The 21st century struggles to create a more comfortable world for humanity by making use of powerful scientific and technical innovation. Robotics has advanced tremendously and there are someone who claims robots are the link to human survival in this new era. Though the world is just at the start of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, tasks once held by humans are now being replaced by robots. Among them is the job of barista. The ‘Barista robot’ is considered as an important necessity in today’s modern everyday society. No matter how hectic life becomes, people still gather over a cup of coffee to chat. For many people, it’s hard to imagine life without coffee. Just a simple look around clearly indicates how well coffee has penetrated our daily lives. Coffee is everywhere. People walk the streets with a cup in hand. Dozens of cafés pop up routinely along the sides of streets. The coffee market shows no indication of slowing down.
The day of robots in cafés has arrived. People can now grab their mobile phones, order a cup of coffee, make payment for that coffee on the phone, and drop by the café to receive it from a robot. One of the greatest strengths of a barista robot is that it ensures exactness, regardless of cup size or coffee flavour, thus removing discrepancies that can happen from human error. Robots also reduce labor costs for the cafés. With increased exposure to robots at cafés, people will become accustomed to their presence, and as such, it will become quite the norm. Robots are machines and therefor very precise. They can prepare drinks much faster and with more accuracy than humans. If an error were to occur, a robot can quickly resolve the problem much faster than trial and error by humans. Then, should baristas be replaced by robots?
Robots are not humans. Indeed, artificial intelligence has advanced far, but robots are far from being human-like, despite the ability to mimic speech or show human-like emotion. Most coffee drinkers enjoy the taste of coffee, but that is not the only reason for purchasing a cup of coffee. Most people enjoy spending time with friends or family chatting while sipping on a cup of coffee. It would be somewhat odd to see a robot greeting customers without the smile and liveliness of a courteous staff. Also, with the increased supply of cafés from with customers may opt to choose from, owners and employees are constantly trying to perfect their professional aptitude for creating inspiring coffees. In fact, some colleges have even established entire departments to the study of coffee and present certificates of course completion to students enrolled in those programs. Today there are hundreds of thousands of people that dream of becoming a barista. While a barista robot may be cutting edge technology, it could lead to the downfall and unemployment of thousands of people, both fulltime and part-time. People have never stopped fearing that one day robots will take away their jobs. People love that robots help with certain tasks, but they are not willing to have robots harm the dreams of people wanting to become baristas. That is, robots that benefit humanity are accepted, but they are shunned if they trample over someone’s dreams and job. Barista robots are unique and fascinating, but they should not replace human baristas.
Choi Byungil, “Robot Barista Makes Coffee, From Order to Serving”, Yonhap News Agency, August 11, 2017