Monday, May 14, 2007

I Am Cattle

The world continues conspiring to make us cattle. Whole Foods at lunchtime has always felt like stockyards. In Union Square, shoppers with a handful items stand in one of five express lines. As cashiers become available, a clerk gives you a register number and points you in the right direction.

Now the whole process is automated. Available register numbers appear on an enormous, colorful LCD screen and drop into a row corresponding to the lane whose turn is next. Shoppers blithely follow the dictates of an automaton.

The Matrix and Arthur Clarke envisioned a future controlled by robots. I think they were a little optimistic. As services become more and more streamlined and electronic, wealth will be increasingly concentrated, until the whole world is ruled by one man sitting at an enormous switchboard, controlling every facet of our consumerist lives.


Allison said...

We actually bought dinner for the bus ride home at that whole foods on Sunday. (Sorry we didn't get to hang out on Saturday by the way)

We were commenting on how extremely efficient it was, much better than waiting in line forever. Though definitely not worth the fact that they don't have free tasting there. It's Whole Foods, you have to get your money's worth by paying for all the expensive food by eating your weight in tastes.

rt said...

I love Whole Foods, especially the samples. Do you eat the samples. I think there are maybe a lot of germs in them, because people like me stick their grubby little fingers into the sample containers. I gave myself food poisoning that, have incubated botulism in my own bag of nut mix.