• McRobots? Who — or What — Will Be Taking Your Next McD’s Order?

    Surge Summary: McDonald’s restaurants are contemplating a switch to automation for their drive-thru and other services. What are the potential benefits? Problems? Counterproductive responses?

    The anti-tech Luddites among us won’t be pleased with this news. The folks over at Morning Brew bring this brief:

    McDonald’s announced its third tech deal of the year yesterday when it agreed to acquire Apprente, a voice AI company McDonald’s hopes will make its drive-thru as smooth and convenient as a maple syrup delivery app. The financial terms weren’t disclosed.

    Apprente’s tech directly translates speech to meaning, skipping the transcribing part that other “speech-to-text” AI relies on. McDonald’s has already been testing it in select restaurants, so…that may have been a robot taking your Filet-O-Fish order.

    This attempt at tech enhancement isn’t unheard of for the “Golden Arches”. They’ve been eyeballing improvements in menu ordering capabilities.

    Earlier this year it spent a reported $300+ million buying Dynamic Yield, a personalized data startup.

    cnet.com elaborates on Dynamic Yield, which is:

    a machine-learning company whose “decision logic technology” subtly tweaks menu displays based on outside factors like the time of day, weather and traffic, as well as suggesting extra stuff for you to add to your order. So basically machines will push you to get fries and a large Coke.

    Morning Brew’s Bottom line?

    Wired argues this is a “defensive” move by McDonald’s, ensuring it gets access to key AI tech before Wendy’s and Burger King can get their hands on it.

    We’re reminded by the McDonald moves that changes are an inescapable part of business, a hardy perennial of industry. Sometimes they cause pain — referred to in economics-speak as “dislocations” — for those involved in making a living.

    What’s the proper response? Pass laws outlawing technological advancements? Robots and Artificial Intelligence, for example?

    Not if we cherish liberty and human creativity. Presently, some so-called “conservatives” seem to have forgotten that bedrock principle

    Men and women, fashioned in the image of God, are endowed with the capacity to transform themselves when faced with potentially difficult societal, cultural or career transformations. More training or education? A course alteration? Relocation to another city or state? There are plenty of options.

    One really, really short-sighted reaction in the case of these McDonald’s robotics maneuverings? Making it more cost-effective to turn to a machine than a person. Piling more regulation requirements on employers, artificially hiking up the minimum wage, rendering it too costly to employ flesh-and-blood employees, will only encourage corporations to replace them with electrical, plastic and metal alternatives.

    As tech breakthroughs ineluctably march forward, people can successfully march along with them – it they use their heads and don’t flock toward inimical measures.

    H/T: Morning Brew; cnet.com

    Image: By Stu pendousmat (talk) – I created this work entirely by myself., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6822644

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