Would you buy coffee from a Robot?

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Robots will replace baristas in cafes as part of a coming wave of job losses in service industries that will occur “at an unprecedented rate”.
The massive jump in productivity is caused by digital technology that takes hold in the world economy, a Swedish technologist and academic, Goran Roos, told the Labour Party Future of Work conference in Auckland recently.

“All this hoo-ha about having a service economy is going to come back and haunt those economies very much,” Roos said, predicting that jobs in service industries would start to disappear. The same way as they did in agriculture in the 19th and 20th centuries and in manufacturing in the last 30 years.

While services industries had been slower to improve their productivity than manufacturing, averaging improvements of just 0.3 percent a year, that was all about the change, said Roos, who has an international reputation in innovation policy and has advised both the Labour Party in New Zealand in the last few years and the government of South Australia, where he is now based.

Service sector productivity would soon be growing at around 7 to 10 percent a year, he said.

And apparently, even our baristas will not be safe from a technological invasion.

“Robots will see you arrive, make your favourite coffee and deliver it to your desk, and pay for itself in nine months.”

Our caffeine habit costs $700 per year, on average

Canstar Blue’s most recent survey of the coffee drinking habits of Kiwis has calculated that each of us spends, on average, more than $700 per year on takeaway coffee. The younger we are, the more money we’;re happy to splash out, with the survey of more than 1,500 coffee drinkers finding that:

  • Generation Y respondents spend $16.10 a week on coffee (or $837 annually).
  • Generation X spent $12.32 ($640), and
  • Baby Boomers spent 13.25 ($689).

You can check out our survey results here.

Could a robot handle your order?
It’s all very well if you simply want a flat white or a capucchino – but not everyone has such basic desires. Would a robot be able to handle, for example, a soy flat white with half a sugar, or a half-strength goat’s milk frappucino? Or a double-strength ristretto with organic sugar? Or a latte with an Eiffel Tower  at sunset sketch in the foam?

The good news for baristas, according to Roos is that  people with very specialised skills would keep their jobs and probably earn more.

“Barristers will still be in court and make even more,” he said while skills such as being able to think nimbly and interact well personally would become more valued.

Baristas: better start practicing that top-of-the-coffee artwork.

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