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Are automated services enabling a lack of human interaction?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on July 29, 2005

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Photo of Seth Bruggeman

“Of course. For every automated exchange, there is one less human interaction, but in the pantheon of social problems it ranks fairly low.”

Photo of Emily Nurre

“Yeah. It’s less personal and will probably make people less social.”

Photo of Damien Amajoyi

“Yes, to a certain extent. It is alienating people from each other. They will eventually have fewer social and communication skills, but it makes everything easier.”

Photo of Barbara Wolff

“Sure. I can go to the ATM and get money without talking to anyone. In fact, you could go through your whole day without ever speaking to anyone.”

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GreenEyedBlues 12 years, 9 months ago

I order pizza online because I feel like a fatty talking to a real person when ordering pizza.

So there's a pleasant blend of social anxiety and body image issues and molded into one big mess.

lunacydetector 12 years, 9 months ago

since urban sprawl (growth) will kill everyone because of the lack of human interaction since every sprawler gets a backyard instead of a window view of a brick wall in a congested apartment-like building in the inner city, i am VERY surprised our city commissioners haven't banned automated services like they banned growth.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 9 months ago

There are also jobs being lost which is not good for that person or for the economy overall. We must not be fooled and realize what is truly taking place behind the rhetoric. This is why I avoid the self check out at Dillons. My interaction with the check out person is such a short period of time that I can deal with it.

audvisartist 12 years, 9 months ago

Order enough stuff online and you'll always have human interaction with the UPS guy or the mail lady!

neopolss 12 years, 9 months ago

Hoenstly, these is one dumb article. "We're at risk of isolating ouselves because of technology!" Man, these questions get dumber each day.

acg 12 years, 9 months ago

I also refuse to use self check out at Dillons for both of your reasons Merrill and Informed. I also have fears that technology is becoming entirely too prevalent in our society, but then I'm paranoid of everything by nature. It doesn't help to think back on all of those movies they've made over the years of science and machines taking over the world. From Hal the psycho comp to I, Robot, (and everything in between) it's all just too much for a paranoid to handle.

Manson 12 years, 9 months ago

The jobs lost to automation are being offset by the techs that are required to repair and maintain the machine. It's not a job's a job shift. I think the jobs created are BETTER jobs than the one's that are supposedly lost. ATM's for instance have created jobs for 2 industries. First you have the guy that fills the atm with cash and he has 3 or 4 buddies in the truck all working on the same route. Second, techs are needed to sercvice and repair the ATM's when they break. The few teller jobs that the ATM's have replaced has offset and possibly created more jobs for service and repair.

visage 12 years, 9 months ago

In a world where technology is advancing, these automated services are merely making life more convenient for people who're in a big hurry.

Besides, those self-checkouts are good when you're buying things that might be embarassing to take through the checkout! ;-)

craigers 12 years, 9 months ago

It does reduce the number of human interactions but since the bank closes around 5 and I don't get to town until then, I feel that good ATMs are a plus since you don't need to see a person to get your banking done. ATMs are for pure convenience and without them, the banks would all have to stay open later.

jonas 12 years, 9 months ago

0100111010001 000011110001 10111000100011001 0111000000101 011011000100 11100000011100111

trinity 12 years, 9 months ago

why is everyone in such a hurry, anyway? automated gasoline, food, banking, turnpike, etc. hurry up and relax! no thank you... on the flip side-gauging the ability or lack thereof, of some cashiers and food servers, not to mention their overall demeanor and attitude, i can certainly understand the desire to steer clear of surly clerks everywhere.

happyone 12 years, 9 months ago

I don't use the self checkouts. I just don't like them no particular reason. The ATM machine I prefer over a live teller. Do I think that its going to make us an antisocial society, I think not.

Thanks guys for sticking up for me yesterday h&k really ticked me, by saying you guys picked on women

BunE 12 years, 9 months ago

"I'm afraid I can't do that dave"

"What are you doing dave?"

"daisy, daisy, give me yo answr plz"

Fangorn 12 years, 9 months ago

OMB: That is too funny! (Or is that "10" funny?)

Das_Ubermime: "Single serving conversations". Great phrase. Very strong word picture.

Manson: You beat me to the punch. We have more jobs today than we did 50 years ago, so jobs are not being "destroyed" so much as "replaced". The ice vendors probably decried the advent of refrigeration, but fe of us complain.

With over 6 billion people on the planet, I don't think many of us will ever lack for human interaction. I use the self-check up because I don't like waiting with my 4 items for 15 minutes behind someone who has a cart piled high. The "express" lanes usually aren't, and I value my time.

Ragingbear 12 years, 9 months ago

Who are you people, and how did you get inside my computer?

visage 12 years, 9 months ago

macon - I think you're being more than a little harsh here. Some of the people who look like they've "just come from a rock concert" do care about what they do, even if they think the pay isn't so good.

