Normal day, normal crap. Decide to stock up on some necessary items which I was running low one. So I grab a friend, and go to the nearest store for some quick shopping. Walking around in a store, buying some stuff, you know, nothing out of the ordinary. I collect the things I need and approach the counter to pay.
What the hell. If Quentin Tarantino can get away with it, why can’t I? By the way, if you have never heard of this guy before, you really, really need to rent Pulp Fiction! That scene at the end where Sam Jackson hits his monologue… that’s gold right there! In any case I’m rambling here. Let’s jump back in time a few months. I was living in Santo Domingo for a while and had to move to the good ol’ U.S. of A. for reasons I will not discuss right now, but it’s effects are definitely things I will blog about in the near future. I had lived in the U.S. in the past, but it seems that things have evolved a lot during my absence, which is about half a decade, give or take a year.
Now, if for some reason some one outside of my usual subscriber list accidentally found this article and is reading it I have two things to say to you.
- I apologize. Please withstand this bad writing. It will be over soon.
- Aside from the obvious economic differences, the third and first world are vastly different places. The law, culture, habits, people, it’s all different. It’s almost like if you are in a different world, which is also populated by humans, but which have grown different over time due to the evolution and adaption to this new habitat. I will admit that the third world countries, especially the ones relatively near the U.S., imitate and consume American culture to some extent. This makes it a bit more familiar, but still a world apart.
Since all the clarifications necessary for any stray readers that may appear have been presented, without further a due, let me get back to my story. Jump back to the present again. As expected, the cashier scans all the items I picked up. Her cash register checks the bar code, automagically gets the price and adds it up. At the end of the process she gives the grand total of my purchase.
OK, wait, freeze time. Can we think for a minute what just happened here? The purchasing process is automated to such a great extent that the cashier does not need to recognize the product. She does not need to read a price tag off the product. She does not need to manually or with the assistance of a calculator add up the total of the purchase. She simply passes the items through a scanner and the rest is taken care of. Now, it can be argued that this can be done for the sake of efficiency, security and proper information handling. During office hours, I can be the person that pitches that slogan to you. Lucky for you I started writing this after I got off of work. It’s done for a simple thing.
Any non-programmers that may be reading this may be surprised, but YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO ASSUME THAT THE USER IS STUPID. I’m not talking a little clutzy. I’m talking retarded, finger up his ass, eyes crossed, slobbering, shuddering, can’t-remember-how-to-spell-my-name stupid. And this is done for a simple reason. You cannot predict who the user of your system will be. You might have a demography that may give you an idea depending on the how focused the product is, but that still doesn’t narrow it down enough. This assumption serves as a least common denominator. This leads to a significant reduction in the potential of error. Therefore your information, which in the end is always your money, will be protected from it. Or so we like to tell our clients so they are able to sleep at night.
All of these things I have seen before. They were here before I left. They exist in Santo Domingo in certain big chain stores and super markets. They greeted me in my return. OK, roll time again! She gives me my total. I whip out some cash and hand it to her. She inputs the amount into the register, hands me some bills, but hands me no coins which I was expecting. Then I hear a tinkling sound. Let’s put time in slow motion please. I notice a small device next to the cash register facing my way. It’s a black box, with a nickel plated orifice pointing up. After a couple of seconds something astonishing happened. It spit out the exact change I was expecting. Stop time again! I had a brain freeze. It’s sole purpose is to calculate which coins it has to give you depending on the amount of change you are to be returned! I couldn’t move. I was standing stupefied. Lucky for me the friend that accompanied me, whom I mentioned earlier for this reference, gave me a slight nudge which served the purpose of waking me from the trance and giving you the last queue to roll time again. “Dude, pick up your change and let’s get out of here!”, he said. I picked it up, put it in my pocket, and then walked silent for a couple of minutes.
So now the cashiers aren’t even expected to count coins? They cannot be relied with the responsibility of adding and multiplying four (soon to be only three) types of coins. This is unbelievable!
Now you have to understand. The all life forms on this planet naturally adapt to their surroundings and their circumstances. Darwin is the grand daddy of these theory. If you are reading this that means you probably went to school, which means that you should know who he is and what I’m talking about, but these days you never know. It happens all around nature, and it happens within human society as well. By giving the cashier the aid of the cash register, she no longer needs to be adequate with simple arithmetic operations, so she doesn’t do them. Since she doesn’t do them, she is no longer capable of doing them at a rate acceptable to efficiently process a purchase. I will be straight with you. Ever since they let me bring a calculator to a test back in high school, I haven’t been the best guy in the room with arithmetic, but I can defend myself most of the time. And believe me, I CAN’T COUNT MY MONEY! Keep in mind that the cashier has been stripped of most of responsibilities anyway. Now she doesn’t even count change? What does that tell you about how she will adapt to this new circumstance? It’s simple. If she doesn’t have to think, then she won’t.
I recently saw a very funny movie called Idiocracy. It depicts a future where everyone was so dumbed down due to all the automation and lack of intellectual responsibility, society as a whole got to a state where the average person had the IQ of a 3 year old. I interpreted the message as a moral for how we are living today’s life and the things we should change. After what I’ve seen today, I fear it might very well be a prediction of the future.