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The Wall Street Journal writes this week about how chatbots power by artificial intelligence are poised to charge the fast food drive-through experience.

A Journal reporter decided to visit a Hardee’s on Kent Island in Maryland, and after doing so, drove away "confident we’ll all be talking to burger bots soon."

This technology, "unlike a large language model, like OpenAI’s ChatGPT … is trained on a limited set of data - including the restaurant’s menu and other brand-specific information. So, no, you can’t ask the AI attendant to write an essay about why ketchup is the best condiment."

But within those parameters, the chatbots are able to take orders, ask requisite questions, and achieve a reasonable level of customer satisfaction.  And the technology, it needs to be noted, only will get better.

Hardee's is not the only fast feeder testing out the technology.  Carl’s Jr., Checkers and Del Taco all use the same technology as Hardee's, while Wendy’s is working with Google, McDonald’s with IBM and White Castle with SoundHound.

The conclusion:

"Is this the start of some AI-dominated dystopia?

"On one hand, you could look at what’s happening at the drive-through like what’s happening in other industries: AI tools ease the overworked, freeing up people to do more meaningful tasks.

"On the other, you could look at it as a way for big companies to lessen their dependence on lower-paid employees and smooth out some of the ups and downs of a volatile labor market. At what point does this tech become a problem for the workers themselves?"

KC's View:

I don't think there's any question about the deepening involvement of AI tools in these areas.

Is it the beginning of dystopia?  Probably.  (But I'm feeling gloomy this morning.)