One of the biggest questions looming over the future of an automated workforce is what happens to the human workers replaced by robots? Makr Shakr, the company behind the robot bartender Toni, has come up with one solution: help pay for training for the humans being replaced.
Makr Shakr, in partnership with State University of New York (SUNY), today announced the launch of its “Automation Stipend.” For every bartending robot sold, Makr Shakr “assigns a $1,000 monthly stipend to a selected person whose profession might be impacted by the automation” according to the press announcement. The stipend is meant to help provide training “with special attention to the relation between tech and the food and leisure industries.”
The Automation Stipend is starting this month in Buffalo, NY in collaboration with the SUNY Erie Community College and SUNY Erie Foundation. The first candidate Makr Shakr sponsored is Brian Townsell, a 50 year old hospitality worker, who is getting a scholarship in the Brewery Science and Service Program for a period of four months.
According to the Brookings Institute, food service will be one of the job sectors hit hardest by automation. One of the solutions Brookings has suggested is a “Universal Adjustment Benefit,” which would include career counseling, retraining, and “robust income support.”
Robots are already taking over human jobs across the food industry. Whether that’s Picnic’s conveyor-style robot that can assemble 300 pizzas in an hour, Bear Robotics’ waiter and busser robot, Dishcraft’s dishwashing robot, or Starship‘s robot delivery rovers.
One of the complications of all this is that robots aren’t uniformly bad. They can take over dangerous and repetitive tasks (like working a fryer), provide food around the clock (like Chowbotics’ Sally), and perhaps even reduce the price of some food by reducing the labor cost for a restaurant.
But that reduction in labor has its own cost, and it’s something that we as a society will need to deal with. There will need to be a lot of participation from governments and the private sector, and there won’t be one magic panacea. Makr Shakr’s Automation Stipend might be a marketing ploy, but it seems like a good place to start.