There are so many conveniences that have made our daily lives easier.
ATMs make it easier for us to get cash when we need it, where we need it. We don’t have to be tied to our bank’s hours or limited locations. Self checkouts at the grocery store let us avoid long lines, pay for our purchases, and be on our way. Ditto self-serve gas stations. Who, other than a few of us, even remembers full-serve gas stations where they pump your gas, check your oil and tire pressure, and clean your windshield?
Online shopping opens up a world of consumer choices from the comfort of our sofas. Streaming video services mean you don’t have to go to the local multiplex to catch the latest film.
Autonomous vehicles promise a bright future when the tedium of our daily commute gets replaced with the time to relax, listen to some music, catch up on the news, or even on our sleep while we glide safely and comfortably toward our places of work or back home at the end of the day. Meanwhile, drones deliver the packages we bought online right to our doorsteps, and fleets of driverless trucks replenish vast warehouses of products where orders are fulfilled 24/7 by armies of minimum-wage workers driven to their limits racing to meet packing quotas set by the most efficient algorithms artificial intelligence can devise.
Sounds like a glorious future.
Or is it?
Each of these conveniences comes at a cost. ATMs mean fewer jobs for bank tellers, while self checkout and self service gas stations eliminate more jobs. Our autonomous drive to the office also makes possible a future where truckers, delivery drivers, and package handlers become unnecessary. Our online shopping habits put local small businesses, and the jobs and community they provide, on the chopping block. And how long will it be until the multiplex goes the way of the drive-in?
So what is the ethical consumer to do? What do we do when our consumer conveniences come at the expense of someone else’s paycheck? Or dignity? Or human rights? What do we do when they threaten not just some stranger’s job, but out own? Should we be like the 19th century Luddites, sabotaging the weaving machines in a vain effort to turn back the tide of technology? Or is there another way forward?
Join us for the conversation tomorrow evening, Tuesday, Sept. 24 beginning at 7 pm at Lockhart’s BBQ in downtown Lake Orion.