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Will job losses from robots lead to more fraud?

Technology futurist Martin Ford ponders how job losses and stagnant wages can lead to an increase in fraud, waste and abuse. His research indicates that anti-fraud professionals would do well to become amateur seers.

Can we find a relationship between the loss of hamburger-flipping jobs and fraud? Possibly.

Meet the robot that produces burgers and replaces workers. The company called Creator (formerly known as Momentum Machines) opened the first restaurant in June in San Francisco that offers fully automated gourmet, made-to-order hamburgers in about five minutes for $6 each.

The Creator restaurant employs only nine compared to about 15 workers in a typical McDonald’s restaurant. (See Six things to know about Creator, San Francisco’s new burger robot restaurant, by Justin Phillips, San Francisco Chronicle, June 27, and statista.)

Now, Ronald isn’t about to begin buying hundreds of the 14-foot conveyor-line, burger robots for McDonald’s. But if he did, where would those thousands of laid-off workers go? Good question.

“Those [robot-made] burgers might sound very inviting, but they would come at a considerable cost,” writes Martin Ford in his book, “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future,” Basic Books. “Millions of people hold low-wage, often part-time, jobs in the fast food and beverage industries. … Historically, low wages, few benefits, and a high turnover rate have helped to make fast food jobs relatively easy to find.”

Ford, a high-tech futurist and one of the keynote speakers at the 29th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference in June, says that fast-food and low-skill retail positions have provided “a kind of private sector safety net for workers with few other options: These jobs have traditionally offered an income of last resort when no other better alternatives are available.”


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