Saturday, 31 January 2009

Automatic people

9pm yesterday i was walking along the supermarket checkouts and i felt a bit strange, then i realised why. I settled for the end closest the exit, where one employee was surveying 4 machines. then i went through the automated, automatic process, a touch screen monitor and a computer telling me what to do. I remember feeling degraded and humiliated. After i'd finished with the whole thing, which seemed to take along time, i turned around to the employee and said:
"i don't like this. it's spooky"
"You'll get used to it"
"I don't want to. I really don't want to"
In China the bigger the company the more people they have to employ by law. Hence sometimes there seems to be people doing jobs that seem to be doing very little, like 4 people stacking the same Wal-Mart shelf, or people waving in buses with little flags at the bus stop. Yeah, on the surface it seems a little bit silly, but, in reality, there is nothing silly about more people having a job, and if a bigger company need employ more people, it enforces a better equilibrium. This big supermarket i walked around had replaced maybe 50 peoples jobs with automatic machines, and as i was told, i should get used to it. i hope i never get used to a machine telling me what to do, the day that happens is the day i stop being a human being. Now, i have worked on a supermarket checkout, i will say it's not the most enthrawling job in the world, but, 'the sweet isn't as sweet without the sour' and it got me interacting with people and it put some money in my pocket. Sometimes technology isn't progress, 'The Machine Stops' by E.M. Forster springs to mind, click for the link to the story published exactly 100 years ago where nobody leaves their rooms because machines do everything for them.