On Thursday, the New York City Council voted to ban stores from going cashless. Claiming that cashless stores are discriminatory, Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres said, “Cash is the great equalizer, it is the universal currency.” While his intentions were noble, it’s this kind of fear—that society isn’t ready for improvement and increased efficiency—that slows the progress we all want to see.
Fear of technology and advancement, of course, is nothing new. With the media issuing warnings of job loss and people being left behind, there’s an increasing number of Americans who are afraid that technology will “take over.” Yet these fears are mostly unfounded, as technology has already displaced 90% of jobs humans used to do, but we’ve adapted just fine (the world doesn’t have a 90% unemployment rate).
For example, worried that tech like self-checkout machines are replacing workers, some have been supportive of slowing their expansion. But after Walmart started to increase its automated services, locations like Walmart Canada saw no job losses. One Forbes writer offered an explanation on why automation doesn’t necessitate job loss for employees: new technologies, like robot scanners, “don’t take their jobs, they take over a tedious part of their job.” Indeed, this seems to be the general trend of scanner and self-checkout machines—employees are freed up to focus more on customer service, thus improving the shopping experience for consumers. As the Forbes writer put it: “Automation can, and does, result in job loss in the retail space but Walmart’s approach shows it doesn’t have to be this way. Walmart wins, associates win, customers win and nobody gets laid off.”