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2005 September 02 Friday
Halt To Illegal Immigration Would Increase Convenience In Everyday Life

Steve Sailer argues that Illegal aliens could be replaced by automation that would make daily life much more convenient.

Low productivity labor: The huge supply of cheap immigrant labor in the US means that we lag at increasing productivity, which is the main engine of higher standards of living. For example, in LA it's very hard to find the kind of automated robot car-washing facilities that many gas stations offer in Chicago. In LA, you can only get your car washed by a swarm of illegal immigrants. I'm sure in ancient Rome, you could only get your chariot washed by a crew of slaves with buckets and sponges, but you might think we would have progressed since then.

Further, while Chicago's automated washing systems are open 24/7, in LA it doesn't pay to have the illegals work before noon (when demand for car washing is light). So, if you get told by your boss to go pick up a client and your car is filthy, well, you're out of luck.

Or, how come the waitress has to come to your table four times at the end of restaurant meal?

First, you call her over to tell her you'd like your check.

Second, she brings the check.

Third, she comes back to pick up your credit card.

Fourth, she comes back with the credit card slip for you to sign.

Couldn't this all be done electronically right at your table with no visits at all by the waitress?

Yes, and the automation would save us time and make life more convenient.

I'd like to add some more suggestions: How about plumbing that would bring water dispensers to each restaurant table? Then one would not have to spend a few minutes at a time on the look-out for one's waitress to ask for more water in those small water glasses some restaurants provide. That would be so convenient.

Also, why not have the ability to enter one's order on a touch panel at each table? Again, one would not have to waste time waiting to get the waitress's attention once everyone decided what they wanted to order. Also, each individual in a group could order as soon as they are ready. Also, ordering additional items would be easy. Also, electronic ordering would lead to fewer mistakes with orders.

An electronic ordering system could also provide ways to ask for more napkins, forks, condiments, or other items that might be missing. Can't start your burger without ketchup? If you do not see ketchup at the table request it when you order your meal and it may arrive before the meal does.

An electronic ordering system could get tied in with an electronic routing system that would indicate to a waitress a list of things to take with her on her way out of the kitchen with a map display showing what goes to which tables. An electronic ear piece hooked into a system that also tracks her movements could even optionally suggest that a waitress is passing near a table that needs mustard or a table that needs a glass of water.

Very high levels of convenience and quality can only be achieved through higher levels of automation. Low market price immigrant labor (subsidized by taxpayers who pay for all the external costs) slows progress.

Update: If a restaurant is busy and one has to wait for one's table then a display device ought to provide a way to order before one even gets a table. Imagine sitting down at a table and getting one's food a few minutes later. Imagine drinks and appetizers brought to the table as soon as one sits down.

What I want in stores: A display device and keyboard to enter in searches to find stuff. Even if one can find a store employee sometimes they do not know where something can be found or whether they even have in stock normally.

Can you think of other conveniences automation could bring to everyday life?

Update II: Automated ordering would also eliminate the need for waitresses to bring a check. No paper check would ever get filled in with an order in the first place. At the end of a meal one could punch up the total of the bill on the same device one placed the order. Then a card could get slid through the ordering machine to pay for the meal.

Also, automated ordering would help with kitchen automation. Why not automatically put burgers and steaks onto grills from dispensing refrigerators as the orders are entered by the customers? Glasses could move down a conveyor belt to stop under drink dispensers to be filled and then routed to pick-up stands for delivery to tables. The output of automated dishwashers could feed into the drink dispenser conveyor system.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 September 02 09:02 AM  Immigration Economics

gcochran said at September 2, 2005 11:55 AM:

It'd b really convenient if the waitresses looked like Leslie Caron in her prime, constantly hovered around your table, and did _everything_ for you. Restaurants are not mostly about efficiency.

Ivan Kirigin said at September 2, 2005 11:58 AM:

The two examples are nice, but not really ground breaking.

Here are many billion-dollar applications of robotics:
Automated driving (and flying). [very close to reality]
Automated subterranean maintenance: sewers, subways, gas pipes, power lines
Automated retail store shelf stocking
Automated security, i.e. intelligent analysis of video feeds + security robots [I'm sure you can appreciate the benefit on the border]
Automated construction (this will redefine the meaning of "exurbs" and send home prices in non-scarce areas way down)
Automated purchasing in general w/ RFID tags [just walk out of the store after swiping a credit card]
Automated commercial cleaning for offices, store fronts, factories, ...
Automated education aides (think this on steroids)

Here is a blog that is fairly paranoid about people losing jobs, but very correct about the coming revolution in robotics. He adds up all the jobs which people perform which are fairly useless and somewhat easily replaceable within a few years. It comes to about 50% of all jobs in America. That's a lot if it happens very fast. I maintain (and if you look in the comments of that blog and my own, you'll see) that the only remaining jobs in 10-20 years will require creativity that is harder to replace.

