Stephen Burke

The Human Touch

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I recently had to go to a 24 hour pharmacy and encountered something I am seeing far too often: automated checkouts. An automated checkout is yet another way that customer service is offloaded to the consumer. 

Call me old fashioned, or perhaps just old, but I remember a time when going to a store meant that service was provided by a human being. I distinctly remember my Nana taking me to the Dominion grocery store near
2nd Street and Augustus and watching the cashier and bag boy work together to put through her order. All of the groceries were
intelligently placed in paper bags wonderful, Earth friendly, paper bags – and the young man even helped load the cart my Nana brought with her.

On a more recent visit to the bank, I found another example of people being replaced by technology. The teller told me that full-time positions were being phased out and that she needed to work two part-time jobs. Furthermore, she couldn’t see herself moving out of her parents’ house before she turned 30; she told me she was 26.

What does all this have to do with computer technology?

As I see it, the more we replace people with computerized equipment, the more people become unemployed. The only real benefit goes to the large corporations who replace people with technology. I truly believe that when electronics and computer technology can be used to help society, it should be
adopted. For instance, medicine and health sciences are helped tremendously by improvements in technology. Replacing thousands of cashiers, tellers, and customer support personnel with self-serve kiosks
doesn’t help anyone except the corporations and their shareholders.

As progressive as our society claims to be, from a socioeconomic standpoint the 1950s and 1960s – “the good old days” – may have been superior. In many cases, there were more jobs than people, it only took 1 income to afford a home and family, and we actually knew our neighbours!

How can we help slow this trend to replace people with machines? Well, I am
making it a point to not do my shopping at stores that install self-serve kiosks. I want people employed, not machines: don’t you?

Have a great weekend!

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