Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The machines are taking over the asylum

My local branch of Sainsburys has just had a refit, installing computer ‘autotils’. “would you like to use the self service til sir? “no I don’t, I want a human interface thank you very much!”. Whether they be grumpy, surly, friendly or dogmatic I don’t care I want to physically give me money to a human being who says Hello and Goodbye. Not too much to ask is it?

It’s bad enough that we spend an inordinate amount of time being told what to do by electronic devices. Phones tell us to answer them when they ring, plug them in when they need energy and tell us how to spell correctly. Ovens let us know in no uncertain terms that they have finished their tasks. All sorts of alarms remind us of stuff. Cashpoints offer advice, traffic lights monitor our safety, Oyster cards interact with buses and trains saving us the bother of having to communicate. Even the humble toaster stops doing it’s duty when it reaches the end of it’s allotted time.

When I go to a shop to spend my hard earned money I want a couple of things; A please and a thank you. Not HAL telling me that I haven’t pushed the right buttons.

Of course it’s all about cost. The self serve saves the supermarkets money much in the same way that the eradication of bus conductors did, but it also sterilises the experience of customer service.

The Orwellian vision of the future gets closer with each transaction.

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having said that;