Automation tech shopping is Blooming, Online Retail is Booming, Is This the Human Way?

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We all crave shiny things, what is the best way to get them? Christyl Rivers

New trends in shopping have transformed the way we live. Virtual Reality shopping, VR, Augmented Reality, AR, shopping, New apps sprout up daily to funnel customers to both online websites and brick and mortar stores for convenience, pick up, and enhanced shopping experiences.

But is this trend likely to replace our former ways of commerce entirely? How do we distinguish a cool, gee-whiz trend, from a deep-seated human need for human interaction?

Human psychology says that we are social animals. Commerce, and interaction in the market place is as old as civilization. Indeed, it is even considered a corner stone of civilization.

In ancient Greek city states, the Agora, or marketplace, was typically the city center. It was not only where people met to discuss the quality of dates, grapes and wine, or the high price of sturdy slaves. It was also the seat of governance, politics, education, and more. In short, the Agora was an important social “marketplace” of ideas.

Today you can order almost anything online. On automated platforms you can find the exact red shoes you need. You can use an App based search, or a combination of visual search online, inventory access, and reviews. You can increasingly rely on just voice search.

You can even virtually try on your red shoes with smart mirrors. In short, you can put on your red shoes without ever walking into a store. They can be delivered to your home, while you are hunkered down in your cubicle. But will you put on your red shoes and dance the blues?

Most people have experienced the high of obtaining a much, desired object, followed quickly by the deflation of that happy place balloon when we discover everything else in our lives is just as it was before. In some cases, we are even more let down because there is a disconnect between what we thought we needed, and what we really crave.

What humans really crave is connection. It is much more fun to be giddy with a friend who has joined you in your epic search for those special red shoes. It is just as rewarding for the search to entail some challenges. Finding red shoes in the first five minutes diminishes our hunter/gatherer sparkly dopamine rewards in the brain.

Some social scientists, evolutionary biologists and psychologists, are noting a trend in mental health decline because of our increasing abandonment of real face time interaction. Convenience is important, and efficiency is perhaps even more crucial in a finite world full of seemingly infinite choices. Yet, we will always need human beings so long as we remain biological units interdependent on one another for real belonging.

Also, we know that infinite choices can be crippling. Finite resources, or rather the scarcity of raw resources out there, becomes invisible when commerce trumps reality. We are after all, in a climate crisis and consuming an uneven distribution of goods worldwide.

As the present model morphs and twists into something unfamiliar, we are required to find new ways to avoid isolation while at the same time collecting data on how to be sustainable both in commerce and in social belonging.

Caring for the forest from which your palm oil treats came from will become increasingly crucial to our belonging and satisfaction of our own empowerment in the world. Those who choose selfishness, will increasingly become ostracized.

There is no reason to despair however. A balance can be struck between all the convenient and trendy tech enhancements out there and your need for the human touch.

In fact, far from being the enemy, these trends can enhance our lives by eliminating the wasteful parts of consuming: driving, polluting, over packaging, waste disposal, wasted time (not the same as invested, rewarding, exploration and discovery time) accurate and automated pay options, and delivery efficiency.

There is an uneven and unrealized distribution on goods and services, but technology can also be employed to track, research, innovate and continue to correct this imbalance. This will happen when technology is also enhanced to help people realize their own mental and emotional health needs. Our physical needs too, are being more openly explored; for example, trending meatless meal choices, sugar and fat reduction, charting of calorie intake and output, physical exercise, and so much more.

The Agora, or physical outdoor marketplace may be an ancient idea. But green spaces in urban areas are now recognized as more necessary than ever before.

Contact and interaction between the cashier who lost his check out job to automation, and the delivery driver who lost her job because of drones, or BOPIS (buy online pick-up in store) may be the new trend we all need. Together, they can bond over an odyssey in search of red shoes, or whatever it is, that binds them as people against non-belonging.

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