Column by J1 Reporter Eliza Turco
I hate my kitchen sink. It spites me with its gleaning copper and automatic sensor. Sometimes when no one is in the room, it starts running like it’s possessed by some very wasteful ghost who never watched the Race to Save Water segment on PBS Kids. I hate my sink because it is automatic, and in a household where we all have hands, I fail to see the point. Countless times I have been draining boiling hot spaghetti into a colander and the icy tap automatically turns on, spraying my pasta and drenching my long sleeves!
I have tried many times to break it, laying under the wiring, disconnecting tabs and pulling out batteries (not a great look for me, I know). But the automatic sensor is integrated into the whole operation. Without it there is no water. The whole sink is left inoperable because of a trivial component.
I have given up my Blade Runner-esque vendetta for now, but it raises a question on machine dependence. If we outsource even the most simple tasks to robots, we lose a massive and impactful chunk of the human experience.
When I go to Target, I am willing to wait a little longer in the self-checkout line just to avoid small talk with the cashier. In fact, an article from the New York Times suggests that by 2025, 2 million in-person jobs will be replaced by machine automation in the US alone.
Our willingness as a population to opt for the convenient has a deep impact on our peers, and can be a matter of job loss. We underestimate the fulfillment that work gives us. The American Psychological Association wrote in October, “The mental health impacts of today’s job losses are likely to be significant, given a large body of research showing that unemployment is linked to anxiety, depression and loss of life satisfaction.”
There needs to be less thought put into what experiences we can outsource to machine automation and more consideration of what we should outsource. For example, social media. Shocked? Probably not. Generation Z has grown up living behind a screen and continues to, not without negative consequences.
Medium Magazine writes in an article titled “Social Media: The Death of Real World Interaction” that, “Social media can have catastrophic effects on humans as social creatures if used to replace rather than enhance, provoking false senses of connection, psychological changes to how people approach relationships, and negative emotional responses.” Even human interaction is often replaced with the less impactful experience of social media scrolling.
I am just as guilty of this. To check in on friends I type words into a box expressing shallow personality and receiving its equal response. And when I was younger, when I needed emotional validation, I would post for my 700 “Insta”followers and feel better only if the post reached a couple hundred likes.
We do not only outsource little acts like turning on the tap, or chatting with the cashier, we outsource the experiences that make life good. In our goal to make life convenient we have eliminated the work that gave millions a purpose. In creating a globalized society, we have lost the meaning of what human connection really is.
We have an option now, we must try to break the kitchen sink before it is too late.