McDonald's recently had a jump in their share value after they unveiled their intention to expand their experiment with kiosks. The kiosk will replace counter attendants and will give the customer a digital locator which staff members will use to carry out the meal to the customers. McDonald's has already rolled out this system in about 500 of their 14,000 US locations. By year end they plan to integrate the kiosk into as many as 2,500 locations with future plans to bring the system to all of their US locations.
Additionally, McDonald's released that they would be making some changes to the sourcing and content of their meals. However, the focus of media attention is on the kiosk modification. Many consider this to be a signal in how business is going to be conducted moving forward. Some speculate that moves towards automatization will eventually leave many Americans without a job. For example, the trucking industry currently employs about 4% of the US workforce according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Will automated vehicles take away these jobs?
Economists such as Deirdre McCloskey paint a more optimistic picture. McCloskey points out the exponentially increasing daily wages society has seen over the past two hundred and fifty years. McCloskey and other economists point out other historical concerns with the introduction of new technology. For example, concerns were raised with the introduction of the automobile regarding its effect on the horse and carriage industry. Recent examples include self-check kiosks at supermarkets. The effect hasn't been the reduction in employees at supermarkets, but rather the expansion of open lanes. Essentially, what we're seeing so far is not the reduction in employment, but rather the expansion and improvement of services rendered.
Now, while automated vacuums do exist, the cleaning industry is still light years away from being automated. Rosie the Robot Maid of The Jetsons is still a figment of our imagination. Our Maid University-trained maids are simply irreplaceable.