I’ve connected through Houston Bush before, but that was years ago. So I deplane and as soon as I get out the gate I notice there’s a bunch of small screens everywhere. The normal waiting areas with rows of chairs were apparently replaced with tables. Each individual seat had a tablet in front of it.
I didn’t think much of it at first. I had a quick hour to grab food before the next flight. I ended up at a place called Bam Bam for Vietnamese. I sit down at the bar, and I’m face-to-face with another tablet.
It’s the future. Today!
It took me about five minutes to realize no bartender was coming to see me. I figured out on my own that to get a beer or order food I had to use the tablet. Then I had to swipe my credit card right on the spot.
Even after you’re done ordering, there’s this still that evil screen right in front of you. They continuously bombard you with ads, proposed money games, and whatever else. You can’t turn the damn thing off, at least not that I could figure out.
The beer was local Texas good, they had a great banh-mi, and a so-so salad. But I couldn’t get over the darn screen. I want a quiet beer and meal. And maybe to watch sports behind the bar. Not get ads shoved in my face. Note the company logos on the shot above from the many, many usual suspects of the Giant Octopi. I should have put a napkin over the thing.
I’m an introvert. So you better believe it’s a legit problem when I say I actually genuinely missed ordering my food and drink from a real live person. To actually engage in conversation with a fellow human.
I eventually figured out the screen thing, but almost nobody else did. Other folks coming in were exasperated with trying to work it out. And they got frustrated as the one poor waiter had to walk them through it.
Business consultants told Bam Bam and Houston Bush that there would be friction during the “initiation period”. But that eventually customers will get used to using this technology on a regular basis to order. Then they can save 47% on restaurant personnel costs once all orders are handled in this electronic manner.
This is the future. Every single moment of your time is one giant opportunity for somebody to shove ads in your face. Everyone notice the new gas pumps? Where they throw ads at you in the 49 seconds it takes to pump your gas?
Machines probably won’t totally take over every job. You won’t see a full blown robot bartender. Instead you’ll see various aspects of humanity removed from the equation. Technology will destroy jobs on the margins. Instead of six waiters a restaurant will have two. What are the other four newly unemployed humans supposed to do?
If you believe the wizards of the future, technology will free those four people to go become artists, or learn a new trade like plumbing, or whatever. What I suspect will happen instead is that society will generally continue to become poorer and more unequal.
When traveling, I don’t think I’ll do this again. If I see a screen like this again, I’m walking away. I’ll take my cash to a business that employs humans. And if every bar stool on the planet has a screen one day? I don’t know what I’ll do, but that’ll be a sad, sad day.
The future can kiss my ass.