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The Isolation of Humanity: Good or Bad?

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posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 07:52 PM
As technology has advanced, more and more we find that machines are taking over for tasks once performed by people. This is not unexpected since this has actually always been the case. Every tool in the world today is doing a job for us, either a job we cannot do alone or one we simply do not want to do ourselves. But more recently rather than making things easier for us, machines are replacing jobs that are normally operated by people, not necessarily for the sake of making it easier on us but rather to seemingly make the job more cost efficient or cheaper. People are being replaced in many facets, and the human interactions we get that we take for granted with simple things like buying a hamburger to talking to an operator, are now becoming automated. But is this a bad thing? Is this simply “advancement” for our own benefit? Is there something else at work? I’ll explore this topic and add some interesting observations that may fit into this puzzle.

Annoying Automated Services:

What we lose when we replace people with machines is the empathy we could previously expect or hope for when the situation is really bad for us. If we are having a bad day, sometimes a simple “I’m sorry you’re having trouble today, let’s see if I can help out” could really lift your spirits. Or if we are in a hurry, maybe the person helping you can perceive it and try to go faster. But try getting that from any of these examples.

Call any Customer Service number, for almost any company you can think of, and you are more than likely going to reach an automated operator. “Press 1 for English” is usually the first thing you hear. Normally if this is the Customer Service number for anything you are a member customer of (banks, utilities, and subscriber services) you’ll be asked to input account numbers and the general area of the issue you are calling about, long before you’ll get to a real person. For many this is annoying, for the companies this is a valuable time saver. But is it? How long would it really take a real person operator to ask for that info and to get an answer? So maybe this is instead a way to handle more callers since you can form a long queue and have everyone waiting for assistance already a few steps into the process. I would argue that even if that were the goal the result is never as intended. Even after giving this information to the Automated Operator, the live person operator will end up verifying the data anyway. So you end up giving it twice. Not a good time saver is it? But it is easily a form of disconnect with the humanity of the customers.

There are some companies who try their best to replace live operators entirely with automated operators. I recall many times trying to get help with something like an Internet Service Providers product only to have to deal with 45 minutes of a Automated Operator asking me to “Turn off your router and wait 1 minute. Then turn the router back on by plugging it in-“. It was only after exhausting everything they could think of to give that Automated Operator would I finally be connected to a real person. And in the end the issue was something on their end. It could have saved me an hour of my life to just get right to the person who could have checked the line on their end right away and fixed the issue.

I remember working at a retail store when we first had the Self Checkout lanes installed. It was hailed as this great advancement that would allow people to get through the checkout process faster and the lanes would take up less space, meaning more lanes could be open at any given time. Good theory on paper, not the case in practice. The machines were so finicky that half the time it would pause the transaction and tell the customers to “Please Wait for Assistance”. So now the lone cashier who is monitoring the 8 self checkout lanes is running back and forth between them all trying to get them all working again. Incorrect change being dispensed, items missing from the bagging area, items without bar codes, items needing ID verification ect. The list of issues made the process take LONGER than a regular checkout lane. And the result was a stressed out cashier who didn’t have the time nor the patience to give you proper customer service. Now this experience which could be possibly be pleasant with a real cashier asking “how was your day? Did you find everything” is instead replaced by half working machines and an employee so stressed they barely acknowledge you and if they do it’s only to give you dirty looks for failing to figure out this new checkout machine.

I now avoid all self checkout lanes. For fun I usually find someone who is entering the self checkout at the same time I am entering a regular line to see who gets out faster. Most of the time I do.

But Automation Isn't All Bad:

While I have yet to find one person who likes the automated phone operators, or the concept of pressing 1 for English, it isn't all bad. Some automated advancements have found a welcome home in our world.

One of the better automated advances you will find is at Airports. You can walk up to an automated kiosk and input your flight information and get your tickets all without having to wait in line behind the people who haven’t yet discovered this kiosk. Of course when you have checked baggage it throws a wrench into the whole process, you end up in line anyway! But the concept is on the right path.

