Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The limit of technology? The blessings of local businesses.


Boeing is to be commended for its vision for the 787/Dreamliner: a plane designed to be more comfortable for passengers; more fuel efficient; and “better for the environment”.

But maybe in this case “man’s reach has not exceeded his grasp”  (c.f Robert Browning).

Maybe, just maybe, Boeing’s “reach” towards a great use of lithium batteries (which seem to be one of the problems for the 787) has exceeded the ability of those batteries to “grasp” their tasks.

I thought about this increasing reliance on technology/computerisation when I was at my local bank today.

My task was simple:  I wanted to add my friend John as a signatory to access my locked box.  (My lawyer suggested this in the event of my incapacity).

The Bank clerk was sweet, kind and friendly.  But the task took 50 minutes, as he accessed and printed various computer records, and got all manner of information from John.

“Honest to goodness”, when I worked in a bank those many years ago, in a bank without a single computer,  that task could have been accomplished in five minutes, using an old fashioned index card.

It’s not that I am against computerisation etc, but I do believe that the use of computers sometimes makes life more complicated rather than simple, e.g. using a debit card at the supermarket sometimes takes longer than using cash.

On the other hand......

I walked into our wonderful local auto shop (Sam’s Auto) the other day to make an appointment for the “free” oil change which they had promised back in October when I had major engine work.

As I walked in Gerry (the manager) said “hi Michael, how may we help you?”

How wonderful it was to be greeted by name!

I reminded him about the free oil change, and also alerted him that various new belts were very squeaky.

So my car went into the shop today. The oil change was done.

But the more the mechanics tightened the belts the squeakier they became, so Sam’s Auto replaced them all – free of charge.


I am not a Luddite, but I tend to like the small and local businesses which have a personal touch, more than I trust the mega-corporations.

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