America, September 2, 2002
Stop the Box any way you can!
|Walking home from Adams Morgan last week, I encountered another small step in the automated end to human interaction: the Tik Tok Easy Shop, or 'The Box' as a community activist calls it. It's a van-sized vending machine, capable of delivering anything from a gallon of milk, to toilet paper, to a disposable camera, all while eliminating any actual contact with another human.
Like vending machines all over the world, the Tik Tok Easy Shop is slowly degrading the connection we have with our neighbors and neighborhoods. Think about it; when was the last time you talked with one of your neighbors? Do you even know who they are?
Granted, in the fast-paced world we live in, there isn't always time to chat with your spouse, much less a random store clerk, but these 'nothing conversations' do play a role in life. They connect us to this great network of primates we call civilization.
I try to do my part, both as a consumer and an employee. I try to frequent real stores, and not shop online and I will walk over to talk to a colleague, not send an email or instant message. I do have certain weaknesses though. Six years ago, I stopped using banks, switching all my transactions to Charles Schwab via their website and random ATM's, and never setting foot into a bank branch since.
I only hope we can balance the need for speed with the need to speak, or soon we'll no longer have waiters, mechanics, or even salespeople, just interactive screens and credit cards. A future I glimpsed in a Shinjuku crowd, and not one I want to repeat.
Oddly enough, the enlightened fellows at the Washington Post don't seem to think automation in the form of the Tik Tok Easy Shop is so bad. The authors of this article are quite pro-automation, giving just a bit of play to the anti-box people & leaving us with that chilling last quote that makes me wanna bomb the suburbs (in our mind as much as in our communities).
Read the Post article and you'll see what I mean.
So this Labor Day, a day we celebrate the working man, do all of us a favor, interact with your fellow human. Even the guy behind the 7-11 counter.