Anyone living in a major metropolitan area has surely seen the automated kiosk to purchase train/light rail tickets. These devices seem to work flawlessly. I have never had a bad experience with it. It takes less than a minute and you’re ready to get on the train.

Paying tolls used to be an annoying little delay on your road trips or commutes. You have to come to a complete stop to pay you $4 then accelerate back up to freeway speeds. This was hard on the brakes, hard on your fuel economy getting back up to speed, and let’s face it an annoying waste of time! But now we have FastTrak. A little RFID you put in your window and you can cruise through the toll without even slowing down. It charges your credit card and you never have to worry about forgetting to bring cash. Also, for some reason Toll Booth operators hate saying “hello” back to me. Maybe because they are 300 annoyed commuters into their day and Mr 301st saying hello doesn't make up for the grunts and groans they've been getting for the past few hours. Automation seems to be doing both sides a favor here.

You can Order your food online now too! Gone are the days when you need to call the pizza joint and talk to a person when making your order! Now if you don’t want to talk to anyone, just go to their website and enter the info and 30 minutes later you get a pizza! You can do your grocery shopping online too. Why bother going to the store to even see those cursed self checkout lines if you can just sit at home by yourself and get frozen burritos and ice cream delivered to your door. More time for Halo! Of course this doesn't have to be the tool of the ultra lazy but could actually be a life saver for those who lack the means to get out of the house due to disability or injury. The tools are good and the uses are varied.

edit on 8-11-2012 by tpsreporter because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 07:52 PM
What Else Do They Have Coming?

Since automation saves companies money, you can rest assured they will find more and more ways to cram automated advances into your daily lives!

Today I saw something new. A self serve automated kiosk at a Fast Food counter.

This device is replacing the fast food worker. Maybe I’m behind the times here but I’ve never seen this before. You go up to it, you place your order, you pay, you get change and a few minutes later they call your number. You never have to deal with a teenager with an attitude or a person who struggles to speak English. If this can avoid the same setbacks of the Self Checkout lanes, this can make it easier on the customer and the employees. I mean let’s face it, the language/accent barrier can go both ways here. You can have a customer who can’t speak English trying to order a burger with extra onions no cheese unsalted fries and billion other customization's, and the poor kid behind the counter who get’s paid $5/hour too short of giving a damn has to figure it all out. Or you can be the customer and the lady behind the register doesn't speak well enough to understand what you mean by no tomatoes. The automation can easily benefit both sides here.

Of course this also brings to mind the type of automation we can expect in the future….

I shudder at the thought!!!

Of course you may not need to bother going out to get your food, heck you won’t even need to bother knowing when you’re low on food anyway if the smart kitchens become a reality. Your refrigerator will know when you’re almost out of milk. It will learn your eating habits and pick up on the fact that only during NFL season do you tend to run out of Pringles at a rate of 2 cans a week. You’ll be getting a steady stream of food and supplies and it will require no action on your part.

Automation For A Better World?

What can all this automation and smart technology really offer us? Sure having your favorite snacks replaced automatically can be nice, but does that really help anyone? Can this technology offer us something wonderful?

I’m sure many of you have heard or read about Googles Self Driving cars. Just by chance I happened upon one today on the highway.

The traffic was heavy, the weather was wet, the road is in pretty bad shape. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous being next to this thing. The guy behind the wheel was all smiles though so it was a vote of confidence! I watched as this car kept well within the boundaries of it’s lane despite the lane lines being inconsistent from all the years of renovation/replacement/repair. Hell, half the time I can barely see where the lines are on this particular highway myself, but the Self Driving Car never seemed to have an issue! Also, being California, the drivers are pretty aggressive. People cutting in and out of the path of this car had no effect on it’s ability to drive. It would slow down and brake when needed, speed up and change lanes when needed. It was impressive. And it’s clearly the future of driving. I can easily envision that someday within the next 50 years these will not only be common, but there will probably be politicians pushing for them to be mandatory for all drivers if they turn out to be safer. While I certainly look forward to having the option, I don’t look forward to losing my personal freedom behind the wheel. We’ll simply have to wait and see.

