The New York Times has been publishing a series of "Op-Eds From The Future," giving fiction writers a chance to imagine our hellish circumstances to come.
In October, Vice/Terraform editor Brian Merchant wrote one called "Amazon's First Fully Automated Factory Is Anything But," that's reminiscent of early Phillip K. Dick short stories—the ones where a remarkable advancement in technology frustrates the befuddled humans left in its wake, resulting in a sort of mundane dystopia (think "Autofac").
Merchant's short story focuses on Amazon's new "human-free fulfillment centers," complete with a glorious(ly fictionalized) Jeff Bezos presentation. Of course, even fully automated facilities will still require some human labor, even if it's just maintenance for the machines, so the story is narrated by one of those weary flesh-and-blood workers. Not-so-surprising spoilers: the fictional future working conditions for Amazon contractors are just as hellish as they are now.
But here's where it gets really interesting: Blake Montgomery, a tech reporter from The Daily Beast, reached out to Amazon for a comment on their "human-free fulfillment centers." And the company actually responded:
I asked Amazon for comment on Brian's fictional op-ed about the company just to see if it would respond. It did! "We consistently pilot new technologies with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times, and adding efficiencies within our network." https://t.co/kDBFhccYsQ pic.twitter.com/HCFxFvePhh
— Blake Montgomery ? (@blakersdozen) November 6, 2019
Thanks for reaching out! We consistently pilot new technologies with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times, and adding efficiencies within our network. With those efficiency savings, we are able to re-invest in new services for customers that lead to the creation of new jobs.
Presumably, this is just a blanket, un-thinking PR response. But maybe it's also a sign of things to come—a portent of the terrible automated Amazon dystopia that awaits in…well, who am I kidding, they'll probably have these brutal robot warehouses up and running by Q1. Thanks, Alexa.
Amazon's First Fully Automated Factory Is Anything But [Brian Merchant/The New York Times]
Image via pxhere