I used to work at McDonald's when I was in high school, and I can name several occurances where I wished the customer would just go away and never come back. It's a two-way road.

ms_canada 12 years, 9 months ago

I don't understand binary. but I am worried about all the jobs that are lost in this age of so much technology. I heard on the news yesterday that Abitibi Pulp and Power are closing down a bunch of plants in Canada because of the decreasing use of paper products. This is scary. Big loss of jobs. I can sit in my home, buy airline tickets, pay my visa bill, my electric bill and others and never see another human for days. And the frustration of having to punch button after button to get to a human on the phone and most often you never do get a human voice. As someone said, a few words at the check-out counter do not constitute a conversation but I always try to say a few things to the girl (or guy) to brighten their day. some light comment and they either appreciate it or think I am nuts. I think it must be so boring for them if no one says anything to them. And many don't utter a word. jonas, can you unravel your encription for us?

Fangorn 12 years, 9 months ago

All right, because some smart aleck is going to make some crack about it anyway: I use the self-check out at the store. The self-check up only ensures I'll detect certain types of cancer early enough for treatment.

memoirs_of_a_sleepwalker 12 years, 9 months ago

Das Ubermime, The first rule of Fight Club is that you don't talk about Fight Club . . .

Ceallach 12 years, 9 months ago

blue73harley: I can usually get through the accents but what irritates me is their attitude. They begin asking questions like: Did you turn the computer on? OK Did you check the printer connection? OK Did you check the keyboard connection? . . . . . . . . . . They begin by assuming you are ignorant or you would not be calling. It takes 15 minutes to get them to the point that you can tell them the problem without being interrupted with asinine questions!

Fangorn: Even I made a mistake on a post yesterday :)

Today's question: Yes, obviously if it's automated it is providing a service without human interaction.

Ceallach 12 years, 9 months ago

Off Topic Alert!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen (because gentlemen always care about ladies concerns :)

Check out the article, "Kansas' child marriage law angers Neb. attorney general."


visage 12 years, 9 months ago

Somehow that law seems like it would be more fitting in some backwoods, conservative state..

Oh, wait. Nevermind!

Staci Dark Simpson 12 years, 9 months ago

Thank you for holding...Please press1258943 if you want to wait 25 minutes on hold waiting for my dumba$$ while listening to the muzak version of DROP IT LIKE ITS HOT. Press 789542165 If you are ready to throw your phone out the window Press 458213945698426854255 if you can't remember why you are calling anymore and are enjoying listening to Celine dion muzak!!!

Bill Martin 12 years, 9 months ago


some people just have no respect for the topic at hand, errr....foot!

memoirs_of_a_sleepwalker 12 years, 9 months ago

Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken. Love, Tyler Durden

enochville 12 years, 9 months ago

First of all, "anti-social" is breaking warehouse windows, burning buildings, beating someone up because they looked at you funny; "asocial" is the word you use when writing about someone who doesn't interact with others.

"10" is binary for 2 in base 10.

Bill Martin 12 years, 9 months ago

Hey extreme, I've been here long enough to know how this place goes off-topic...occasionally might be a little soft though as you can see, this is an ongoing off-topic pun to happyone..I mean the day before yesterday I was about to refer Fangorn to a good tree surgeon for his Dutch Elm disease, until I heard it was just an excuse for getting out of his watch in the woods. As for "ganging up" I have no clue...but that's most of the time :)

Posted by happyone on July 29 at 10:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This Hamm's has an odd taste.....

Posted by Tasslehoff on July 29 at 11 a.m. (Suggest removal)


some people just have no respect for the topic at hand, errr....foot!

enochville 12 years, 9 months ago

I am not that concerned that ATM's or self check out stands will make us an asocial society no more than the end of milk men and ice vendors make us less sociable. We all have a need for human interaction and most of us will seek it out from whomever is available (family, co-workers, church members, etc.) Their have always been people who are asocial - hermits, painfully shy people, etc. These people are alone even when they are around people.

There is a difference between the quick, shallow, routine interactions we have with service employees and the deep, enriching, quality sharing we have with friends and families. There is not that much loss, socially, if we lose a little of the meaningless interaction. Where I am concerned is with the loss of the latter. The elderly are often forgotten and families become more emotionally distant as they make no time for each other and move away from extended family. The repercussions of not getting our social needs met in this deep way are very disturbing. We have an increase in depression, divorce, and loneliness in adults, and an increase in acting out behavior in children. People seek to deaden their pain through desparate one night stands and harmful addictions.

As far as the concern about job losses due to automation, don't be alarmed. We simply trade one job out to make room for another. The true wealth of any economic system is in what is produced. Automation causes us to produce more which raises the wealth of the society. The key in not being left behind is in being flexible in learning new skills. If you want greater job security learn to do something not easily done by a machine.

I wish the fast food industry would be transformed so that customers could order their food through a touch screen and swipe their card or slide their dollar bills in to a machine themselves. It isn't that hard. If you can use an ATM or self check out, you should be able to order your food through a machine. Of course, you could have one employee on hand to help customers who can't do it for what ever reason.

