A bad sign of the times

Technology has mostly been my friend post the brain sizzle thing.

The program that reads my writing back to me allows me to edit what I write. And the reading feature on my Kindle means I can get through a book or newspaper at regular speed like you and other “normal” people.

Without these bits of tech my 50 word per minute turtle reading would make getting through a book a months long project. And as far as work goes – I just wouldn’t be able to keep up with the emails, reports and constant churn of other reading that I need to get through each week.

typwriterComputer

I don’t like to think where that would leave me and my stroke modified mind.

My mobile phone is also a life saver taking voice notes and photos that I can use to counter act my zapped reading old school writing skills. Gads of other gadgets and tech toys have made it much easier for this brain zapped boy to keep up with the rest of the world.

Yes, technology has really evened the playing field for me post stroke. But sometimes technology runs amuck. Too much of a good thing can go bad.

I was at a fast food burger joint the other day where they wanted me to order on a screen, tapping as pictures, words and dollar signs flashed by. I was with my bride and we got through. But it was touch and go there for a while.

How long will it be before all people are replaced by tech tools at checkout counters and the like? Before gadgets and gizmos that were designed to help us start running the show?

Take the checkout counter at a grocery or department store. It’s great that technology makes it easier for staff to work faster and reduce mistakes. It’s even ok to have self serve options to make things move faster on a busy day. But it seems to me that I see more machines and less people working every time I drop by a supermarket.

So many new technologies start by making things easier for average folk. But then as we get hooked on them, they often go too far. The focus becomes only about moving things along faster and cheaper and the human bits are zapped. And that’s where things go south.

Convenience is great, but I choose the real teller over the automated one because I don’t have to struggle reading the screen, I get to shoot the breeze with the teller and I help make their job continue to make sense to management. Often times a good teller provides real value – a heads up on a soon to come sale, noticing a missing button on a shirt I’m about to buy and just being nice making me more inclined to return.

It may be old fashioned, but I have a feeling that customer service and product knowledge are actually pluses that help a business thrive over the long term. Enough well trained real people in a shop actually help move happy costumers quickly. And tech gadgets make their share of mistakes, as well, BTW.

I get that some folks prefer to skip real people and that’s a choice I can accept.

But what I’m noticing with a lot of new technology is that it’s rushing folks along so quickly that it’s eliminating all human connections. You press buttons into the machine and stand silently for a few minutes with other people who’ve just tapped their orders in, somebody calls your number, your grab your stuff and off you go.

No time for convos. No time to waste. No time to get to know new folks and to learn the stuff we learn through random human contact.

For me it’s a double nightmare because I just can’t keep up to these screens. I time out, things buzz and zap and I end up with the wrong things or nothing at all.

Some stuff I can learn, like gas station pump keyboards and bank ATMs, as long as I stick to one brand or company. But the more complicated the questions and the prompts, the more likely I am to pay too much for something, get the wrong thing or wind up in secondary screening at the airport.

And every time I chose a machine versus a person, I’m missing out on a conversation. And that can cost me anything from a great story to a good deal.

The more tech becomes the norm over people at our shops and customer service counters, the fewer options folks like me and others with reading, vision and learning disabilities will have.

But that’s really only a small problem in the big picture of things. The more the norm is to connect constantly on our devises, to connect with computerized order takers and service ‘bots, the more distant human connections become. The more we’ll see groups of people in coffee shops and bars alone with their devices.

People won’t ask people to dance or strike up conversations in pubs…they’ll just hook up digitally and slowly but surely the skills and thrills of human interaction will slip away. It’s already happening. I was recently in a pub when my beer mate shuffled off to the loo. I took a peek around the joint as I sat alone and noticed at least 10 tables with two or more people where no conversations were happening. They were together but alone, focused on their devices.

If my disability keeps me talking to real people, I guess I’ll count it a blessing.

30

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s