Saturday, January 3, 2015

Just the Tip

Quoth @interfluidity: "perhaps there are some domains where payment itself is a consumption good."

Context here.

Would you tip an android? How about a perfectly convincing one? Why do you tip?

Unless, of course, you don't tip.

Some possibilities:
  1. You appreciate good service and wish to encourage more.
  2. It's expected. The costs of being a Mr. Pink are greater than the value of the money you'd pony up.
  3. You are genuinely magnanimous. You wish to redistribute your wealth to the relatively poor service workers you encounter.
  4. You've worked service jobs in the past and you know how difficult they can be compared to the scale pay.
  5. You want to flirt with the waitress (if this has ever worked for you, let me know in the comments, as I'm still trying to prove to Meat Mountain Mungowitz that unicorns do exist).
  6. You want to signal to other diners your fitness as a potential mate and to reduce the relative status of less-generous tippers.
There are many ways to play status games. Conspicuous tipping is one. Does that mean it is euvoluntary? For Buscemi up there, he endured the scorn of his fellows for being a cheapskate (and I suspect that #2 is one of the reasons why the practice is so durable). And #4 suggests that the institutional equilibrium for tip recipients isn't euvoluntary (tbf, several states have converted server positions to regular-scale jobs subject to ordinary minimum wage requirements, though that doesn't seem to have done much to dent the practice of tipping in those states, afaik).

When robots take over service jobs, how quickly will the practice of tipping disappear? What mix of #1-6 will result in waifu-style animatronic servants, and which will result in hyper-efficient flying spider-appendage machines? Which sort of world do you wish to live in?

When the robots do start to take over, it's hard to tell from afar if folks will be interested in putting lots of resources into tip-generating features. And it's also hard to tell if that would be a bad thing. Prices convey information after all, and if people are willing to throw a few extra bucks at Boob-bot 5000 while leaving the Mantisblimp's jar empty, that suggests that form matters in a very real economic sense.

I don't know about you guys, but I can't wait to see what happens.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?