Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Not talking with robots

Today I have been comunicating with a robot, yet another of our public services has gone automated. No longer is there a counter with welcoming ladies ready to assist with the returning and borrowing of books, now we have a robot, which apparently can do the job just as well, without the smile and chit chat of course.

I was in the library today and chose three books, pressed the 'borrow books' button on the screen, and inserted my card underneath the scanner, bar code uppermost. The message came up, 'error, seek assistance from a member of staff'. I looked round, where was the member of staff, now they have all been dispensed with. I spotted her sitting at a little table in the corner, tapping away on a keyboard. She put my details into her computer, and handed the card back to me. She said, 'That's ok now, you've been updated for another three years'.

The nice smiley chatty member of staff approached the robot to show me how it works. Scan the card, put the books onto the shelf below the screen, press 'print ticket', and there you go, job done. It even knows how many books, and their titles, I have out already. Apparently if you put 20 books on the shelf it will read twenty titles, and list them all on the ticket. Amazing. All very well when the system is working, but what happens when it crashes, will they go back to the old fashioned way of rubberstamping the date inside the cover?

I don't like all this automating things. I remember when I was at the Job Centre (Labour Exchange) searching for a job by pressing buttons on a screen, then printing a ticket out. The one I really hate is the serve yourself checkouts at the supermarket, what a pain that is. Whizz an item over the scanner six or seven times, and it still won't blasted well scan. I gave up with that one and would rather wait for a real person to serve me.

I can cope with the hole in the wall to withdraw cash, but I still like paying my bills the old fashioned way by writing a cheque. They say it won't be long before cheques will be phased out, I think we should all be fighting against that happening, and writing as many cheques as we can to let the powers that be know we want to keep them. Don't suppose it would make any difference though, we are all doomed to a world run by robots. That's a thought, maybe they will make a better job of it than the present lot we have in power.


  1. I like to see people employed and able to eat, that machine will see someone else without a job!!! just call me mrs luddite!

  2. Hello there,

    I enjoy your blog and thought I'd comment - because we have recently had the automated system installed at our library. We have been lucky - we still have the same number of librarians, but they have now extended the services that the library provides, so the librarians are kept busy with more interesting jobs. This seems like a good idea, as they are all qualified librarians and I used to think it was a bit of a waste making them sit and stamp books most of the time. And no queues now!

    Best wishes from Jane

  3. I hated it when they automated filling stations - much preferred someone putting the petrol in the car for me.

  4. The world is in a very sorry state these days 'progress' has put us there and where will it all end up? We need to look more closely at our priorities it has got to be better to have someone in work earning a living than making yet another person jobless!
    *sorry rant over*
    Take care Ilona keep up the good work:-)

  5. "BLEEEEP! Unexpected item in the Blogging area..."

  6. They do say that no one has been made redundant because of the new automated system, they have been given jobs elsewhere. If that's the case, why have they spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on those robots? What a waste of money. I think what will happen is that when someone leaves they will not be replaced. We have lost the librarian from the mobile library, the driver now has to do all the jobs.

  7. Luckily we don't have the pleasure of one of these machines in our library - yet! I hate these things, we have one at our doctors - no receptionist unless you ring the bell, just a machine that you have to book in on.
    Until recently we used to have a filling station that wasn't self service around here - but they stopped that when one of the large oil companies took it over. Shame, I used to like having a chat with the old boy that ran it as he filled my car.

    When I used to work in a shop we had several older people who were lonely and would pop into town daily to just talk to shop assistants and other staff - how sad if technology eventually took away this little bit of human contact from such people.

  8. Forgot about the robot at the surgery, we have that also :-(

  9. I`m surprised some areas still have the mobile library coming round. Haven`t seen one of those here in Brighton for several years. We are also relying on the daft robotic ways in our libraries, and there are now computerised entries when going to the doctor surgery. Many times I stood there helping a little old dear trying to make sense of this unhuman system.

  10. No automation in my town library yet, but my ticket tells me how much I have saved by not buying the book I checked out. Last year I saved $3400. I love our library!