Avoid Eye Contact, Scan in Silence

Good piece on the ‘internet of everything’ on The Economist. Technology will soon enable ‘the handles of umbrellas to glow when it was about to rain, wine glasses to tell us when we have had enough to drink; sugar bowls to warn us about our sugar intake.’

Exciting stuff, but what will be the social impact of this, the paper asks, and do we really want it? It worries about ‘turbo-charging the automation of the service sector’, pointing to the spread of self-service tills in supermarkets.

“The internet of everything will render millions of people who currently look after buildings or perform low-level medical services redundant. What sounds wonderful for the digital elite could be a nightmare for less-skilled workers.”

Maybe we do want automation, even it when it’s slower and more complicated than dealing with humans. There are two queues at the foodhall in Boots on Market Street on a weekday lunchtime, one for the self-service checkouts, the other for the ‘traditional’ tills. The latter is shorter and quicker, but still people join the self-service queue. It’s no cheaper.

Headphones on, head down, checking Twitter, sending a text…who wants to interact with a real person? For some, it’s scan and go.


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