Is shadow work ruining the job market?

A recent episode of the Every Little Thing podcast discusses the rise of self-checkout machines. It’s a fascinating tale, one that I would have never guessed started over 100 years ago with the opening of the Piggly Wiggly chain.

Self-checkout is a commonly used example of the impending threat of automation. I know I personally worry that robots in the form of advanced self-checkout machines are robbing my kids of the future first jobs they’ll be searching for in the next 5 or so years.

Well the episode ends with an interview with author Craig Lambert who has a totally unique take on the self-checkout process. He believes that the self-service economy is a system wherein we are performing unpaid work.

When we use a self-checkout, robots haven’t replaced a worker, we are replacing the workers ourselves. He’s completely correct! A self-checkout at the grocery store is effectively a complicated cash register, it doesn’t do much more than a regular cash register would do. As the self-checkers, we do all the work ourselves. We scan. We bag. We move the money.

It’s incredible, my mind has been blown!

I’ve embedded the episode here:

The show full show is here.

 

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