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Automation Nation

December 31, 2013

Automation seems to be the thing businesses are craving. They want everything streamlined and processed via a predictable routine. Notice those self-checkout-counters in CVS and other places, yep you are now officially working for free to check yourself out so that some company exec could pat himself on the back while he expenses a nice escort as a travel expense.
Predictability and idiocy go hand in hand though. I remember seeing only self-checkouts in CVS and huge line and simply dropping the juice I had and leaving the store going next door to buy the same exact product and getting out of the store as a clerk checked me out in seconds. It seems strange that companies expect their customers to behave as their employees for no pay and actually waste their time through longer waits and trying to figure out what to press and how to work a machine.

Everyone is desperately trying to get rid of labor to put their perpetual motion business into profit recycling mode. I remember reading about restaurant robot chef in china making noodles, Japanese robot bartender, robot server etc… Why go out to seek social company and the mood of a place if its all robotic? mind as well stay home and make something yourself. Fast food automation replacing all those workers it seems is almost there. But prey tell where is the savings for the consumer???

Generally the reasons consumers agree to technical progress is two-fold one its better or more satisfying than things are currently, and two it lowers prices for them and allows them to enjoy more things. Thus far automation provides neither. Psychologically people enjoy social atmosphere and it is better to be served by a human where you can at least not only interact but feel that you are being taken care of, for a price of-course. You elevated your status somewhat egoistically as well and feel socially well for being in public. So why would you pay for an overpriced drink or food from robot-Joe for the sake of company-B getting 1.2% margin improvement while the prices not only stay the same but actually go up? Makes no sense to me.

Automation has its’ place in hazardous areas for sure, uranium mining, welding on an assembly line, chemical plants, etc… The problem is when you apply it everywhere you get something quiet ‘UN’-expected. Its common sense to expect people to simply turn around and leave when the proposition you offer them is absurd.

I seem to recall automated loan parameters during and still continuing housing boom and bust. How did that work out? Not so good did it. Some banks still think they can get rid of their workers automate loan protocols and not loose a customer, very “realistic”. (sarcasm). Especially if you put yourself in the shoes of one of those customers whom has a problem lets say they own a few shops and they need resolution on a multimillion dollar credit line they have outstanding. Think about them punching those buttons on a terminal to resolve it for a while and then just going to a different bank and transferring ALL of their business. Multiply that event by a few thousand per day and you will see the light, perhaps, or not. Because, it is a recurring theme and crunching the numbers it works out great but on the ground not so much once it is implemented.

The biggest aspect that comes to mind is aren’t you also reducing your market access when you automate? Workforce is generally the best evangelist for a business or the worst but they do get the word out that it exists, because robots don’t shop (yet) and customers are generally humans that are breathing. So if you automate to the point of labor contact being 0% human aren’t you also reducing your customer exposure to 0% as well outside of the location you have or the service you provide? I am certain your robotic barman is great its’ just nobody really wants to go to a dead place. That is basically it, when your bank is fully automated and I can’t discuss business problems or solve things right away, why go there? No point really.

I find it odd that while labor is the current looser in the capital/labor world of economics at some point you have to pay it and if you do not your asset and capital prices recycle through the wages with which labor is able to bid on products and those same capital/asset prices.

Because you can’t really sell anything to someone whom earns nothing.

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/trending-now/could-robotic-chef-help-boost-china-economy-192842095.html

http://narwilliams.com/blog/2008/07/07/beer-robot-video/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/14/us-barclays-jobs-idUSBRE9AD12M20131114

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