Friday, July 21, 2006

ethics of automation and self service


I see a good side to self check-out stalls and automated everything. The bright side to it is the opportunity to have more control over certain routine events and activities.

Some, over at the Chartreuse blog, are sour about it. They feel like the consumers are being enslaved by the companies when they clear their McDonald's table when done eating, or use a self check-out apparatus at a grocery store.

"The Outsourcing No One Talks About..."

I don't think I'm keeping somebody employed by making a mess, so an employee will have to clean it up. Might as well say you commit crimes to keep the police collecting their paychecks.

I like all this Absolute Switched-On User Empowerment. I like to have some, or really a jumbo amount, of control over my experiences and mis-adventures. Doing it all myself, why not allow us to not only check out and bag the stuff, but also make it in the first place?

This is what could use some polishing, make it gleam: auto-consumption economy, which is barely any economy at all. Consumers produce and communicate to each other and the intermediaries are wiped away like chocolate syrup off your chin.

At WalMart, the self check stalls are usually vacant enough for me to slip in pretty quickly, while the lines of customers who prefer to be pampered by a human check out thingamajig cashier are intolerable, too long, too slow, too populated.

I prefer to step right up to a computer, scanner, optical recognizer, or what have you. Pass my goods before it, await its approval to allow me to buy it, answer all its questions about past purchases and future shopping plans, provide two proofs of ID, and dance a jig on the head of a PIN number.

The more we interact with the machines, the kinder they will be as they eliminate us.

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