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Those of us of a certain age can probably remember driving into a gas station and a friendly man would walk over to your car and ask, "Fill 'er up?"

Then while the gas pump did its work, he'd pop the hood and check your oil. Service with a smile, they'd call it. Nowadays, you pull into a gas-and-go station and pump your own gas. If you want your oil checked, you most likely have to go somewhere else.

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Fast-forward a couple of years and the same thing happened at most larger grocery stores. Don't want to talk to anyone? No problem. There's a checkout line just for you. Scan your purchases yourself, swipe a credit card and you can decide for yourself between paper or plastic without anyone having to ask.

No fuss, no muss, no workers to slow you down. And a lot of jobs lost in the name of efficiency and budget cuts.

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What's next, you might ask? Well, I saw a glimpse into the next step in our increasingly impersonal world the other day, courtesy of an article on washingtonpost.com.

Let's say you have a hankering for a Big Mac: You pull into McDonald's, eschewing the drive–through to sit inside. At the counter, instead of being greeted with a smile, you'll be asked to punch in your order on a touch screen. You'll have to ask yourself whether you want fries with that. Apparently Olive Garden, the chain of national Italian-themed restaurants, is experimenting with something similar at tables so that you won't have to be bothered by a waiter. Someone still brings your food out to you (because installing conveyor belts to your table would apparently be too unwieldy, I'm assuming), but with a big chunk of the workload eliminated, jobs can be, too.

If you think all of this is something out of "The Jetsons" and way in the future, think again. As employees fight to earn a better living wage, some businesses are going to look at other options. There will come a point in most industry models when it'll be easier to install the latest gizmo than to pay someone to do the job. In most industries, labor is the overwhelmingly greatest cost, especially when you factor in heath care coverage. As labor costs go up, either profits go down or prices go up. Are you willing to pay $7 for your kids' Happy Meal? Probably not.

So, it begs the question: At the intersection of technology, higher wages and business profits, who wins? I'm guessing not the one in the low-paying job.

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The quest for technology is only going to accelerate job loss. And as we raise a generation that would rather talk by text or Twitter than in person, the long-range view doesn't look a lot better. Future generations are more likely than others to embrace a self-service kiosk at, say, a McDonald's.

All of this doesn't bode well for those on the lower end of the pay scale. Even as political and labor groups fight to raise the minimum wage, the discussion needs to contain a dose of reality of what a business owner is not just willing, but, more importantly, able to spend. A pay increase for a job that will go away because an employer can't afford to keep it doesn't help. Then again, neither does having a job that pays so little that you can't possibly support yourself.

Maybe a variation of Charles Darwin's survival of the fittest theory comes into play here. Only jobs that can withstand the test of progress should survive. My fear is that we could all end up being replaced by robots or computer tablets. Maybe even us editors.

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