“And when technology becomes more advanced human beings will have more time to enjoy life, more time to do the things they like to do, whilst technology takes the strain out of everyday chores,” I remember this text word for word. I was sitting on the wooden floor of the assembly hall in my school watching a documentary made about the future. Every month the teacher would roll out this massive boxy television, that for some reason was locked away in a metal box, and we would watch a special documentary made for schools. And yes we were sitting on the floor!
This one fascinated me – Visions of the Future. Now you have to realise that I was watching this documentary before mobile phone were even invented (yes I am that old) and before people had computers in their homes. But that sentence stuck with me. I had dreams of robots scurrying around me. We wouldn’t need to work because robots and computers would do everything. The lazy side of me was having an orgasm. Of course reality turned out to be the exact opposite.
Has technology meant we work less? No, quite the contrary.
All these devices that we have nowadays that are supposed to bring people closer together actually make people more introvert. Technology has proved to be anti-social. It is taking away the general chit-chat we would have with our communities. I can’t even have some banter with the lady behind the counter of the supermarket anymore! Yes, the self-service cash registers have come to Dubrovnik.
I first saw these about five years ago in England and was immediately alarmed. Instead of stacking all your goods on a conveyor belt and watching a friendly lady scan them and then exchange a few words whilst you paid the self-service tills make you do everything yourself. You scan the items, pack them in a plastic bag and then pay the computer, all very efficient but also distant.
“You scan and I will pack,” said my wife who is more experienced with these computerised tills. It seemed to be going well...beep...beep...beep...echoed the scanner as I searched for barcodes on the items. And then we hit a snag. However hard I tried one item just wouldn’t scan. Some dumb message kept repeating itself on the screen. “I have cancelled the item,” I said to the screen. I’m not sure why I was talking to a computer! Again and again I tried to scan this tin of tuna. “Let’s just leave the tin this bloody computer obviously doesn’t want us to have tuna,” frustration was building. I was on the verge of smashing the tin of tuna into the screen when an assistant turned up. “All you have to do is delete the item,” she added. Really! This bloody computer has been telling me that for the past five minutes! “Oh, it doesn’t seem to want to delete,” was her next sentence. Really! I could have told you that! She then whipped out some special key and reset the computer.
“Does that mean I will have to scan everything again,” I questioned looking down at a blank screen. “Yes, I am sorry there was obviously some error,” she replied. I thought this was an express check-out! So we started again.
The people next to us in the “normal” check-outs were smirking. And not only were they grinning at our dilemmas they were also getting their shopping processed much faster than we were. Technology had once again failed me.
So we started again...beep...beep...beep...and then I saw the tin of tuna. To scan, or not to scan that this is the question. It was then that out of the corner of my eye I caught the sight of a slightly elderly gentleman approaching the express self-service. He walked up slowly, like a panther stalking a herd of antelope, stopped about five metres before the tills and stared. He had the look on his face like he just stood in dog crap. Flared nostrils, raised eyebrows and squinting eyes. This was all new to me and he was not going to get too close. “How does this work?” he asked. I was about to start to explain and then I looked down at his basket, tuna in oil, tuna in salt water, tuna and sweet corn. “Err, not very well,” was my honest answer.