Tuesday, November 3, 2015

don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed

So we're in the big Tesco in Hove this morning picking up a few bits. In the store, they have those cashier-free cashier desks that allow you to scan your own shopping, feed your money into the machine and leave without so much as clapping eyes on a member of staff. All very convenient. All very "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot."

Except. Except. The computer system is of such glacial ponderousness, the bar code scanner is so temperamental, the touch screen that allows you to key in how many packets of lard and cans of budget lager you're buying is so insensitive, the "jolly" splosh! noise the machine makes when you scan an item is so ulcer inducing, that by the time I was feeding my twenty pound note into the machine - like trying to stuff a marshmallow into a test tube - I was on the verge of going Krakatoa. From soup to nuts the whole transaction took at least three times longer than if we'd gone to a human cashier and the stress it induced has probably shortened my life by considerably more.

And then realization. Which didn't help my temper. The machines aren't there to make the customer's shopping experience any more quicker, more easier, more pleasant or any less dispiriting or less soulless or less "In the low-ceilinged canteen, deep underground, the lunch queue jerked slowly forward". They're there so Tesco doesn't have to employ so many drones with all the overheads that that entails. It's about buying yet more fur-trimmed solid jade commodes for the corpulent amoral shysters at the top of the tree.

I'd be tempted to try and comfort the rest of us by saying they can't take it all with them when they're finally dragged screaming to the new and exciting circle of Hell that's currently being built for them*. But in my darker moments I think that they've probably worked out a way to do it. I bet when the likes of the chairman of Tesco or Digby Jones or Tony Blair or Polly Toynbee are inducted into The Greater Good, right after they've had their HIV/AIDS and bird flu vaccinations and been measured up for their jetpacks, they're shown the teleport technology - powered, literally, by the sweat of the lower classes - that will allow them to send their wealth into the afterlife.

I think the reason nothing works in this country - trains always late, government computer systems always vastly overdue lemons, our troops dangerously and criminally undersupplied in battle, and the rest of the fourth-largest-economy-in-the-world-my-arse incompetence - is that the cream of the scientific community have been commandeered for the likes of building said teleporter or making Blair's hair just the right shade of Statesman Grey or making Digby Jones look just that little bit less smug (you should have seen him before the £600m was spent).

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