On the way out of Home Despot today (planting urn, blinds, butterfly bolts), found that the fastest line seemed to be the one with no tellers at all. It’s finally happened — fully automated checkout. You scan and bag your own items as a gentle robotic female voice describes your purchases and tells you whether any “unexpected objects” are in the way. If you have anything too large, an attendant overrides and runs over with a hand scanner. When done, pay the machine via cash, credit, ATM, even get cash back.
Technically, it’s not that different from a you-pay petrol pump. Conceptually, it seems like a leap forward as significant as the ATM machine – humans gave up their jobs for your convenience (Home Despot claims that no one has been laid off as a result — clerks have merely been moved onto the floor, which in their case makes sense – nowhere is it harder to get floor help).
During the industrial revolution, saboteurs fearing that machines would leave humans high and dry threw their boots into the cogs of machines to break them (sabot is French for boot, hence the word saboteur. No one at Home Despot seemed to have any similar inclination, the system works marvelously. It was a trip to think that Miles is born into a world where the checkout clerk is becoming a thing of the past.