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Amazon Go Stores Show Future of Automation

Fears of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation taking people’s jobs are increasingly common as new technologies emerge that seem to make many aspects of certain jobs—especially routine, low-skilled labor jobs—potentially obsolete. We’ve written a lot about how these fears are often overblown.

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In fact, in many cases, AI and automation have the potential to eliminate the tedium from our jobs and allow us to focus on the more meaningful aspects of our work.

Another Amazon Innovation

But according to CNN’s, Matt McFarland, there are at least some low-skill, low-paying jobs that might truly be in actual danger of being eliminated through automation and AI. In describing his experience shopping in an Amazon Go store recently, McFarland says, “you won’t see a single cashier, cash register, or self-service checkout stand. Such things have no place in the future. You simply walk in, grab what you need, and go. Amazon bills your credit card as you pass through the turnstile on your way out. Moments later, an app in your phone provides a receipt detailing what you’ve bought, what you paid, and even how long you spent inside.”

That’s right: no human interaction whatsoever. And it’s not just the checkout process.

No Place for People?

McFarland notes that the sophistication of Amazon’s cameras and inventory tracking systems mean shoplifting is virtually impossible—no need for security staff. And because the stores are linked to your Amazon account, Amazon knows your shopping habits and likely purchases better than any customer service or sales associate could.

There are currently just four Amazon Go stores operating: three in Seattle and one in Chicago. But McFarland says that Amazon is looking to have up to 3,000 such stores by 2021. And Walmart recently announced a partnership with Microsoft in what is being seen as an attempt to catch up to Amazon.

So, while there are certainly benefits to existing workers from some forms of AI and automation, for some jobs, there is a very real chance of humans being nearly completely replaced by machines and computers in the not-so-distant future.