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October 2, 2014

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Letter to the editor:

Our self-service culture has a cost

Technology has transformed the way we live in America. In the past, there were no self-checkout systems in stores, no self-serve gas stations, no self-check-in kiosks in airports, no computers to answer phone calls to businesses, no ATMs, no Internet, no cellphones, and no cleaning up your table after eating in a fast-food restaurant.

In place of those things were employees, people with jobs and money to spend.

The question is: Are we better off now than before the technology transformation? Some people are, and some people are not.

Business owners and shareholders profit when workers are replaced with technology, whereas workers suffer when there is a loss of income.

And almost everyone is inconvenienced by businesses offloading their work onto customers by switching from full-service to self-service.

It is unlikely that the self-service problem will ever go away. Customers have been forced to adapt. Workers’ loss of income, on the other hand, could be alleviated by initiating a one-time tax on businesses the first year that employees are replaced by technology.

This would help with training displaced workers for other jobs. Although a different topic, this same principle should apply to jobs that are outsourced.

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