John Lockwood

Unboxing a Mind

What Do You Do With The Walmart Cashier?

A Walmart cashier lost his job. Or Safeway, or Raley’s, or pick your store, your supermarket. Once you had a bar-code reader, you could always make your customers do the mechanical act of scanning. Tack on a credit card reader and some software I could have written twenty years ago, and your Walmart cashier loses her job, or pick your store, your supermarket.

You noticed, more or less, but what was there to say? It’s not that the cashier’s job has been shipped overseas, you and the robot scanning your tube socks on are still right there in Walmart, ahead of me in line maybe. Oh, hello.

Maybe the tube socks are made in China, and maybe the guy who coded the machine is over in Vietnam, but here we are replacing the cashier, aren’t we? How’s your day been going so far?

Maybe my nephews noticed the Walmart workers striking, and proved their redneck colors by re-posting (“re”-posting, mind you) something about “Walmart workers striking for wage increases, here’s the computer to replace you.”

I thought that was mean, but I still head for the fastest line, don’t I? What’s a little scanning among friends?

Where did the cashier go?

Like the title says, where did the cashier go?

Maybe she drives for Uber now, or maybe he drives for Lyft, scrambling for some work that used to be done by someone who paid tens or hundreds of thousands for a taxi medallion.

Until the robot catches up. Driving is a more complicated task than being a checkout clerk, especially of there’s no tube-sock-wielding customer in the loop, still doing half the human work.

We still need lots of DARPA-funded American programmers for that – well, alright, H1B, what’s the difference? My god, you’re picky for a guy scanning his own tube socks.

These more or less American programmers drive on the Google bus, where some protests where held, where some rocks were thrown.

No one’s working on an automated disgruntled rock thrower, but the cops can catch the human one with a neat drone.

Maybe once the robot cars take your next job here, if you’re out of work you can fly the drone. I hear there’s an opening.