While everyone here seems to be complaining about offshore outsourcing of jobs, maybe they should start worrying whether or not we'll need any human employees whatsoever in the future. I was recently reading a story on Dave Farber's Interesting People list about someone going into a McDonald's and testing out their new "order kiosk", where the customer could order food from the playground section. The writer wondered how long it would be until there were simply those same kiosks at every table, and no humans needed to take orders. Already, for years, there have been fast food restaurants where the order taking system is "turned around". The first time I used one of these, it was a little creepy. You walk up to the counter and punch in your own order. The people who used to take your order are just standing there like zombies waiting to take your money. However, with the addition of kiosks that accept payments, you don't need those people any more either. Now, McDonald's is going one step further and getting rid of the need for humans cooking the food as well. That's right, they're testing out automated burger grabbers and flippers. Already McDonald's is famous for how automated their process is (just go in sometime and listen carefully for all the different beeping noises in the kitchen - everything is timed and measured precisely). Taking the human element out of it completely must be their dream scenario. So, how long until we get the fully automated McDonald's? You sit down at your table, punch in your order (how about voice recognition to make it easier?), swipe your credit card, and a minute later your Big Mac, fries, and a drink slide out a little trap door onto your table. They can even buy one of those roomba devices to clean up.
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