Skills for the 21st Century

Cognitive and Literacy Skills for Success in a Fast-Paced Technological Age

Rise of the Machines – at the Gas Pump

Posted by durencls on March 26, 2010

During our session we quoted economist Stuart Elliott (National Research Council) as stating:

“Given the progress of computer abilities over the past 50 years, it is reasonable to expect that computers will surpass human workers in effectively all occupational skill areas during the course of the 21st century.” Projecting the Impact of Computers on Work in 2030 (2007)

This is the dreaded “computers will take over all jobs” prediction of many science fiction stories and films, and is easy to dismiss.  Yet we have for you today, a very current illustration of this issue:

On the way back to MS from the New Orleans airport (returning from COABE to our exotic vacation hot spot in Lumberton MS), at about 11pm in the middle of no-where on I-10 in Louisiana, Bill and I stopped at a Shell station for gas and hopefully food (we, and the van, were all on EMPTY). When we pulled in, our hopes for food were dashed, as the mini-mart looked vacant, and was indeed closed.

Bill, however, had no problem at the gas pump. The technology of “pay-at the pump” had enabled this station to extend services overnight – when it is not profitable to keep a human attendant on duty. Interestingly, we realized that if there wasn’t a mini-mart, there wouldn’t need to be a human at all – or one perhaps just to service the pumps – say once or twice a day. Plus of course, the truck to refill the pumps when they became low – and indicator that could be transmitted electronically.

Standing in a pool of light at midnight, with no signs of civilization for miles (other than the cars occasionally zooming by on the interstate), having our refueling needs met by machine alone, it was easy to imagine technology slowly replacing the human employee.

Spooky.

Duren

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2 Responses to “Rise of the Machines – at the Gas Pump”

  1. durencls said

    Quick update – this past weekend I pulled into a gas station at 5am (still dark out) and found it closed. No lights on in the store, no lights on over the pumps – dark. The nearby streetlights, however, were enough to see that the pumps were still on. Once again, I was able to get gas and the company didn’t pay an employee – or even a lighting bill. Creeeepy.

  2. […] by durencls on July 1, 2010 In our original presentation, and in at least one subsequent post, we brought up the idea of the computer surpassing the abilities of the human brain by 2040 – […]

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