Across the nation hipster trustafarians and well heeled Subaru Outback drivers are fretting. What is to come of Whole Foods now that Amazon has eaten it? The attached article is a good example of this.
But I say, fear not foodies. Life will go on. In fact it may be better under Jeff Bezos and an army of robots. Amazon isn’t interested in losing value and chasing away customers. It bought Whole Foods because it thought it could make money – at least over the long term. And it is my bet that that quality and variety will likely only increase in the future.
So chill. The Scilons will happily sell you heirloom tomatoes.
Until they decide it’s time to take over the world.
I kid. I kid.
Amazon has said that it doesn’t plan to automate Whole Foods’ checkout lines. But the question itself is the wrong way to look at Amazon’s impact on grocery workers.
Much more impactful is the reality that Amazon’s technology could make grocery stores as we know them obsolete. “Every grocer will remember this day as the beginning of a new era,” longtime grocery analyst Phil Lempert told Quartz. And that would have consequences on workers throughout the grocery store and even in its back-office operations, not just those who operate cash registers.
Obsolescence, not automation, has been the most common job category killer in recent history. Since 1950, only one occupation in the US census—elevator operators—has been completely automated by technology. That’s partly because nobody invented an automatic telegraph operator or an automated boardinghouse keeper. Rather, new technologies and industries arose that made the old occupations obsolete.