I could see my father’s face, ordering me to spend my summer at the high school, in typing class. I was a mere 14 years old, so this was the functional equivalent of a prison sentence. An entire summer would be wasted as the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog and all good men came to the aid of their country. “Learn to type, son, and you’ll always have a job,” he snorted. He thought this was really important, and he was right — I learned to type and I’ve always had job. It didn’t have much to do with my typing skills, and they were never much. The always-needed clerical work my father valued mostly belongs to machinery now. The clerk-typist is automated, electrons on a magnetic disk somewhere, and very cheap. Some humans still rattle away on Microsoft Word, but they must be worried.
I thought about Dad and my trusty typewriter recently while reading an article by Jason Dorrier on the Singularity Hub website. It featured a robot that makes hamburgers, lots of hamburgers, very quickly. It’s made by a California company called Momentum Machines, and can crank out a burger every 10 seconds, or 360 burgers an hour. It grinds the meat, forms the patty, slices the onions, pickles and tomatoes, toasts the bun, then cooks it all to a high gourmet standard, all in less than 24 square feet. The burger quality is superior, says Dorrier, because everything is fresh, produced seconds before it is served. Employers save big, considering all the workers they no longer need employ. “Our alpha machine frees up all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant. It does everything employees can do except better,” said Momentum Machines. Restaurants, if they wish, may take their labor savings and spend twice as much on tasty ingredients, and even then the burger-bot will pay for itself in a year.