If you have engaged in or observed the debate over raising the minimum wage, chances are you have seen the meme below, of a terminal in a fast-food restaurant which allows you to order and pay for your food in the place of an actual person.
This meme is nonsense, based on faulty logic. The fact is, if corporations found it cost-effective enough to replace humans with machines, they would do it, regardless of whether the minimum wage goes up or not. Do people who get behind the mentality of this meme actually think that companies haven’t implemented terminals on a widespread basis and replaced minimum wage workers already, out of the kindness of their hearts? Please. The reason they haven’t is either the cost, or the fact that it would not be popular with all customers.
Think about how often you hear people complain about not being able to speak to a living, breathing person when dealing with the bank or the phone company, for instance. Many human customer service representatives have been cut by companies in favor of automated systems, to the dismay of many customers who have situations that are either still too complicated for a machine to process efficiently, or who are just annoyed with the monotonous, robotic button-pushing that is required before speaking to someone who can finally address whatever issue they may be having.
As simplified as fast-food has become, there are still bound to be situations where an actual person is required to process an order. In addition, many people still value the human contact and interaction as part of the experience of grabbing a bite to eat. Supermarket cashiers have not been replaced by self-checkout lanes, which serves as a perfect example of how humans and machines can co-exist, without one completely replacing the other.
The fact is, many of us will probably be replaceable by a machine or computer at some point in the future, to a certain degree. This doesn’t mean that people don’t deserve a decent, living wage in the meantime.