Bezos and Amazon can save us after all.