One of the innovations that have long been talked about are electric cars. There are many theories on what’s taken so long for them to begin replacing gas vehicles, but regardless they are here now and they will only become more common as time goes on. However, one of the hurdles is, how do you charge the damn things? Clearly yes, you can plug it in at home. But with limited range on a full charge, you will eventually need to “fill up” so to speak along the way to your destination. But who wants to wait 2 hours for a full charge when they are trying to get someplace? The answer of course is no one. So then you introduce this little Gem of automation!

Once the industry standardizes itself with these types of batteries and recharge/refill stations, this could possibly make getting a full charge into an electric vehicle quicker than filling a tank up at a gas station. Someday and maybe, but the possibilities are there and the automation truly shows it’s benefits.

So What's The Harm In All This?

It has been argued by some that replacing people with automated machines is taking jobs away from real life individuals. The counter argument has been proposed that “machines don’t take away jobs, because those people become mechanics for the machines that replaced them”. While that argument is crude, since obviously a person who has zero experience with repairing machines is clearly not going to go back to school just to become the repair man, it is true that people who many have eventually ended up in the job lost to the machine will likely just end up becoming the repairman for the machine. Only there needs to only be one repairman for a hundred machines. You lose 100 jobs you get back only 1? The details of this economic dilemma are more complex clearly, but this could simply just be a matter of advances in society. As far back as we can think tools have been replacing people to some degree.

It used to take hundreds of laborers to plow a field for harvest which can now be plowed with one person in a tractor. And now we have automated tractors replacing those drivers as well! But as we lose the need to fill those jobs we open the doors to jobs we didn’t have the man power for before! What those jobs are remains to be seen as we move further along in our technological advancements. Perhaps someday graduating with advanced degrees will become the norm, and everyone will form some part in grand design work for machines that will allow us to move beyond this planet.

Another aspect to the automation that has some worried is the ever increasing disconnect between people. We have replaced town hall meetings with YouTube debates. We have replaced meeting for lunch with sending text messages. We can telecommute from home and never have to see our co-workers face to face. Following the trend laid out before in this thread, we can go a whole day without ever having to speak to another human being! Being driven in a self driving car through an automated toll booth to a self service drive through fast food joint en route to the automated refueling station to our homes where we telecommute to a job that could have you talking with automated phone operators making virtual currency that is direct deposited into your account so you can shop online and have your purchases delivered to your door. The paradise of the introvert maybe?
edit on 8-11-2012 by tpsreporter because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 07:52 PM
This fear of ever increasing disconnect was put best in the film Contact…in the first 47 seconds of this clip.

The Bad?

So let’s say we keep on this path, and we lose all connection with humanity. We will lose our ability to empathize and care for other humans. We spend every waking moment alone in our tiny cubicle apartments having our physical needs met by machines. We will lose value in ourselves as well as others. We can become more depressed and need drugs to keep sane. Is this the end goal of the elite? To break us down and to destroy our connection with others so that they can finally take over every facet of our lives? If you already believe this is the goal, then you’ll see all this as proof that this is where we are heading. It seems a lot like the basis for the Novel “We” (the inspiration for Brave New World)

The Good?

But what if this automation can help humanity? What if the disconnect is desperately needed? Right now you come into contact with so many people in your day to day lives, the empathy is lost of most already. Do you truly care about the plights of every single other human being on the world? All 7 billion of them? Do you care that Jack Simpleton of South East London can’t pay his rent this month? Do you care about Sarah Smith in Montana who needs $14 for her Prescription at the Pharmacy? Maybe you do care, but are you actually going to do anything about it?

