The robots have infiltrated grocery delivery apps

Illustration for article titled The robots have infiltrated grocery delivery apps
Photo: Owen Smith (iStock)

I have two main jobs at The Takeout: writing kick ass recipes, and protecting us from robots. I’ve always been able to keep these two solemn duties separated, as I’ve run multiple simulations to see what would happen if the streams ever crossed and none of them end well. It terrifies me to type this, but I must, because humanity deserves to know what sort of nightmare we’re facing: the bots have infiltrated our grocery delivery ordering platforms, and it is completely screwing up my inventory system. While these bots are the kind who have yet to find ways to leap from the technology they infect into corporeal forms, they are no less deserving of my watchful eye, because even though like most bots they were brought into the world to help humanity, they will inevitably be abused by a handful of jerks to ruin everything for everybody.

According to Motherboard, a slew of developers have built bots to find open grocery delivery slots, which have become increasingly scarce in big cities. For reference: I live in Baltimore, a city with about 600,000 residents, and I’ve had days where it has taken me hours just to order the groceries I need, and then I have waited upwards of a week for them to arrive. I feel bad complaining because to my friends and family in my hometown of New York City, my situation really ain’t all that bad. It seems like a great idea to be able to use technology to circumvent the issue of spending a full day trying to get a grocery deliver in less than six to eight weeks, especially for vulnerable people like senior citizens or the immunocompromised for whom grocery delivery is not a convenience, but a necessity. In fact, Motherboard reports that some of the developers they spoke to specifically designed their bots to help those in need, and are dealing with the fact that, if these bots are abused, they’ll actually make it much more difficult for those people to have access to food.

Of course those ethical debates are a total waste of time, because other developers and data scientists have already released their bots into the world and now they cannot be stopped. If you, too, have a healthy fear of robots and understand how this, for many, could manage to make things worse for many vulnerable people (particularly those who are not tech-savvy or have limited internet access), see if there’s a local vigilante group you could link up with to help get groceries to those who need them, like this one in Chicago. As for me, I’ll be able to keep providing you guys with the best recipes possible out of whatever groceries I manage to get, and, as always, keep you safe from robots as best I can.

Allison Robicelli is a writer, recipe czar, former professional chef, author of four (quite good) books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Tweet me for recipe help: @Robicellis.

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