Amazon Automating Grocery Stores
Last week, Amazon announced the opening of its Amazon Go to the public and “Just Walk Out” shopping. We believe this is part of a broad shift in reshaping the broader retail market and Amazon is leading the way.
Shoppers show up, grab what they want, and are automatically charged with whatever they walk out with, without interacting with any store employees.
“When you’re finished, you simply exit the store,” Puplava said. “You don’t wait in line for a cashier... There is no human interaction in this.”
This is forcing other retailers to respond. Kroger, the largest stand-alone grocery store chain, is rolling out its own cashier-free experience. Alibaba and Walmart are moving in the same direction.
What Can Be Digitized, Will Be Digitized
These trends are going to completely reshape the economy.
“Welcome to the world of virtualization,” Puplava said. “It is growing rapidly, and is going to change so many of the things that we do, or are used to seeing.”
Any job that can be done routinely or something that is repetitive is going to be automated, if not digitized. And all of these trends are accelerating due to what is referred to as DANCE: Data, Algorithms, Networks, the Cloud, and Exponential improvements in hardware.
The most prevalent device we can all relate to that didn’t exist a decade ago is the smartphone. It’s a powerful tool that allows multiple applications and is reshaping everything from media to the way we shop.
“Think what your smartphone did to digital cameras or camcorders,” Puplava said. “Think what it did to Apple itself. One of its first devices was the iPod, but now we don’t even have a tab on Apple’s website for iPods because they’re replaced by our phones. These are things that are happening at such an accelerating pace and reshaping the landscape, it’s almost breathtaking when you see what’s happening.”
Where Will Humans Fit In?
Occupations that are dull, dirty, dangerous or repetitive are the areas where we’re likely going to see robots, drones and digital machines begin to take over, Puplava noted.
We’re already seeing driverless cars, but now even tractors are being operated without human input, while drones are monitoring conditions and allowing for remote operation.
“Think of where we’ve gone in over a century,” Puplava said. “We went from an agricultural society in the 19th century, we went through the Industrial Revolution, and now look what we’re doing in agriculture today.”
This is very likely to continue. Just as we lost a lot of manufacturing jobs in the last downturn, today we’re producing more manufactured goods with fewer workers as we automate more and machines work hand-in-hand with humans in the future.
“As machines are able to do more work in the physical world and we do less of it, instead we’re going to move on to do things we’re more capable of,” Puplava said. “The jobs of the future are going to require more skillsets, and we’re going to move more into our technical capabilities.”
Education will have to change, Puplava added, and he expects to see more emphasis on high-skilled forms of employment. The trend isn’t reversible, and we’re better off looking forward and anticipating what’s coming, than trying to deny it.
“This is the world we’re living in,” Puplava said. “We just have to figure out how we adapt to it, survive it, and how to profit from it.”