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Global Skywatch

no checkout shopping

The new Amazon store works a bit like one the hardware store in Wessington Springs, South Dakota that made an indellable impression on me in the late 1970s.

My wife’s uncle had a typical 1-section Dakota farm – that is a 1 mile by 1 mile square of dry-farmed dirt in a brutal climate. We were visiting when I joined him to run errands in the nearest tiny town.

We walked into THE hardware store, he exchanged hellos with the counter man, and we filled our arms with tools and gear. Then, without going anywhere near the counter, we walked out while Bob and the counter guy bid farewell.

Huh??? Oh he knows exactly what I picked up. It will be on my tab when I come in to pay.

Wow! What a place.

Now masses of trusting souls in Seattle can have a similar, but very different experience.

Long queues formed outside the Amazon Go store in Seattle before it opened its doors to the public on Monday.

It uses hundreds of ceiling-mounted cameras and electronic sensors to identify each customer and track the items they select.

Purchases are billed to customers’ credit cards when they leave the store.

On entering the store, shoppers walk through gates similar to those in the London underground, swiping their smartphones loaded with the Amazon Go app.

Then they are free to put any of the sandwiches, salads, drinks and biscuits on the shelves straight into their shopping bags.

There’s no need for a trolley or basket, since you won’t be unpacking it again at the till. In fact, unless you need to be ID-checked for an alcohol purchase, there’s also no need for any human interaction at all.

That is every bit as creepy and dangerous as the hundreds of books and movies whose central, controlling monolith knows your every move and is easily capable of turning your funds access off on a whim.

Thousands of innocents skipping merrily through the daisies into the jaws of a monster.

Illiteracy is its own penalty.