Let's imagine the effect in the following short scenario (note how few humans are needed):
You are woken up slightly early by the construction bots adding a new wing to your house. You get in your car and say "corner deli, then work" and start reading your favorite blogs as your car drives you. You won't notice the robot underneath the ground repairing some power lines that were on the verge of failure after last night's heavy rain, but you do notice the truck, driverless, backing into an alley behind the deli as your arrive. The contents are unloaded and placed on the shelves right as you arrive. Picking up a few things for breakfast, you wave your credit card in front the security robot and leave. The car continues to take you to work without a word. Rather than reading a blog, you are given a tutorial in the latest productivity suite adopted by your work. Stopping at the gates where another robot confirms your identity and scans the car, you are dropped off at the front and your car parks itself.

All of this technology will be available within on a few years. The only humans you saw were those on their way to work and those when you arrived. Obviously, you don't spend your day filing TPS reports...

The big question: will automated education advance fast enough to enable under-educated people to adapt fast enough?

ziel said at September 2, 2005 12:48 PM:

Your restaurant automation ideas would unfortunately tend to eliminate the only jobs in the restaurant usually taken by Americans - the wait staff. Better if there were more automated means of clearing tables and washing dishes and bringing food to the table.

Invisible Scientist said at September 2, 2005 12:51 PM:

"The big question: will automated education advance fast enough to enable under-educated people to adapt fast enough?"

This is a multi-dimensional question. It depends on what kind of government will be in power on the planet in 15 years. If we have a totalitarian government, then the answer is that with enough brute force, everyone will be educated by using whatever means necessary (=available). For instance, people's brains will be hard-wired, and there will be no such ridiculous superstition as free-will among the modern humans. The Borg Empire will thus be created, and the only way to save your humanity, will be to escape to another galaxy. This is why privatized space programs should start for the few free-minds, before the Borg takes over the world.

Ryan Kennedy said at September 2, 2005 4:24 PM:

I had almost these same exact ideas. But I got to thinking,,, maybe there is a reason these obvious changes have not been tried anywhere that I know of.

I think most of the constant hovering of waitresses is to ensure they get a good tip. Most wait-staff are over-paid, and they are over-paid because of tips. The more the waitress hovers over you, the more you feel obligated to tipping her well. Your ideas (and coincidentally mine) would eliminate a good deal of this hovering and so lead to lower tips. Of course from the owner's perspective, this would be fine. But do we go to a restaurant to enjoy maximum efficiency necessarily? If we were doing that we'd stay home and cook for ourselves. Or if you want the restaurant without the inefficiency of a waitstaff, you'd go to a restaurant that does have this. They are called "fast food" restaurants.

Also, restaurants that normally have tipped wait-staff do have certain times when they temporarily alter their practices to maximumize efficiency. They are called lunch buffets.

mariana said at September 2, 2005 6:52 PM:

"Most wait-staff are over-paid, and they are over-paid because of tips."

Have you ever worked as a waiter? They are not over-paid. Not. At. All. They are barely paid. Without tips they would literally make no money. If it wasn't for tips no one would work as a waiter because the pay is just too low.

KevinM said at September 2, 2005 8:40 PM:

Beyond a certain quality level, it would be hard to automate cooking, and yes, even the waitstaff. Some customers linger over the appetizer, others scarf it down. It's annoying to be rushed or to wait for the next course. Courses should be delivered to all diners simultaneously - hard to automate with something like steak. Owners wouldn't like to lose the upselling potential that a skilled waitstaff can deliver.

I guess the best analogy would be off-the-shelf versus tailored. You'd probably be as unhappy with an OTS pinstriped suit as you would be with an automated steakhouse meal. Sometimes Golden Corral just don't cut it.

Randall Parker said at September 2, 2005 9:11 PM:


People who sell on the web give up the ability to make a pitch in person. They still find it profitable to do so. Ditto for vending machine owners. Ditto for Wal Mart selling shoes without anyone there to help people put them on.

But wait staff could still sell. They'd still interact with customers.

If a change cuts a cost it can increase sales or, better yet, increase profits more than the loss then the sellers will jump on the change. Restauranteurs will ask if an automation will increase profits. If they get fewer dollars in sales per customer due to automation that does not matter if they can profits.

As for off-the-shelf versus tailored: Automation can deliver customization.

