It is conceivable that robots and artificial intelligence will eventually take over the American workforce. These advancements in modern technology are currently being tested and fine-tuned in a multitude of scenarios where humans were once the primary source of labor. Anyone who has ever used a self-checkout line at the local grocery store can see where this is going. Intentional or not, the mad science minds of this brave new world are slowly eliminating the need for real people in the arena of everyday commerce.
Some experts have even suggested that this rise of the machines will eventually drag mankind down to the darkest depths of a “hellish dystopia.” They predict that as soon as companies are able to replace humans with computers, the bottom will drop out of the global economy. Despair and downtrodden will soon follow. But will this obsession with robots have an effect on cannabis industry?
Robots Are Already Being Tested in the Cannabis Industry
Although it could take decades before artificial intelligence assumes the roles of those people earning a living through the cannabis industry, there is already evidence that not even the cultivation and sale of marijuana is safe from a robot takeover. It was recently revealed that some cannabis companies are testing robots and drones as a means of keeping their pot farms secure.
Over the summer, Hardcar Security, which develops security services for the cannabis trade, examined whether robots are more effective at monitoring the cannabis crops than security guards.
Hardcar Security’s CEO Todd Kleperis says robots are more efficient when it comes to protecting a cannabis company’s inventory because they don’t sleep on the job, they don’t play video games when they should be on patrol, and they’re not constantly checking their social media. On the other hand, he explained, it is also safer to put machines in this position because “these robots can take a gunshot better than a human.”
Other tech companies are experimenting with drones to eliminate the need for delivery drivers. Companies like Eaze are hoping to one day use a fleet of drones to make cannabis deliveries all across the nation. This technology, which is still being developed and is subject to federal approval, would give the customer the ability to use a Smartphone app to place an order and then receive it without ever dealing with a real person.
It’s the perfect business model for those Howard Hughes types.
Bud Trimmers Will Be First to Experience the Rise of the Machines
It is not uncommon for someone entering into the cannabis industry to get a job as an entry level Bud Trimmer. It is work that almost anyone can do (or be trained to do) and it pays well above the salary of most restaurants and other easily obtained service industry positions. In fact, Bloomberg published a report last year that showed how the restaurant labor market in legal marijuana states is suffering because so many workers have retired their aprons for positions in the cannabis industry. It makes sense. Many cannabis companies are offering anywhere between $12-to-$22 an hour, plus benefits for workers with little to no experience. The transition to the business of weed is a no-brainer for the dishwasher earning minimum wage.
But even these jobs are at risk of being taken over by machines.
Last year, Bloom Automation revealed that it has created a robot that can effectively trim the unwanted materials from a cannabis plant in a matter of minutes. Although the company says its automation was not designed to steal jobs, but rather to “improve efficiency and alleviate a significant pain point,” these types of robots can be expected to become more commonplace at cultivation centers as legal marijuana goes more mainstream.
The good news is robots still cannot trim buds quicker than humans. The trim machine can reportedly produce only around a pound a day – about the same as a bud trimmer with a face and a social security number. But it’s just a matter of time before these tech geeks improve on its efficacy – making it more cost-effective for grow houses to use than people.
Bud Tenders Might Be Replaced Too
Similar to how some traditional retail outlets are presently experimenting with self-checkout lines, testing the waters to see how business would run without clerks handling the money. There could come a day when budtenders are rendered mostly obsolete.
Cannabis companies are already experimenting with sophisticated vending machines that allow customers to make pot purchases without the need for human interaction. And this technology is becoming more advanced. Some of these machines work in line with state-regulated “seed to sale” systems, and they can even check a customer’s ID to make sure they are of legal age. We have seen these machines show up in several legal states, including California and Colorado. More are expected to emerge, as additional jurisdictions across the United States relax their pot laws.
Although it seems unlikely that intelligent machines will replace the human experience that is often enjoyed when visiting a dispensary. This kind of technology could certainly limit the number of employees a dispensary needs to service its customer base.
Final Hit: Everyone Is Safe for Now
Although there may come a day when robots put all of us in the unemployment line, it is not going to happen anytime soon. Even when tech firms do finally perfect the machines they are developing to “improve the efficiency,” of the cannabis trade, it is going to take some time before companies are prepared to surrender their human workforce entirely.
The concept of the self-checkout line was first introduced more than two decades ago, and still, cashiers and other workers responsible for customer service have not been fed to the streets of destitution. But companies are searching for ways to combat overhead through the implementations of artificial intelligence. That is a fact. Some of the largest corporations in the nation have taken the first step to replacing humans with circuits and wires.
There will always be a need for humans with special skills. Robots cannot take over the raw power and intensity of a person hell-bent on being the best in their chosen profession. But entry-level workers, those hoping to earn a living through menial tasks, will likely be phased out in the end.
According to Dr. Subhash Kak, an expert in artificial intelligence at Oklahoma University, the loss of jobs as a result of our robotic replacements will lead to a dystopia.
“There will be massive unemployment,” he said. “People want to be useful and work provides meaning, and so the world will sink into despair.’
But for those left wondering, “Is my job safe” from the grips of those pesky machines? Just remember that humans will always have the ability to combat robots and other smart technology with a simple glass of water. All that is needed is a blast from an average garden hose and everyone starving at the hands of robots will be gainfully employed once again.