If you want to toast the end of human utility, go to Las Vegas and have your drink poured by a robot bartender.
According to NPR, the Tipsy Robot, a bar inside Planet Hollywood, is currently staffed by robot servers (with some human supervision for spills and knocked-over glasses). While it may appear to be amusing, it is a foreshadowing of what is to come for humans working in the hospitality sector.
According to the Nevada Independent, between 38 and 65 percent of these jobs will be mechanized within the next decade. This equates to between 500,000 and 860,000 gigabits per second disappearing by 2035. Holy bleeping bleep, to quote a robot.
Some, such as University of Nevada, Reno economist Frank Fossen, have attempted to paint a rosy picture of this progress. According to Fossen, these jobs “will actually be restructured” so that there is a “new division of tasks between human workers and digital algorithms.”
“This can actually make workers more productive because as they use these new technologies to become more productive, they could see higher wages and less unemployment,” he explained. “A.I. has a significant impact on some occupations, but this does not imply that workers will lose their jobs.”
The Culinary Union, which represents 60,000 service and hospitality workers in Las Vegas and Reno, is less enthusiastic.
The union’s secretary-treasurer, Ted Pappageorge, told NPR, “How do our folks ensure that the jobs that remain, that we can work them?” And that we aren’t discarded like old shoes? That is not acceptable to us.”
But what about the impact on holidaymakers, aside from the economic impact? Is ordering a round of shots for your bachelorette party the same as having them served by a nice toaster oven?
“We have a lot of regular customers who come for the personal interaction.” They don’t come for the technology, said to Holly Lang, a cocktail server at the MGM Grand. “There are some things that cannot be replaced.”
As experts point out, service occupations aren’t the only ones being displaced by new technologies. Will artificial intelligence begin to take over finance, marketing, and real estate jobs in Las Vegas? You can place a wager on it.