Walking through a local supermarket, scanning the shelves and hoping that would help me remember what it was that I went there for in the first place, I suddenly heard a voice.
“How can I help you?”
I looked around. No one was there.
My first impulse was to look upward, as if God had finally gotten around to answering my childhood prayers; too late, I thought. Hell, I no longer even had a Mr. Potato Man with a broken nose tab. I imagined a voice, “Please hold, your prayer will be answered in the order it was received. You are number 4,897,672 in the queue.”
Nope, that wasn’t it. Probably something over the PA. Then I heard it again, more clearly this time.
“How can I help you?” It was coming from an odd sort of post on a base, something like one of those Smoker’s Outpost things you see next to the dumpsters behind buildings.
And it was blinking. Now, I’m not a luddite by any means, but I found this a bit disconcerting, so since I had no idea what it was I was looking for anyway, I moved away a few feet. The damned thing followed me. In the end I had to move to an entirely different aisle to get away from it.
There’s a lot in the news these days about immigrants taking our jobs, or if not immigrants, then off-shoring by manufacturers. Yes, it’s true our jobs are disappearing, but it’s not foreigners who are causing it. You are more likely to lose your job to a walking Smoker’s Outpost than a Mexican.
Some people say, fine, robots are taking over manufacturing, and more power to them, our economy has long since moved into service as a basis. On which, see above.
Automation isn’t anything new. Futurists in the mid 20th century used to wax eloquent about how much leisure time we’d have by the 21st. The only thing they missed was that we’d be broke. We need to find a way to pry some of the wealth from the hands of the owners of the robots.