Automation is nothing new. For decades, we got our money from ATMs, navigated through automated phone booths looking for a customer service agent, and checked into our flights through digital kiosks.

There are also self-driving cars, which have finally turned our public roads into the site of dramatic automated experiments.

We don’t just work with robots, we also work for them. A plate of salmon nigiri travels to the customer’s table using a small device like a monorail.

Moving beyond human intervention

In hospitals and airports in countries such as the United States and China, flying robots have been used to sanitize spaces. These can be attached to sensors to monitor people’s temperature or have object recognition algorithms to see if people are wearing their masks. Smaller but more important movies are the many apps that have been released and the streaming apps are doing well during this pandemic.

Naturally, this automatic goodness comes at a price – one paid by small businesses, whose blood the app industry takes at an exorbitant rate. Are we heading into pandemic 3.0 – 3.5? 4.0? I’ve lost track of releases – many of these digital marketing and automation systems can stick around for a long time. This can be bad news for users. Although, of course, the long-term effects are still unclear.

But it must be bad for humans. I don’t go to the local store just because I want a diet coke. I have to clear my head in the middle of the deadline and hear about the bad behaviour of the owner’s dog. These simple businesses create a kind of human glue. Automation removes them.