Technology has reached a point where almost every human function has been turned into a business, absolving us of the need to develop the virtues we need to get along.
Activities that were once considered part of the human experience have been outsourced to the Apple store, and it’s a sad indictment of the state of our society.
Growing up, we all had to learn basic decency and develop the patience required for such mundane tasks as lining up at the school canteen — supplanted in the adult world by the coffee queue.
No matter how caffeine-starved our brains are, we accept this as an indispensable part of the daily grind, and a chance to catch up on the news or have a chat to our barista.
But this morning ritual is the latest to fall victim to the relentless drive towards efficiency, with queue-jumping technology set to transform the food and beverage market.
Skip is the app that could resign the archetypal Soup Nazi, of Seinfeld fame, to the scrap heap.
Instead of having to wait in line, with our fate in the temperamental hands of the small business owner behind the counter, we call the shots.
And that’s a real shame.
While we all love to complain about grumpy service or a long delay, these are just part of what makes life unpredictable and interesting.
By making every translation a seamless, no-friction event, we risk falling into a colourless existence.
But that’s just my opinion.
Skip General Manager Bill Bizos said the app was developed in response to focus group research, which found time-poor Australians wanted to speed their lives up even more. It’s called “fast-laning”.
Could it be that these people don’t actually know what they really want?
When they’re lying awake at night in bed, eyes dazed by the glare from their smartphone screens, heads spinning and yearning for a sense of connection, what are they going to do? Take a meditation retreat?
Oh, wait — there’s an app for that, too.
After launching in Melbourne, Mr Bizos expects the even more impatient residents of Sydney to escalate Skip’s expansion.
More than 300 cafes, restaurants and bars have already signed up, including Double Bay’s Bar Indigo, whose owner Christian Berges swears by the technology.
“People are busier than ever, and the more we can do to fit in with their routine, the
better it is for our business,” Mr Berges said, adding that his commuter regulars “love it”.
Mr Bizos is in negotiations with sporting venues, where he hopes to enable punters to skip the queue for halftime refreshments. There’s just no stopping progress.
On the topic of beverages, let’s talk about water.
Billions of years of evolution have given us the sensation of thirst, yet there are multiple “hydration trackers” on the market that can tell us when to sip.
For $2.49, the Water Balance app measures how hydrated you are based on the beverages you consume, which you input by pressing icons for water, coffee, soda and milk on your smartphone screen.
The app converts these into detailed charts that track your progress towards hydration goals, and sets of a reminder alert to remind you to drink.
Personally, I like to keep a bottle of H2O on my desk and sip it at intervals throughout the day.
Once it’s empty, I’ll get up and walk to the kitchen to fill it up — and there’s a failsafe built into the system in case I forget.
Eventually, I. Get. Thirsty.
The one idea that does tempt me is handwritten note services. I can’t seem to find the time to write to my gran. She hates talking on the phone, and email is not an option.
Possibly the most depressing app I have come across is Companion, which promises to walk you home safely at night. The fact that we live in a world where this is necessary is truly disturbing.
Then there’s bSafe, which has a personal safety alarm, and hollaback, which fasciliates the shaming of men who catcall women in the street.
“In a world that perpetuates the myth that our clothes are an invitation, it is so important for us to speak up,” the promo goes.
“So wear what makes you feel good about yourself, and join the movement to shut down street harassers who think your smile or your awesome outfit is an invitation to invade your space.”
No mace spray required.
Meanwhile, PayPal is spruiking its new peer-to-peer payment system, marketed at people who have problems asserting their boundaries.
The system promises to remove the awkwardness of having to ask a friend, relative or colleague to pay back money they owe you, by sending them a virtual invoice.
All they have to do is click on an emailed link, and they can transfer the funds owed with no need for confrontation.
PayPal.Me was launched along with the results of a survey that revealed a quarter of Australians have lost a relationship over a small debt.
Unsurprisingly, 45 per cent of respondents said they hated asking to be repaid, and 55 per cent found it awkward to raise the topic with family or friends.
“PayPal.Me makes requesting money so much easier,” said PayPal Australia Managing Director Libby Roy.
I have a feeling Australians would be better off learning to say “no” when their unreliable mates come knocking, and chalk up their losses to experience — and learn how to assert themselves.
Besides, the tightwad who forgets his wallet at dinner is not going to respond to an email alert.
Impervious to the unspoken social rules that govern the splitting of bills, an impersonal link is unlikely to make this type cough up.
And, anyway, the George Costanzas of this world make life more interesting.