Washington state produces a majority of America's apples, and until now pretty much all 2.5 million annual tons of our apples have been picked by human hands.
As GeekWire reports, apple-picking robots are coming for Washington's crop this fall, after having debuted in New Zealand. These robotic pickers won't entirely replace human hands this year and, unlike in the above photo, they won't even have hands themselves. But watch this robot gently vacuum apples from rows of trees and you can see where this state's $2.4 billion apple industry is headed:
The video also makes clear that robots are not even close to done with a major scrambling of our nation's economy and politics.
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, wary of the job losses that are likely to come from robot workers, wants to give every American a "Freedom Dividend" of $1,000 a month to cushion the blow. But apple picking is one of those labor-intensive agricultural jobs that Americans have long shunned, as GeekWire points out:
American farmers have for years complained of a labor shortage and are increasingly dependent on foreign seasonal labor.
Approvals for H-2A visas, which allow foreigners to do agriculture-related work in the U.S. temporarily, increased by a factor of five over the past 13 years, according to the USDA. The program now accounts for around 8 percent of the total agricultural workforce. In Washington state, those seasonal worker visas exploded from 3,014 to 24,862 in the past eight years.
So at least initially, robot apple-pickers are likely to dry up a lot of jobs for the seasonal immigrant workers who are now part of the fabric of life in Washington's apple-producing regions.
Those regions are Trump country.
So what will Washington's Trump voters make of robots moving up and down the apple orchards this fall, displacing migrant workers at first, but also surely coming next for jobs in trucking, fast-food production, and more?
Trump promised to bring jobs back to America. He hasn't prepared his supporters for how many American jobs are actually about to go to robots.