In San Francisco there is a completely automatic quinoa restaurant. The food is good and healthy, prices are affordable and food is served immediately; for the customer, it means “maximum bang for the buck”: customers enter the restaurant, choose what to eat, order, pay, are called by an automatic voice, collect their portion within a “box” that becomes black as soon as a human hand – one of the few in the restaurant, the only potentially visible one! – inserts the food ready for delivery.
Is this really the future we want? Is this really how we want to use automation?
Quite obviously, the question is less and less about technological difficulties or limits, for we have reached such a level of knowledge and development that the frontiers are increasingly ethical and philosophical, no longer technical. Collaborative robots have just come to life and the word itself sets the path for the future: no longer man on the one hand and machine on the other, rather man and machine together. We will need philosophers and we will need to change our way of thinking.
No longer “what we can do”, rather “what we want to do.” Where and what we will choose to automate, will change human beings indirectly and quickly. Their world and their perception of reality, their social habits will change. Suffice it to take a look around us to see how the use of a telephone, which is no longer a simple communication tool rather a social appendix of our body, has already changed our social behaviour on public means of transport, in restaurants, libraries, bars, etc.
The question we should thus ask is: what do we want to delegate to machines, rather than what can be delegated to machines? Do we really want to automate a restaurant? How will human beings change, how will their relationship with food or time change thanks to, or as a result, of this decision?