Right-Winger Belfield Attacks Tesco Humanless Stores – And He’s Right!

I’ve put up a number of posts commenting on videos produced by right-wing internet radio Alex Belfield. Belfield is a working class. He says he was born and raised in a pit village, never went to university and was therefore sneered at and looked down upon by his co-workers and superiors in local radio. He has a real chip on his shoulder about this, and is constantly denouncing the BBC and its staff, who are supposedly very middle class ‘Guardian-reading, champagne-sipping left-footers’. He hates the affirmative action programmes for Blacks and modern media identity politics, describing the Blacks and those of other ethnic minorities, as well as the gays, who fill them as ‘box-tickers’. He is particularly scathing about BLM, though there are many reasons why people, not just on the right, should despise them. He’d like the lockdown lifted, Priti Patel to start taking tougher action on the ‘dinghy divers’, the illegal immigrants coming over the Channel in leaky boats. I think he also thinks that many disabled people are just malingerers, and would definitely like the NHS privatised and handed over to private management.

But in this video, Belfield is exactly right. Tesco have announced that they are launching stores that don’t have tills. Instead, it seems, people will just pay for what they want using an app on their mobiles or other device. I can remember something about this on the BBC news a few months ago. In these stores there are to be no, or hardly any, serving staff. You simply walk in, take what you want and leave. There are cameras mounted around the store watching what you pick up, which is automatically deducted from your account.

Obviously there are a number of major issues with this idea. One is privacy. Everyone who comes into the shop is under electronic surveillance, another step towards the kind of totalitarian surveillance society that’s been introduced in China, as very chillingly described in the Panorama documentary ‘Are You Scared Yet, Human?’ a few weeks ago. Another major issue is joblessness. People are naturally worried about the effect further mechanisation is going to have on jobs. Despite assurances that the robot workers in car factories, for example, have created as many jobs as they’ve replaced or more, it’s been predicted that 2/3 of all jobs, particularly in retail, will be lost to technology in the coming decades. It looks frighteningly like the employment situation in Judge Dredd’s MegaCity 1, where, thanks to robots, 95 per cent of the population is permanently unemployed.

In this video, Belfield concentrates on another issue, loneliness. He points out that many people, especially older people, go to the shops because their lonely. These people are going to be made even lonelier by the lack of human contact with shop staff in these places. And this is apart from the fact that not everyone – again, particularly older people – don’t have mobiles or the other gadgets that will supposedly allow the stores’ computers automatically to make the transactions when you use them.

I’m not a fan of self-service tills for the same reason, although I admit that I do use them if there’s a queue. And to be fair, they’ve also been denounced by the Daily Mail, which called them ‘Daleks’ and demanded a return to human service staff when they first came out. I’ve therefore got absolutely no problem with putting this video from the mad right-winger up. He’s saying something that both left and right should agree on.

I’m also sceptical about these stores’ chances for survival. People need contact with other humans, and those businesses that have tried to remove them completely in favour of robots have come crashing down. A few years ago a Japanese businessman proudly opened a hotel operated by robots. There were robots on the welcome desk, including an animatronic dinosaur. I think your luggage was taken to your room by an automatic trolley, and you got your meals from a vending machine. A few months or a year or so later, the whole idea came crashing down. No-one wanted to stay. When journalists interviewed some of the few guests that actually stayed there, they said that it was actually very lonely. There were no other humans about, apart from the maintenance and ancillary staff. At a much less elevated level, a Spanish brothel that had opened with sex robots rather than human sex workers also closed.

It also reminds me of an episode of the revamped X-Files when that came back briefly a few years ago. This had Mulder and Scully eating in an similar automatic restaurant. Problems start when one or the other of them is unable to pay their bill. The automatic till demands payment, which for some reason isn’t going through. The machines working in the kitchen behave ominously. The two paranormal sleuths leave without paying, but they’re followed to their homes by a flock of angry drones. Meanwhile, their phones are continuing to demand the payment they owe the restaurant. Their fully automated, computerised homes start to disobey them and behave awkwardly. The domestic robots also start rebelling. And it looks like the duo will be on the receiving end of the anger of a full-scale robot attack force. Fortunately, this is stopped by one of the two finally getting the payment to go through. It ends with Mulder writing on his report that it matters how we treat our machines. Because how we do will determine how they will treat us in turn. It’s another example of Science Fiction as ‘the literature of warning’ and the threat of the machines taking over. But it does seem to be a reasonable treatment of the fears that such fully automated restaurants and stores provoke, as well as the frustration that occurs when the technology that takes your payment doesn’t actually work. I doubt that Tesco’s stores will automatically send squads of robot warriors after customers who have similar problems. But there will be problems when the machines make mistakes, and don’t charge people for the goods they’ve bought, or charge them the wrong amount, or otherwise go wrong. Which could lead to perfectly innocent people being wrongly accused of shoplifting.

Belfield is right about the threat posed by Tesco’s brave new stores without tills or attendant humans. This will lead to further unemployment, and a lonelier, more alienated society.

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6 Responses to “Right-Winger Belfield Attacks Tesco Humanless Stores – And He’s Right!”

  1. bobmarsden Says:

    A few days ago Brighton Pier charged visitors Β£20,000 by automatic deduction from their credit card accounts. Apparently the date had been inputted instead of the amount in currency, or some equally implausible SNAFU. Algorithms can’t self-correct as they don’t know what they’ve done.

  2. trev Says:

    It’s all very well for those who have an up to date Smartphone that is capable of downloading the App for a start off, which my phone won’t be able to do. But I usually require assistance when using those personal checkouts, whatever they’re called, the ones that ask if you’ve got your own bag but won’t let you continue after you’ve confirmed that yes you do have your own bag and it then says “unexpected item in the baggage area”….

    On the other hand, developments in technology are supposed to result in cheaper costs of living and increased leisure time, not just maximized productivity and profit, but no one in Westminster wants to introduce an Unconditional Basic Income and the Tories won’t even implement a fair and equal functioning Social Security system.

    • trev Says:

      I saw that X Files episode, it was a good one!

    • oneoflokis Says:

      I ALWAYS ask for assistance, at the electronic tills especially in somewhere like Poundland! πŸ˜„ They always seem to be going wrong and I always mess them up!! The assistants there in Newquay have always been nice to me though. (I’m not that old, but I’m not that young, either.) And I’m happy to cause just enough trouble to keep them in a job! πŸ˜„πŸ‘

  3. oneoflokis Says:

    I’ll tell you something: they’re going to get SHOPLIFTED LIKE MAD!!!!! πŸ˜„

    What’s to stop people going in there, without any phones or anything that will track them?? And a balaclava over their head, or a hoodie and sunglasses? Or going in and legitimately buying one little thing – and have a whole load of steaks or something like that under their coat?? Unstopped by anyone: because the sole assistant and/or security guard has just nipped off to the loo, and they DON’T have a fleet of drones to chase them down the street!

    Though having said that, I don’t particularly want to promote Mr Bellfield… 😏 Having said that, this article is so sharp, I might just tweet it.

    But I didn’t even know there was another X Files… So I suppose don’t ask me! πŸ™‚

  4. oneoflokis Says:

    Reblogged this on Oneoflokis's Blog and commented:
    Who’d have thought it – that Mr Belfield would have a point!! (He’s not the only one to think of it though I’m sure…)

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