Bill Martin 12 years, 9 months ago

That's okay Extreme, I know him, he took all my money and lost it in a poker game....that weasel!

Bill Martin 12 years, 9 months ago

Hey Everybody!

Have a Good Day!

My interaction for the day! Wow, and in reality, it's with a machine to other machines, to people with machines, going about their daily routines, in a way, that's increasing some people's interaction, but I don't think they had computers in mind with the question.

massst 12 years, 9 months ago

That means no more chicks who are waiting to say HOW CAN I HELP U SIR

BunE 12 years, 9 months ago

The real social issues that we have to worry about are the epidemic of hats being worn backwards and the high five.

Quick and shallow interactions can be the very best!

Fangorn 12 years, 9 months ago

I sometimes avoid interacting with other people in public because I've got this yellow-green moss growing along my.....oh, never mind.

Fangorn 12 years, 9 months ago

You know, I glanced at the "Top Ads" at the upper-right corner of this webpage and misread an ad for a "Math Lab Assistant". For one, brief, horrifying moment, I thought they were looking for help at one of the local meth labs! Oops....

Bill Martin 12 years, 9 months ago

Oh my, when I just renewed the page, out of the corner of my eye, that's what I thought you said Fangorn...eek.

acg 12 years, 9 months ago

Fangorn, LMAO, I thought the same thing when I saw that ad out of the corner of my eye. My first thought was "wow, they're advertising in the paper for them now? I guess I've seen it all." I guess it's hard to get good meth lab help. People are always wanting to snort up all the profit.

neopolss 12 years, 9 months ago

lack of human interaction can be a good thing. Do you really want another human around when the rabbit is out to play?

Technology can be great whirr whirr whirr

Ceallach 12 years, 9 months ago

Fangorn: "yellow-green moss" -- try Walgreens, I think there's a spray that will make that go away :)

Bill Martin 12 years, 9 months ago

But what if it's too dangerous and the tree surgeon has to saw off the branch with the acorns? That yellow-green moss can really mess with trees, like our flesh eating bacteria...

happyone 12 years, 9 months ago

Oh my Oh my rabbits running loose. Trees with yellow-green moss. One can only hope Loraine really isn't a "tree surgeon" if she is oh my oh my...........

Bill Martin 12 years, 9 months ago


Lorraine's in Kansas? In the process of hiding the frank and beans, when there's just one can, you have to save it no matter what!

Ceallach 12 years, 9 months ago

No, Tom, you are not alone. But it is Friday, the last day of classes (yeah), payday, and in one hour it will be 5:00, so it's all good.

Think of it as watching children play in the park -- you know they are going to get a little dirty -- but they're having so much fun -- as long as they don't get too wild -- what the heck, let them play. Sit back and laugh at their antics:):)

happyone 12 years, 9 months ago

Sorry Das didn't mean for you to have "unhappy" happy hallucinations :) But the colors are pretty!

ms_canada 12 years, 9 months ago

I may be a little green, but can someone please tell me how a self check out works, we here in the great white north are a little behind times on that one. thanks.

ms_canada 12 years, 9 months ago

Thank you das ubermime - so I suppose it is on the honor system. We have nothing like that here, YET!!

warhawk_writer11 12 years, 9 months ago

The more we as a society rely on machines, the more we as a society begin to lack personal responsibility and interaction skills.

warhawk_writer11 12 years, 9 months ago

This is eventually lead to everyone confined to their households 24/7 and the world as we know it will truly be run by machines.

ms_canada 12 years, 9 months ago

OMB - thank you for the explanation. Oh and BTW, when shall I put the candle in the window. Here is a web site for your perusal. :o) :o)

ms_canada 12 years, 9 months ago

click on festival info, then site map and the blue eyes. What do you think of my city? hmmmmm!

Fangorn 12 years, 9 months ago

Tasselhoff: I was taking a drink of tea when I read your 2:45 post. I think it pretty much cleaned out my sinuses, although I doubt it was much good for my keyboard! After your post and the few following it, all I could think of was that scene in "There's Just Something About Mary". Yikes!

ms_canada 12 years, 9 months ago

Those pyramids are green houses or conservatories built with money from the estate of one of our leading lady business persons. 4 of them and each has a different climate. Tropical, arid, northern and a show house that changes 4 times a year. The Christmas one is quite something.

Kirara 12 years, 9 months ago

I will admit I do work at Dillions...yes the self check out lanes do free up the number of emplyees required. I will comment though, kids are better at using them than most adults :P

space_rabbit_kerosene 12 years, 9 months ago

All of us helplessly alienated chumps feigning attempts at a cyber conversation regarding the increasing delocalization of the human race in the industrialized world. Trading one job for another: much like trading one form of communication for another aye? Lawrence is an island. I often wonder if folks in this town know just how alienated people are in most American cities. This town isn't reflective of American culture as a whole: for good or ill. Of course perfunctory encounters with other humans are of seemingly little value; however I think it would be difficult to make the argument that less human contact could be beneficial under any circumstances.

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