With robots threatening one California city, the residents, politicians, and business owners heatedly debate what to do with the R2D2 look-alikes. While some claim the automated helpers can pose a nuisance to the San Francisco public and pedestrians, the real fear is that the clunky droids will take over too many human jobs.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
The threat of automation replacing numerous jobs looms large, said Douglas Schmidt, a professor of computer science at Vanderbilt. “It’s definitely a sociological trend, and can become a political issue,” he said. “You’ve got to figure as more and more people start to lose jobs to automation you’ll see this kind of response.”
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last year to raise California’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by the year 2022. On January 1, the minimum wage increased from $10 to $10.50, and will make the jump to $15 in January 2018.
Even though The Golden State didn’t see the nation’s biggest minimum wage increase, the raise produced the largest increase in total wages in the country, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Companies have been experimenting with automated machines acting in a delivery capacity such as for take-out food orders and other goods. They argue that it’s imperative for them to be able to test the robots in public, but San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors was not convinced. In fact, under the pretense of claiming the technology was a hazard and a distraction to pedestrians, the board unanimously passed strict regulations on the city’s newest residents.
The new city ordinance limits the number of robots a company can have to three and a total of nine for the city. They are only allowed in areas where the residential population is minimal such as industrial areas. They are further restricted to a speed limit of no more than three mph, and all of the automated helpers must have a human monitor.
The Chronicle reports:
San Francisco’s ordinance resembles laws enacted in the early days of “horseless carriages” that required a person to walk in front of a car waving a red flag, said Bob Doyle, spokesman for the Association for Advancing Automation Association, an industry organization that represents U.S. robotics and automation companies.
“To put such a strict limit on these types of autonomous delivery vehicles drastically slows down the process of testing and the potential for these being put into (use before) the general public,” he said.
The mandatory minimum wage hike was, and still is, a serious bone of contention – especially for small business owners who cannot afford the higher wages with the cost of living and doing business in the state already so high.
The fear of automation taking over human jobs was laughed at by some; called a conspiracy theory, and relegated to non-progressives’ panic and disgust for anything new. But you can’t deny the reality and the real fears of the public. Granted, there are only a few robots puttering along the streets of San Francisco right now, but this is only the testing phase. Not so far into the distant future, we will see an influx of the new artificial intelligence, and they will be taking over our jobs. Perhaps menial jobs at first – cleaning, deliveries and basic household chores – but it won’t be long before they earn their place into higher levels and niches of the workforce.
The left and progressives in California fought to force a minimum wage increase, claiming they were doing so for the good of the people, but what they have done is bring about the next chapter in our science fiction revolution.