Anyone who has read even a small sampling of my writings (not many) will know that while I take technology to the woodshed on a regular basis, I am no Luddite. I recognize and appreciate the many benefits to society it has enabled, and I like and use many modern gadgets, including a “smart” phone, tablet, and even an old school laptop computer (non-AI powered). I am not a fan of technology for technologies sake (e.g. digitizing something with no benefit, but only because we can), but even that can be interesting and kind of fun when done correctly. When done incorrectly or poorly you end up with something like Philadelphia airport terminal B. An isolating, lonely, and even creepy experience forced down your throat complements of the city of brotherly love.
In a previous article I talked about my pleasant surprise at the appearance of terminal B during a recent business trip (see link below). The dingy and depressing terminal of memory was gone, and had been replaced by a new, gleaming, fresh, warm and inviting terminal B. I was totally prepared to sing its praises and did in fact to everyone I spoke to that day during my stay in Philly.
Then I returned that evening for my flight home and my opinion quickly changed. Rather than a convenient modern benefit the technology in Terminal B functions as an isolating and unnecessary impediment to normal human interactions. At nearly every seat, in every “restaurant”, “shop”, and gate there are tablets that serve as your bartender, waiter, shopkeeper, gambling buddy, advertising delivery device, and new best friend. The number of actual humans working has been reduced probably by at least half, but the number of actual human interactions has been reduced to almost zero. I’m no social butterfly and I don’t got into an airport thinking this is my next great opportunity to meet a total stranger and make a new friend. In fact being forced to interact with strangers is one of my most dreaded activities. That said it is downright weird to sit down in a restaurant, order food and drink, be served, pay, and leave without a single word exchanged with another human being through the entire process. It is not that humans are not involved along the way. It is actual people that bring your tablet ordered food and drink, but for whatever reason not one that I saw or interacted with ever said a word as they went about their business of preparing and delivering drinks and food. The situation was very similar in the few small shops I entered. Why was nobody talking? I kept thinking to myself, Am I the only person who finds this creepy? There was nobody to ask as nobody seemed in the mood to talk. Welcome to the future. Yeah?