Would you trade Maria for a robot?

I am fascinated about the promises of robotics and other advanced technologies and prospectively analyzing what consequences – good or bad – the coming disruptions will bring.

Bandeau_CH12

During my vacation on Canarian island Fuerteventura and regular visitor of my hotel’s wellness center, I had plenty of time for thinking about things like “would I trade Maria (name modified) for a robot?”

Maria is the charming lady welcoming guests at the wellness center. She is a soft speaking kind and gentle person, doing her best to welcome and introduce guests from multiple countries to the relaxing experience of her realm, despite her limited foreign language skills.

I assume she makes her living in the hotel industry as many Canarians and is better off in this good smelling chill out atmosphere than her colleagues making rooms or serving in restaurants.

While relaxing in a hot spa, I was thinking about the future and the possible ever growing automation.

Trading Maria?

In such a perspective and “inspired” by the place, I wondered if I would trade Maria’s warm welcome for a technological solution, like a card lock as we have on our room door?

After all what Maria was doing was a bit of small talk, handing out a towel and a pair of slippers. She was probably doing more than that but the “value” I perceived was limited to this.

I could take a towel from a pile and a pair of slippers by myself and a card lock would be enough to screen out people having no right to access to the wellness center.

Everything else being equal, if I had to chose between Maria and a help-yourself solution, I would favor Maria, far better looking than a card lock and better help to improve my Spanish.

1% discount on the vacation price

What if trading Maria for the above mentioned alternative would give me 1% discount on the vacation price?

Well, the saving would be equivalent to four drinks at the hotel bar. I still value Maria’s kindness more than this. So I’d turn down the discount and let Maria make her living.

And 2% discount?

This would buy me and my wife a set of wonderful tapas and a glass of wine in a typical harbor tavern facing the Ocean. With such a perspective and having experienced how fine these tapas are, I’d say Maria, your job could be at risk..!

And 4% discount?

Maria would lose her job for a two persons full day excursion to Lanzarote’s volcanos and other sightseeing highlights, including the ferry across the Ocean channel and the buffet lunch plus three or four cups of Cava (the local sparkling wine coming closest to champagne) at the hotel’s bar.

Why trading Maria?

Still in my warm spa with dimmed light, chill out music and zen-inspired decoration, I went on with my analysis; what would turn me from being a nice guest praising Maria’s kind attentions into a selfish heartless guest trading her for a humanless process?

The tradeoff between what I get in actual conditions and what I could get more with a minimal additional effort. Maria’s charming ways would not stand against a tangible and meaningful personal advantage like getting more out of our vacation for the same price.

I believe a majority of guests would have similar analysis and similar conclusion.

My guess is that in future consumers will welcome all advantages of automation and robotics as the price for them will be minimal or remain hidden/unknown, just as most of us enjoyed buying cheaper garments made in low-cost countries even they came at the expenses of local jobs.
Someone else’s job.

Post scriptum

The term ‘robot’ in this post’s title is both a teaser and a generic term for a technological humanless substitute of human occupation.

Maria may give up her job to a humanoid robot, but I don’t think the return on investment will allow it in near future.

The real Maria gave up giving free Pilates discovery lessons, a part of the hotel’s animations, to an externally hired coach. From now on the hotel guests must pay for it. Not the trend clients expect…

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