Every day, millions of people go hungry, within 1000 miles of where you are, right this very moment. Even where I live, among some of the wealthiest people in the nation, heck in the world, and there are millions who can’t pay rent, who can’t get food, who desperately need medicine. And there are another several million who couldn’t give a damn.

Politicians argue and bicker over social services to address these issues, but despite the political views you may have, the fact is we don’t need a government to help these people, we can help them ourselves right now. But we don’t. Not all of us.

Is it lack of compassion in humanity? I don’t think so.

Rather I believe it is a combination of “Compassion Fatigue” and the limits of “Dunbar’s Number”.
Compassion Fatigue
Dunbar's Number

For those unfamiliar with these things:

“Empathy Fatigue is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time”. While this tends to primarily effect individuals who work directly with trauma victims, I can easily see how being exposed to the depressing realities of the world every single day of our lives can form this in regular people as well. There are more people who need help in this world than you are capable of addressing. It takes serious focus to find the one thing you can do in your world to help. However some people hold beliefs that dictate these people should be helping themselves and don’t deserve or need your/our help. Whatever, the fact remains, we can’t help them all anyway, and we can’t force others to help at all. We get overwhelmed in the end, and we care less and less.

“Dunbar’s Number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. This number is theorized around 300 or less people”. This has huge implications for the world. How can you truly be empathetic to a stranger on the other side of the world once you’ve reached the limit of Dunbar’s Number in your life? Taking into account your friends, your relatives and your co-workers, I can bet you are close to the 300 limit here already. So when you hear about another soldier getting killed by an IED in Afghanistan, even if you are saddened by the news, you can’t truly feel the empathy that situation deserves. It’s not because you don’t care, but you simply can’t care enough. If you could be truly empathetic to everyone in the world, you would be stricken with grief at the death of 154,000 people a day! How could you manage?

The Silver Lining?

If according to Dunbar’s Number we can only truly know and care for 300 people. Then the less people we encounter on a daily basis, the closer to the number we get. When we are called to help someone within that 300, we’ll be more able and more interested in doing so. Is it possible that a society can be designed with this in mind? Using the technology of automation, we can compartmentalize the world into more manageable groups. As technology improves life expectancy and the Death/Birth rate drops, people will have smaller families and be able to hold more strangers within the limits of their Dunbar Number.


Imagine that society was designed so that we lived in groups of 10,000 or less. While not in line with Dunbar’s Number directly it leaves the room to exclude people you don’t get along with and people with whom your age difference is too great to have them be a viable person in your life anyway (you’re friends grandparents don’t need to be a part of your life for example, nor do their cousins children). This would effectively be a small town, where you know everyone in a way, where their problems are your problems, and where their problems can be within your ability to help. Now imagine that each group of 10,000 is self governed, electing a representative who works with a group of 300 representatives of 300 other 10k groups. Make this your State/Regional Governmental Body. They can manage and govern the population below them (roughly 3,000,000 people) and these 300 bodies or 3millionelect their own 300 representatives to go to the next level of Governmental body. This group of 300represents the 300 Regional Governments (a total of 900,000,000 people, less than the population of the US currently). While this is just an example, and assuming laws were in place so that the groups were as self governed as possible, you could probably better contain waste and useless red tape. People would be working more within the limits of their Dunbar number and likely not be overcome with Compassion Fatigue. They would likely personally know their local Representative (who can say that this is the case now?) and have a voice in the body that governs their lives. If criminal behavior were even remotely the same percentage across all of humanity, (example right now 1 out of every 134 people is in jail in the US) meaning in a compartmentalized society of 10,000, you would have roughly 75 in jail. Or would they be there at all? Chances are because most everyone would know these 75 people, they could help deter them. In the end even if they still ended up criminals, the number would be far more manageable and the people of that sub group of 10k could be responsible for their care and incarceration and rehabilitation.

