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article imageOp-Ed: Amazon Go — No checkout shops

By Paul Wallis     Dec 11, 2016 in Technology
Seattle - The DIY version of shopping has been around for a while now, but Amazon Go is a new level – Grab what you need from a physical location and get charged later. The theory now is that this will rewrite the global economy.
Amazon calls Amazon Go “just walk out” technology. It’s walking out with a way of life, too. After thousands of years of “shopping”, an entire class of work may be being wiped out. This is “bring your phone and our app” shopping, and that tells you most of what’s knowable about the actual system.
Another, rather amusing current bit of news. The Amazon Go store is in beta testing. Like a video game. The shop is in Seattle, and it’ll be open to the public in “early 2017”.
It’s all a bit ironic. No more normal shops? Go to a fabulous famous shop and wander around like you’re at a convention? These things aren’t shops in the old sense. A whole way of life for millions of people is based on shopkeeping. Britain was called “a nation of shopkeepers”. What’s a nation of non-shopkeepers? Or a world?
Sad, in a way. What happens to the uber-shoppers? It’s possible to loathe the banal material culture and its pitiful triviality, but still feel a certain liking for the fun side of shopping. I like shopping. I also don’t particularly like a vacuum full of tech with no direct connections but product descriptions.
Maybe it’s “Pokémon Go” for retailers. They’ve just changed the name. Hunt your shopping, mad shopper, and bring it back to your cave. Or use it to attack other shopping… well, some justice in that.
The new materialism?
You could call it a typical manifestation of the easily despised human-free world, too. A world based on artificial transactions of every kind has just lost a defining characteristic. Well, perhaps even this level of crass artificiality has a limit. Let’s hope so. Disassociate humans from a behavior, and they simply acquire other behaviours. Any of those behaviors must be better than this mindless consumption.
If this turns materialism in to an abstract, so much the better. I can see a use-by date for this idea already, and it’s close enough to make this a beginning, rather than an end.
On the positive side, Amazon Go FAQ is all about no queues, no checkout. No turgidity in the shopping experience, either. The queue could be called one of the most irritating experiences in human history.
Amazon has basically rewritten daily life. Don’t kid yourself that this methodology won’t evolve itself. It will. The cheap and nasty insect-like mentality that reduces everything to cost will love it. The termite mound of modern life has gained another “saving”.
Amazon Go and the rather disgusting, apparently “we hate our employees this much” auto-McDonalds tech, the people-free services, are also inevitable. You don’t have to like it, but recognize it for what it is – The obsessive compulsive culture at its normal level of blind acquisition. It’s the natural result of a way of human life which can’t see where it goes at any point.
Whatever the final form of this type of mercantile tech, the old form of retail was never going to survive automation. Nor could it compete.
The information about Amazon Go is all upbeat and friendly. Admittedly, while skeptical as any 100% skeptic can be, there are possible fantastic upsides, unlikely as they are:
Distribution of anything, even good stuff, using this method at lower costs. You could put anything in to a system like this and get it distributed worldwide. Omni-shopping? Maybe.
A blockchain form of shopping to deliver values to account holders through transaction values. (Picture a global distribution network based on this, and having people doing the data mining makes sense. Bitcoin with discounts? It is possible.)
Unimaginative as the retail sector invariably is, Amazon Go can also be a prototype of a whole new way of doing any kind of transaction. A private version, for example, could set itself up around the world.
Say I want to sell my 3D printed carnivorous space ducks around the world. What’s required to do that? Overseas printers, a product code, some shipping to outlets, and that’s it. At that rate, Etsy or something like it could rule the world. (link leads to a New York Times article about doing business on Etsy.) Commercial space owners could gear up to it overnight. Amazon could franchise the whole thing, and get about as much income now as it already has.
Yes, a new world, if not brave, adventurous and with no real restraints. Amazon may have just removed an obstacle to creative living, too, even if probably accidentally.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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