If you have ever worked in the kitchen of a fast food ‘restaurant’ you would know how similar they are to mechanical production lines. Working at one of these places involves carrying out a series of robotic tasks, thousands of times over. Despite this, the fast food industry still provides valuable employment to many thousands of people, often teenagers, who are at lowest end of the pay-scale.
Now one company is planning to outsource these boring and robotic tasks to (you guessed it) a robot. Momentum Machines is building a robot which can autonomously make fast food style burgers with no human assistance. Rather than build an anthropomorphic robot, they instead chose to build a huge system which has more in common with a car production line than with a classic kitchen.
Food, such as different kinds of meat and vegetables are inputted into the machine in special slots, then prepared fresh, and to order. The machine will reportedly allow completely customised burgers at a much faster rate than a human-staffed kitchen. Infact, this burger line robot can produce a whopping 360 burgers a minute when operating at top speeds.
Momentum Machines believes that this set-up can allow restaurants to “free up” (fire) all of their burger line cooks, and then use these savings to buy better quality ingredients, to produce gourmet burgers at fast food prices. While this might happen in some cases, it is more likely that in the ultra-competitive fast food industry, companies will simply increase the rate of production of poor-quality products in order to drive down prices and remain competitive.
This will have severe implications for young and poor workers.
This will also have severe economic implications for young and poor workers, who make up the majority of those employed on burger lines. Should this technology be deployed en masse, it would lead to thousands of layoffs, and further increase poverty rates within communities. Furthermore, this trend of increasing mechanisation of the hospitality industry could eventually lead to the creation of an underclass of people who are only able to afford food produced by the very machines who put them out of work.
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