The Automation Demon

Let’s add up all these factors: immediate access to everyone and everything in all situations and total “backup” during any and all emergencies, eliminating any need for anticipation or schedules. We no longer need to prepare. We no longer need to be punctual. We no longer have to grow, cope, understand, cooperate, or bother with the things that even remotely annoy us. What is the bottom line? We don’t need anything, except everyone who provides the support that makes us think we are so independent! Yet what is created here are people not capable of finding the Quickie Mart without a GPS!

Has anyone else seen this yet? Do you see that vacant look in the eyes of your burger-making order-taker? Try throwing that drone off the path one time by asking, “Oh, can you add another order of fries to that?” The clerk will blink, roll the eyes, exhale, and then derail the computer and have to call Hal the manager over, pop the machine open, back out the order, and reboot. As the food sits there getting colder and customers behind whisper ther curses, the other drones wander over with mouths agape to see the spectacle of the register being handled by a seasoned vet. “Man, that Hal is good.”

Generation Oblivious

I was a product of the sixties and seventies, and had numerous pop-culture role models that encouraged me to hate authority, resist conformity, and find my own way through passive resistance, but never do I recall any of those directives telling me not to care. In fact, the whole “generation gap” was about insisting what we are supposed to care about! Staying sharp, being capable and seeking self-sufficiency was, in my world, always in style.

I know every generation looks at the ones they are raising and shakes their heads. This pattern has been in place since the beginning of time. But ask yourself a simple question–was the fear of the next generation about what they were going to do in the years ahead or that they were so lethargic and indifferent they wouldn’t do anything?

Automation, to us, was revered and appreciated as a time-saver. It did not replace the need for thought and responsibility; it enhanced the ability to provide it. Today’s young people feel entitled to automation and seem to lean on it to the point that they expect little of themselves. It’s almost as if asking questions and wanting to know is against the grain. Fully informed is not in vogue. Remember the famous statement by Ray Bradbury in his forward-looking book, Fahrenheit 451: “She didn’t want to know how a thing was done, but why. That can be embarrassing. You ask Why to a lot of things and you wind up very unhappy indeed, if you keep at it. The poor girl’s better off dead.”

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He can be reached via e-mail

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