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Your job was outsourced… to a machine.

A couple of days ago, I went to Home Depot, and a robot checked me out.

That's right, A robot. Where once there had been four checkout counters, staffed with live check out clerks, there are now machines that read the labels on my merchandise, told me how much I had to pay, added the tax automatically, and took my money via a plastic card.

Five human checkers, five jobs, taken by robots. Just because they don't look like mechanical people doesn't mean that they're not real and effective. If you were thinking that the world was going to be taken over by mechanical monsters, you're behind the times. It's already happened, and they're not monsters. And, of course, five people out of work.

Five people out of work, replaced by five robot checkers and one human supervisor. And you think that we're outsourcing our jobs to India. That "Immigrants" are taking our jobs. That the jobs will come back if we lower the pay rates.

Guess what? The jobs are GONE. Killed off by our desire for convenience, and our desire for lower prices. These days, an industrial robot that does the job of a man on an assembly line costs about $20,000, requires no food, no healthcare, no house, no retirement benefits, can work around-the-clock without a break, and cost his boss much less than human worker. What's not to like?

We've been talking about this for years; now it's here, and what are we going to do about it? But the much bigger question is, if these jobs that once were done by humans are done better and more cheaply by machines, shouldn't we look at the whole "An honest days work for an honest dollar" paradigm differently? Because this reality is here right now. Five human checkers were put out of work by five robots, and it's so convenient that you may not even have noticed.

And this brings us to a much more important societal milestone; when a person's job is outsourced to a robot, how does this person eat? This is a very urgent question, because it's happening right now. Robots are simply cheaper and more reliable than humans for a lot of jobs. They don't call in sick; they don't go on strike; they don't have to eat, drink, rest, breathe, and all the other messy things that humans have to do. All they require is electricity, and some maintenance. When their usefulness is over, they don't need a pension. They can be taken apart and recycled, which is not something that you can do with human beings.

So what are humans to do when a machine can do their job better and cheaper? In Switzerland, people are going to receive a minimum income, whether they work or not. Several other countries are considering that. Here in the United States, with our Puritan mindset, we have a hard time conceiving of "free money". The people that run the country’s businesses think that somebody who doesn't work and receives money is a "welfare queen”. Well, we're going to be seeing a lot more of them soon, Because the jobs done by those four robot checkers at Home Depot are never coming back, unless we actually regress to a pre-machine age, which is unlikely.

This is going to be one of the greatest societal challenges of our age. Go ahead, ignore this. Keep recommending diaries about political kabuki, and watch as your job disappears. Right now, I'm writing this without pushing a single typewriter key. That 1950s secretary, the one who looked like Bettie Page (Always my favorite) and who knew what you really meant when you said “Miss Page, please take dictation" is gone, replaced by an app. And it's happening faster and faster.

Have a nice day.

Update. The rec list? what an honor! And I wrote so many better diaries! I guess, in the words of that dentist in Brooklyn, "Oh! Did I hit a noive?" Thank you.

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