December 8, 2016

By Leo Hohmann

A note from Pastor Kevin Lea follows this article.


This Amazon Go store is now open in Seattle. The concept has been hailed as a revolutionary upgrade in the shopping experience that could be adapted to all manner of brick and mortar stores. Others warn of looming privacy


For some, it’s a dream come true: The ability to walk into a grocery store, grab anything you want off the shelves, and simply walk out.

There’s no need to wait in line at a busy cash register. Your bank account will be automatically debited when you leave the store. It’s magical.

Amazon says it started working on this new shopping experience four years ago, using the same technology applied to driverless cars. Now it’s launching the new app that makes it a reality.

So the day is coming when people will be able to pull up to cashier-less stores in their driverless car, leaving their cashless wallet at home. All they will need is their smartphone and Amazon’s new app, called Amazon Go.  The first Amazon Go pilot store is already open to the company’s employees in Seattle and it will open to the public in January.

Neil Stern, an analyst with retail consultancy McMillan Doolittle, heralds the new technology as a “game changer for the retail industry” which is searching for ways to cut labor costs while trying to compete with online merchants.

It could “drastically change not just food retailing, but every segment of retail,” Stern wrote in a blog. “One can envision a future of Amazon brick-and-mortar outposts: book stores, beauty stores, drive-thru grocery stores and convenience locations all using this technology.”

Watch Amazon Go promo video touting the new shopping experience as the epitome of ease and convenience:

If anyone doubts the popularity of the idea, they should note that the above video was released by Amazon Dec. 5 and within three days it logged 6 million views on YouTube. It’s spreading like wildfire.  But some are saying “not so fast.” This new convenience offered to shoppers and the labor savings of retailers will come at a steep cost to personal privacy.

They fear the emergence of a society that is not only cashless but controlled by machines and requiring very little human interaction. The data collected will inevitably be shared across platforms. In short, we could be looking at the emergence of a long-awaited technocratic utopia with frightening unforeseen side effects. Futurists like George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and H.G. Wells saw it coming decades ago but the technology now exists to usher it in, says Patrick Wood, an economist and privacy advocate who also follows the global technocracy movement.

“In the longer term if the experiment works out and is adopted widely it could radically transform the nature of work in the retail industry, much like the driverless car and truck technology threaten to upend transportation,” observes Wood, who edits the blog Technocracy News and Trends.

 Goodbye cashiers

Not only does Amazon Go remove the need for cash – that’s nothing new – but it removes the need for a large segment of the work force.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cashiers represent the second-largest occupation with 3.5 million employed in the U.S.

While more and more people, especially among younger generations, are going online to shop for basic necessities like food and clothing, Amazon’s new experiment acknowledges that some people may never be comfortable with that idea.

This is how Amazon Go works: You download the app on your smartphone, scan your phone when you enter the store, take whatever products you want off the shelf and the app immediately places them in your online “to go” cart. If you put a product back on the shelf, the app removes it from your virtual cart. When you leave the store those products in your cart are charged automatically to your debit or credit card. No cash or credit card is needed. No smiling cashiers or bag boys. No waiting in line behind a young mother with crying babies.

It sounds great but what’s the catch?

While super convenient, Wood and others are cautioning to let the buyer beware. What you gain in convenience, you will lose in privacy. “Amazon is not going to keep this just to themselves, they’ll be selling this technology to other companies, to retail stores all across the country, probably across the world,” Wood said.

The store will have the ability to not only monitor what products you take off the shelf, but the day of the week and the exact time of day you took each one off the shelf and how long you held it in your hands. Did you read the ingredient list before deciding to buy it? The possibilities are endless.

“What’s next? Are they going to monitor and record your facial expressions as you looked at it?” Wood asks. “And what they do with the data is the scariest part. It’s what you leave them with and what they do with it, and it will be tagged to you as a person forever.

“The data Amazon Go collects on you is going to be used by them as well as other companies to market products to you.”

Here’s one possible scenario: A consumer goes to Amazon Go in the morning, looks at a few things but doesn’t buy anything. Then in the afternoon this same shopper goes to Macy’s and all of a sudden

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