While these numbers are all an example, the idea is what I am getting at. Human beings are simply not capable of knowing 7 billion people. There needs to be some sort of break down to better manage life. We all want freedom and independence, and the less we have to worry about, the more we can replace with automation, perhaps the more focused on ourselves and those around us we can become. This of course is just a theory and one positive way to look at things.

What do you think? Is automation good for humanity or bad? Is this all being done on purpose by the Elite? Is it for our benefit or our doom?
edit on 8-11-2012 by tpsreporter because: (no reason given)

edit on 8-11-2012 by tpsreporter because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 08:02 PM
For what it is worth, I LOVE the Jack in the Box automated teller thingy. Way better than the illiterate teenager trying to figure out which button to push for an item he has been asked 5000 times already.

posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 03:18 AM
reply to post by tpsreporter

good - anything that distances me from the idiots of the world has to be good

posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 04:42 AM
Honest opinion? My first impression is that you are pushing the 'utopian visions' of Agenda 21. Our society is growing cold and hard hearted due to the love of wickedness and Lawlessness - sin, not technology. It's greed that makes a business owner employ technology which removes livelihoods, either his own greed or that of the investors which bears pressure upon him/her to do it. A society that covets things isn't content with what they have, but instead values materialism and not other people. A society that murders it's own unborn doesn't really care about life but about having their pleasure at any cost. Technology could be used for good, but instead, becomes the tool by which men who hate others use it to destroy them - whether it's their livelihood, their health or their lives.

Technology will not solve the world's ills when it's mankind that is sick.

posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 11:01 AM
reply to post by WhoKnows100

An interesting take. I would point out though, i'm not pushing for someones agenda, just mulling over things i've seen and wondering what possibilities lay ahead.

There are conspiracy theories i believe in, but i always leave open the possibility that i am wrong and that the conspiracy is not real. So while you believe in Agenda 21 and believe this topic i am covering is part of that, i do like to think there is a chance, even if slim that something good can come of all of it. I'm not advocating everyone just lay down and let the world become something they do not want. Rather i say make the world into what you want it to be. If you lack the means then make the best you can of the world as it is changing around you.

You did lose me with adding in how technology is used to pollute the morals of humanity. I do agree that happens, but if i were to attempt to include all aspect of technology in our day to day lives my post would end up being 14 pages long. I was simply trying to question if there are good aspects to the isolation of humanity through automation. Abortion and Sin are not part of the thesis i am presenting. Im sorry.

Also, i do agree that greed is the main driving force behind most uses of automated technology, i even said as much in my post, that it is based on their costs not some tool to help humanity. However i am suggesting that we, as members of humanity can use the tools for our own benefit. If we become more and more isolated from strangers, then we should take it up ourselves to become more acquainted and close to those in our lives in response. If you believe that there is some greater force trying to isolate us, then you have the means to fight back and become even closer to people in you life.

It can be easy to believe in all the doom and gloom of the conspiracy theories here on ATS. But for my own sanity i try my hardest to hope and envision more positive possibilities from time to time as well. If Agenda 21 is real, if there is a secret hidden force pushing for humans to become isolated, if this is all part of some grand scheme (which i say is very much a possibility) i do hold out hope that maybe there is something hopeful on the horizon as well. Hope might just be enough to keep me sane when confronted with all the horrible things that may be in our future.

posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 11:02 AM

Originally posted by ABNARTY
For what it is worth, I LOVE the Jack in the Box automated teller thingy. Way better than the illiterate teenager trying to figure out which button to push for an item he has been asked 5000 times already.

I was too freaked out by the thing and ended up ordering from the lady who couldn't speak English hahah. Oh well. maybe next time.

posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 11:03 AM

Originally posted by ignorant_ape
reply to post by tpsreporter

good - anything that distances me from the idiots of the world has to be good

One possible benefit of the continued use of this stuff. You can choose to surround yourself with only the best you find. Would be nice to not have to deal with so many idiots, and there are plenty of them

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