McDonald’s said it was trying to surprise customers. Then the truth slipped out


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I want to believe.

I want to believe that technology makes the world a better place. Only.

I want to believe that we are all becoming more aware of the truths of the world.

And I want to believe that when companies say things, they really mean them.

That’s why I was so moved when McDonald’s started experimenting with ordering robots at the drive-thru. Yes, it looked like a totally horrible experiencebut I wanted to believe that in time the robots would come to understand our accents and our wayward individualistic orders.

Not so long ago, McDonald’s has announced it will sell its McD Tech Labs — formerly known as Apprente — to IBM. The company stated that IBM had more of the core capabilities needed to extend robot drive-thrus to everyone and, one can imagine, make everyone happier.

In making this sale, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski insisted on that the tests conducted by the company in Chicago had produced “significant benefits” for both customers and employees.

I let out a short hosanna. Could this really be a case of technology improving everyone’s lot?

But then I drove through a recent interview at JPMorgan’s 50th Annual Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference.

Here was IBM’s senior vice president of global markets, Rob Thomas give his opinion about helping McDonald’s become the leader in robotic ordering at the drive-thru.

He said McDonald’s was having “a little trouble” ordering.

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“We believed, and we built a dissertation around it, that we could use our natural language processing technology, which is very good for extending McDonald’s technology, and we’re starting to roll that out to many of their stores, eventually all of their stores.” stores. stores,” says Thomas.

Ah, so everyone really gets linguistic robots by nature? That should be interesting.

What was even more exciting, though, was Thomas’s next thought: “And this is a great application of technology, wage inflation, and fast-serve restaurants.”

An application of wage inflation? You mean it’s not so much about improving the customer experience, but more about making pure, non-human money?

Ah, so that’s the real motivation? Fewer people want to work at McDonald’s for relatively little money, so voila, technology meets fast restaurants and pushes wage inflation.

Thomas was on a roll (or maybe a club) when he continued: “We can do all drive-thru orders without human intervention. Every once in a while something will kick people, but it drives great economy to franchisees, all through the force from software and through AI and creative construction.”

There’s nothing like the human being kicked as they stand, maybe all alone, frying burgers all night.

I wanted to believe in technology that brings substantial benefits to everyone. But the painful reality seems to be that the substantial benefits accrue far more to the franchisees than to, say, customers or employees.

So if you come across one of these robots, and they don’t understand your more personal order, remember that they’re just cheap labor. Nothing anymore.

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