Vital Signs: The end of the checkout signals a dire future for those without the right skills

phys.org | 7/18/2019 | Staff
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There has already been a fair number of jobs lost to automation over recent decades—from factory workers to bank tellers.

In the coming decade we might see radically larger numbers of jobs lost to automation, thanks to advances in machine learning and other technologies.

Areas - Transport - Retail

Two areas are transport and retail.

In supermarkets, meanwhile, the shift from checkout operators to self-service will be soon be followed by eliminating the checkout system—and attendants—entirely.

Week - Executive - Supermarket - Giant - Coles

This week a senior executive with Australian supermarket giant Coles said the clocking was ticking on checkouts: "I have no doubt in the next 10 years, customers will be able to take the product off the shelf, put it in their basket, walk out and have it all paid for."

Given the concentration of the Australian grocery industry—with Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and IGA having about 80% market share – this could happen in a lot of outlets in a short space of time.

Technology - Amazon - Amazon - Go - Technology

The technology for this already exists. Amazon has been trialling its "no-checkout" Amazon Go technology at more than 20 Amazon-owned convenience stores in major US cities. Customers can walk into an Amazon Go store, "swipe in" with the app on their phone, pick up what they want and then simply walk out.

How it works exactly only Amazon knows, but it seems to involve sensors that identify what you've picked and artificial intelligence calculating what you're likely to pick up based on previous purchases. Those who have used it say it works remarkably well.

Time - Spread - Technology - Cashier - Jobs

In time the spread of such technology could wipe out more than 150,000 cashier jobs remaining in Australia.

And that's just one sector of the economy.

Time

Is this time different?

The argument against worrying about automation is that it's always easier to identify the jobs likely to be lost than the new ones that will emerge.

Truth

There's some truth to this. Who knew in...
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