Add bartenders and security guards in Las Vegas to the list of workers concerned about AI replacing human jobs.
Restaurants, bars, casinos, and other attractions in the city are using AI instead of humans for some jobs, NPR reported Monday. Between 38% and 65% of jobs in Southern Nevada, where Las Vegas is the biggest city, could be automated by 2035, NPR reported, citing a 2019 article from the Nevada Independent.
The Culinary Union, which counts about 60,000 members in Nevada’s service and hospitality industry, is planning to bargain for protections to guard against AI taking jobs in a contract that the union hopes to win later this year, according to NPR. The union’s membership is even considering the possibility of striking in order to get those protections, Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge told NPR.
“We’d like to say we’re going to be able to get an agreement,” Pappageorge said. “But if we have to, we’re going to have a big fight and do whatever it takes, including a strike on technology.”
Examples of automation in lieu of human workers are already easy to find in Las Vegas. On TikTok, user emgaudy3 posted a video in April showing a robotic arm mixing a pineapple-flavored cocktail. “A robot’s about to make me a drink,” the woman in the video says.
The arm holds a shaker while reaching toward the ceiling where different types of booze are suspended. After mixing a few ingredients and adding some ice, the arm shakes the beverage before pouring it out into a cup.
Tipsy Robot, the name of the robot-powered bar shown in the TikTok video, already has two locations on the Las Vegas strip, NPR reported. Sabrina Bergman, who works at one of the locations, told NPR that she still has to correct mistakes that the robotic arms make, such as tipping over a cup or underfilling a glass.
In another example, the M Resort, located south of Las Vegas proper in Henderson, Nevada, started using a security robot in its parking lot earlier this year. TikTok user lasvegaslina posted a video of the robot at work in June.
“It cruises around looking for any potential trouble with 50 cameras and sensors on it,” local TV station KVVU reported in February.
But some workers say that robots can’t completely replace the hospitality work they do.
Holly Lang, a cocktail waitress at the MGM Grand, told NPR that she expects the Culinary Union to negotiate protections for jobs like hers in the next contract. But she also said that robots can’t provide the same personal service that many Las Vegas workers offer.
“We have a lot of guests that are regular guests, and they come for the personal interaction. They don’t come for the technology,” Lang told NPR. “There’s some things you can’t replace.”