The combination of advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things technology, and automation has prompted a sharp rise in digital unemployment. The hospitality, construction, and restaurant industries are turning to AI-enhanced robots to improve operational efficiency and cut labor costs. However, as humanity becomes increasingly redundant, a lone hero has risen to fight back.
In Australia, an unidentified young man was able to trick a McDonald’s self-service machine into giving him free food. Apparently, Australia McDonald’s digital menus are configured to reduce the price of a $1 hamburger burger by $1.10 if the beef patty is withheld. So, “Hamburglar Bourne” got a free regular burger by ordering 10 “vegetarian” sandwiches.
To raise awareness of his subversive act, the 2019 John Connor posted his McScam to YouTube. As of this writing, the clip has racked up more than 1.6 million views.
The (Potential) End of McDonald’s
Ironically, McDonald’s recently revealed plans to greatly expand its self-service operations in the United States. Last month, the corporation announced its intent to purchase a deep learning company called Dynamic Yield for $300 million.
In 2018, McDonald’s hired the firm to revamp its domestic drive-thru service. The company used its cutting-edge AI tools to create interactive menus for select U.S. eateries. The new self-service kiosks suggest additional items based on customer’s orders, local weather conditions, and regional traffic patterns.
The fast-food giant apparently liked the results of its pilot program; its acquisition of Dynamic Yield is the biggest in its history. Moreover, the corporation plans on bringing its new drive-thru kiosks to all of its American restaurants.
Hopefully, the AI-powered equipment McDonald’s is shipping out to its U.S. locations is more sophisticated than its Australian self-service machines. Given the voracious appetite of Americans for fast food, the digital menu glitch could bankrupt the iconic fast food company within days.
The Drawbacks of Self-Checkout
Despite the rush to replace human workers with automated solutions, there are reasons to be wary of self-service technology. For one thing, one study found the presence of self-service checkouts can actually raise theft rates. Researchers found British companies that employ human check out systems have inventory losses of 1.47 percent. Comparatively, UK firms that utilize self-checkout systems incur losses of 3.97 percent.
Additionally, a study conducted by the Australian National University, Canberra, revealed that mobile payment systems encourage theft. Apparently, people who wouldn’t ordinarily take things without paying for them succumb to temptation when there’s no human oversight.
Lastly, credit card scam artists have gotten really good at subverting self-checkout kiosks. In the past three years, the United States Post Office, Circle K, and Wells Fargo have had their machines co-opted by thieves who used them to collect credit card numbers.
Given the correlation between self-service equipment and high theft rates, retailers across the globe may come to regret this pivot to automation.