Is Sushi Chef a Blue Collar Job? Jiro’s Nightmare
By Scott Dennis 12/6/2016
“Good Cooking Favors the Prepared Hand” – Jacques Pepin
In Jiro’s dream there is always the same theme, sushi and how it is made. He finds peace in the wooden bar and the santoku hocho knives sharped and ready. The years of tradition and training make him confident when he hears the “Noren” or door curtain open only to reveal a machine. It faces Jiro and hums a metallic tune, within seconds spewing forth a perfectly proportional piece of sushi onto his bar, Jiro’s dream has become a nightmare.
Ask yourself, if you were controlling the world when would it be okay to automate the tasks we do? Consider your local sushi chef, when you sit down at his bar and rub together your chop sticks you are entering into a rather unique arrangement. Few culinary experiences are as intimate as you observe the chef’s skills with the knife and his subtle use of his hand to fold the rice. Too much rice and it is more than a mouthful, l too little and the taste of the fish tips the balance of flavors that that the chef has worked for years to perfect. Thanks to the intense romance sushi lovers have with this process some of the most expensive restaurants in the world are now sushi bars; however looking at this through the lens of automation perhaps all of this ancient technique is just elaborate marketing for fish slapped on rice?
As human beings we are beginning to ask ourselves where we want to draw the line between our desire for human craftsmanship and the convenience of automation. Despite what seems like an unstoppable tsunami of technological influence in the workplace and in the economy, we can actually decide and should retain the power as citizens, consumers and people to have a debate about how human work is valued. The first move toward valuing human work is to start the heuristic process and sort through cognitive biases that are working against our own interests, organizations like Blue Collar Think Tank are providing a sustained platform for these timely questions.
“… we can actually decide and should retain the power as citizens, consumers and people to have a debate about how human work is valued.”
There is a short horizon to the self-driving car or robot mail carrier, but we may not see a pilotless commercial aircraft in our lifetimes, why is that? To return to the food metaphor the supply chain for a nice steak is almost fully automated from farm to a fine dining restaurant but we value a human being applying heat to it before we eat it. We need to distill this rationale to understand where technology is properly applied and where it can do massive damage to our society.
Scott Dennis writes for Blue Collar Think Tank