National Edition

Why the rise of smart machines could terminate jobs

Published: Wednesday, March 12 2014 12:30 p.m. MDT

Saltsman is research director at the Employment Policies Institute, a non-profit research organization, funded in part by donations from the business community. It studies policies that, from a free market perspective, impact the entry-level job market such as teen employment and minimum wage.

"If you create a $15 minimum wage, or whatever, then employers will just decide they are going to replace people with touch screens," he says.

Like other people studying the impact of technology on jobs in the future, Saltsman says that retail, restaurants and other venues will probably look a lot different, a lot more automated, in the future regardless of minimum wage and other economic pressures on businesses.

"Our concern in the immediate term is that we are talking about (policies that will accelerate these technology) changes at a time when a significant amount of our less-skilled job force still doesn't have a job," he says. "So I would submit to you this is the worst time to think about accelerating those kind of changes and dramatically changing the calculus between 'Does it make sense to automate?' versus keeping employees."

Currently at Chili's, however, there do not appear to be plans to automate the basic server job of taking meal orders. Prince even shudders at the thought as she works several tables on a Saturday night in Harrisville.

"I hope that doesn't happen," she says. "There would be nothing for me to do."

Meanwhile, all around the restaurant, customers will pay for their meals without calling Prince over. Instead they use her partner, Ziosk. The tablet has a screen where customers set the tip by swiping a sliding scale back and forth — defaulting at 20 percent. So far the Ziosk tablet hasn't asked its partner, Prince, for a cut of her tips.

>EMAIL: mdegroote@deseretnews.com. Twitter: @degroote. Facebook: facebook.com/madegroote

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