Do we need people?

ONCE in a while my world becomes completely unglued. At such a moment I realize there is another world at work, undoing the traditional world I had become accustomed to. This happened to me when a young son of a friend of mine didn't know there were live bank tellers. You see, his family, when they wanted to deposit or withdraw money, went to the wall of a supermarket in which a computer was embedded. My friend inserted his bank card in a slot and the computer, which had the word ``teller'' inscribed on it, said, ``Thank you. Please push your code number.'' Eventually the money came out and the thin, metallic void said, ``Thank you. Transaction completed.'' My friend's son had never seen any person associated with the word ``teller.''

If it is the intent of our new world to do away with people, I think it is too bad.

You can now call an airline reservation number and a computer on the other end tells you what to do. You push phone buttons indicating where you want to fly and when, what airport you are departing from, and how many tickets you want. Then you hang up. Your reservation has been made automatically.

When I am on an airplane these days I don't dare ask if there is a person flying it. Suppose the flight attendant smiled and said, ``No, of course not.'' Anyway, when one gets to his destination he gets on a train which is run by a computer and not a person. A computer voice tells him to get on when the doors open and to get out at the other end.

Even the hotel he arrives at can give him a room without involving a human desk clerk.

One walks over to a wall where there are slots and buttons and he inserts his credit card. Information is forthcoming as to what kind of rooms are available. All he does is push a button for his selection and a key comes out.

I sometimes go to a restaurant where I pay a certain amount of money and then go and select my food off a revolving turntable.

It seems a world is developing in which everyone is expendable except the customer. No one is a worker. I rather liked the old world I once lived in, where someone waited on me. I suspect ``service'' jobs, in the old-fashioned sense of the term, are somehow thought to be undemocratic.

Still, it isn't such a great example of equality when anyone can be replaced by a button.

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