En­gage with a real hu­man

Whanganui Midweek - - NEWS - With Paul Brooks

Ki­wiBank and NZ Post are squab­bling, turn­ing their backs on each other in a huff and shut­ting down branches in a busi­ness break-up that will put peo­ple out of work and close down some branches. In­ter­net com­ments abound, from blam­ing the Govern­ment (any govern­ment!) to blam­ing Ki­wiBank, sug­gest­ing that the New Zealand-owned bank is just as greedy as those “nasty Aus­tralian banks”, putting profit be­fore peo­ple.

Most of the on-line com­ments are pre­dictable — with a few well-worded gems thrown in — and the dig­i­tal crowd is hav­ing a field day.

What do you want banks for they ask. All you need is a cy­ber se­cu­rity blan­ket and a vo­cab­u­lary too lim­ited for con­ver­sa­tion.

For those peo­ple, the only thing re­quired is a smart phone and a li­brary of apps, and you’ll never have to leave the house again. If you do, there’s an app to count how many steps you took, how your heart-rate and blood pres­sure fared, and where you started and ended up, with grid co-or­di­nates pro­vided by your per­sonal GPS sys­tem. All es­sen­tial stuff.

Then there are the rest of us — the ones who like hu­man in­ter­ac­tion and a face to talk to. We like to smile and be smiled at, to wish some­one a good day and to chat about inane stuff.

Usu­ally we know the per­son we’re talk­ing to (that’s what get­ting out and about does), so we can talk about jobs, fam­i­lies and mu­tual friends be­fore get­ting out of the way for the next per­son in line.

It’s good for the soul and warms those heart cock­les. While many of us do our banking on-line, we also like the op­por­tu­nity to visit a branch and do busi­ness with a real per­son.

We are the peo­ple who avoid the self-check­out ma­chines at the su­per­mar­ket, know­ing full well they are a ploy to re­duce staff, in­crease al­ready ob­scene prof­its and frus­trate the hell out of the cus­tomer.

They are not as ef­fi­cient as real peo­ple (no, they are not!) and their con­ver­sa­tion is lim­ited to mo­ronic com­ments about for­eign objects in the bag­ging area, just af­ter you’ve told them you’re us­ing your own bag.

They refuse to pro­vide the re­quested re­ceipt and you still have to find a su­per­vi­sor if you’re buy­ing any­thing slightly al­co­holic (or even al­co­hol-free beer).

We are the ones who wait in line at a bank to do busi­ness with a hu­man, even though there are too few tell­ers to cope with the grow­ing queue, and when we’re steered to­wards an in­door ATM, we po­litely refuse, pre­fer­ring to wait for the next avail­able space at the counter.

We know how many jobs that ma­chine cost.

We’re odd that way. We are the peo­ple who ac­tu­ally leave the house and do things with­out the aid of a “de­vice” or an “app”.

When we walk we’re look­ing at where we’re go­ing or en­joy­ing the scenery, not yelling a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion into a phone or wan­der­ing along in a stooped po­si­tion peer­ing at a screen.

We’re the ones who hear the birds in the trees and the cars ap­proach­ing when we pre­pare to cross the road, be­cause our ears aren’t clogged with plas­tic buds and our brains not blasted with sound sourced from a dis­tant server.

Ap­par­ently we live in a “dig­i­tal” age and we should move with the times, but why should we be forced to? Who said do­ing ev­ery­thing on-line is com­pul­sory? And why should those who live in their phones feel smug about it? Are their lives any bet­ter?

Bank and Post Of­fice branches are clos­ing be­cause man­age­ment is say­ing fewer peo­ple are us­ing them, and with fewer branches that will cer­tainly be the case.

But I don’t be­lieve ev­ery­one would rather do all their busi­ness from home, and I don’t be­lieve those branches are ac­tu­ally less busy.

Prof­its do come be­fore peo­ple and that’s a fact. It’s nei­ther nice nor de­sir­able, but the mod­ern cul­ture of greed de­mands that money — and lots of it — is way more im­por­tant than any­thing else.

To do away with per­sonal in­ter­ac­tion — get­ting rid of build­ings and em­ploy­ees — has the ap­a­thetic sanc­tion of a gen­er­a­tion suck­led on the in­ter­net. The only op­po­si­tion is from back­ward, cy­ber-il­lit­er­ate hicks who think in out­dated, ar­chaic terms.

The world is evolv­ing away from the hu­man and suck­ing up to ro­bots and com­puter code.

That’s not just where the fu­ture lies: that’s where many want the present to be.

To com­plain about the demise of bricks and mor­tar busi­ness is to display an ig­no­rance of mod­ern af­fairs and a quaint old-fash­ioned at­ti­tude with no place in mod­ern so­ci­ety. To pre­fer the com­pany of peo­ple to a ster­ile plas­tic screen is a thing of the past and re­ally, slightly em­bar­rass­ing.

The ideal is to spend a lot of money on the lat­est de­vice, keep your eyes on the screen and try not to en­gage with peo­ple.

So, un­til the satel­lites col­lide . . .

‘The only op­po­si­tion is from back­ward, cy­ber-il­lit­er­ate hicks who think in out­dated, terms.’ ar­chaic

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