Delivering course to all diners simultaneously is easier to do with automation. A computer can take allt the orders for a table and schedule when to start cooking each course for each person bsed on when they will all get done. A computer can do this more reliably than a human.

Xixi said at September 3, 2005 8:16 AM:


I balk at automated toilets. I'll wipe the old fashioned way myself or have an illegal alien do it.

Jamisia said at September 3, 2005 1:41 PM:

I wish more things were automated, to do away with the need for cheap labor, but I can fear nothing will come out of it for the neo-luddites... Who do you think is going to protest over more automation?

Brock said at September 4, 2005 3:31 PM:

Such a country already exists. It's called Japan.

Kara said at March 6, 2006 7:08 PM:

They come four times because you weren't EFFICIENT enough to have your credit card ready when they drop the check.

Now go watch a day without a mexican, and shut your pie.

Randall Parker said at March 6, 2006 7:52 PM:


In some parts of the US there are still no Mexicans and they get thru their days without them just fine.

Kara said at March 6, 2006 8:25 PM:

Randy dearest;
As we no longer live in the days of the pony express, I would argue that those parts of the country still benefit from mexican workers. Besides gringos son flojos.

You still haven't explained why you've never thought, "Gee, I just asked for my check, wouldn't it be easier for everyone, and expedite the purchasing process, if I had my form of payment avaiable when the bill arrived?" I'm on the edge of my seat.

Kara said at March 6, 2006 8:25 PM:

Randy dearest;
As we no longer live in the days of the pony express, I would argue that those parts of the country still benefit from mexican workers. Besides gringos son flojos.

You still haven't explained why you've never thought, "Gee, I just asked for my check, wouldn't it be easier for everyone, and expedite the purchasing process, if I had my form of payment avaiable when the bill arrived?" I'm on the edge of my seat.

Kara said at March 6, 2006 8:25 PM:

Randy dearest;
As we no longer live in the days of the pony express, I would argue that those parts of the country still benefit from mexican workers. Besides gringos son flojos.

You still haven't explained why you've never thought, "Gee, I just asked for my check, wouldn't it be easier for everyone, and expedite the purchasing process, if I had my form of payment avaiable when the bill arrived?" I'm on the edge of my seat.

Kara said at March 6, 2006 8:41 PM:

So this sites "error" means, "its posted" good to know.

Randall Parker said at March 7, 2006 6:18 PM:


The error messages were due to a spam attack corrupting the database the site runs on. The error messages do not always mean that your comment got posted. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Ask for check: You are wrong to assume that I do not have the cash or credit card ready when the check comes. Often I take the money up to the check-out myself since I'm usually in a rush. I also like buffets where one can serve oneself since it saves time.

Oh, and since I do not understand Spanish one of your comments are unintelligible to me.

Law said at March 30, 2007 9:54 PM:

I live in texas, we have illegals all over the place and plenty of self serve automated car washes, automatic check out regesters (that I make sure I use every time) and automatic airport check in systems.

The robot revolution is going to hit use hard and it will outcompete illegal immigrant labor costs. The fact is illegals don't work for that cheap. They still make pretty good money and so there is still a pressure to replace them. The construction industry will have a huge pressure to replace all low skilled labor with robotics as steel and cement costs go up.

"why not have the ability to enter one's order on a touch panel at each table?"
They are already testing these in some fast food restaurants in a few places. You enter your order in a kiosk.

I also think that robotic servers will someday roll around fast food restaurants and robots will clean tables at expensive restaurants that hire only english speaking people anyway.

The fact is that we are at the verge of critical mass in the robot/automation industry. Microsoft only recently jumped into the robot market a few years ago with their new robot studio. We will soon hit the point where automation will be cheaper then illegal immigrant workers, they'll be forced to work for less until one day they will make less money here in the USA then in mexico.

So all you can do is support the process of automation, only use automated serviced if possible like I do.

Not even illegal immigrants can stop progress.

law said at March 30, 2007 10:08 PM:

Forgot to mention. Another thing will happen. We'll start to notice more autmation mentality in our services. That means restaurants will simply have several locations where you can go get your own water and fountain drink refill, such as in Fudruckers where waiter work has already been "automated" by making the customer do it. Automation mentality as corporations and businesses notice the benefit of making customers do more and more will spread and customers will just learn to accept it. It's always somewhat dangerous to hire illegals and thus automation will always be better.

They also have robotic lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners, floor scrubbers, etc. I think the unemployment rate will start sliding upward a little for unskilled workers as well, which will make the USA even more hostile toward illegals, like spain.

Jobs are also being outsourced to mexico, which will help to increase wages there and maybe the mexican government will also try to improve things in mexico in the future. I don't see illegal immigration as being much of a problem in the future.

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