On Saturday, 8th July, my best mate and I were travelling back to Yorkshire from Brighton on the 19:57 Grand Central train service. As the train pulled out of London King’s Cross station, the catering manager announced the buffet car would be opening shortly. After reeling off a quick list of available snacks, she informed us any orders must be made by scanning one of the QR codes in each seating area. The purchaser would then make their way to the buffet counter to make the necessary payment (by card preferably).
Earlier that day, whilst paddling in the sea, I dropped my phone into the salty surf, rendering it inoperable. Without the means to buy another right there and then, I was thrust into that awkward situation created by the exigencies of modern life whereby one might as well be dead if they go out without a mobile phone. My friend’s phone was unable to access the train company’s App, so I attempted to resort to more traditional methods of obtaining some on-board sustenance. You remember, that method which entails actually ordering via a face-to-face interaction?
I made my way up to the buffet car to order a few drinks and sandwiches. Upon asking for my order with the use of my vocal chords, the lady behind the counter asked my no less than three times whether I was able to order via a mobile or not. She did it with that sort of incredulous tone that elevated a mobile to the invaluable status of, say, a dialysis machine or an insulin pen. Needless to say I stood there being ignored for nearly 15 minutes as she busily attended to the online food orders of all the sheep who positively revel in not having to converse with another living soul. By the time she finally addressed my order, I’d decided I’d had enough and I returned to my seat where I stayed for the next three hours sans anything to eat or drink.
Society is atomising, and it’s doing so courtesy of invasive technology whose reach is now making life without it increasingly difficult for people who are not ‘acceptably’ tech-savvy. Want to order a meal? Download the App! Speak to somebody at the gas board? Download the App! Strike up a conversation (for those who still know how, which appears to rule out a majority under the age of 20)? Download the App! Find out when the bus is due? Download the App! Ensure that your bowel movements only take place in the afternoon? Download the App! On and on it goes. Add to that the increasing prevalence of companies only accepting card payments and things become a real bind. Oh I know the politicians have promised us we won’t end up in a cashless society, but I suspect that will have all the endurance of every other promise the ‘Right Honourable’ morons have made over the past few years!
A supposedly free society is nothing without the essential element of choice in everyday things. If people want to permanently use plastic in order to buy things, that’s fine. What’s not fine is the surreptitious exclusion of those who do not think that strapping a mobile phone to their eyeballs 24 hours a day is good for either their sight or their mental health, or folk who still prefer the comfort of using cold hard cash. Many kids have lost the art of conversation through endless phone indulgence; many adults have lost basic skills such as map reading by reliance on the same. Wouldn’t it be a an act of unpardonable folly if the youngest generations and those yet to come ended up experiencing a world run entirely by faceless artificial intelligence, incapable of even the most basic human functions without the crutch of an App telling them the what, why, where, when and who?