Okay, I’m probably showing my age, but I really don’t like self-checkouts.

Actually, I don’t like being forced to use self-checkouts. As an industrial engineer and someone who was responsible in a previous life for introducing self-checkouts into one of the world’s largest retailers, I understand why they get installed. But I still don’t really like them. And I’m not alone. Just Google “self-checkouts.”

Many of us are a bit wary of the expansion of technology into our lives.  We don’t often understand or really trust the intentions of the corporations installing it. We too often wonder, “Are these big companies really trying to make my life easier or just forcing me to do more work—instead of their employees?” or “Why do you want to know how I shop, when I shop, where I drive, how many calories I burned this morning working out, my age, my income, my gender?” So they can increase their profits?

Technology is deeply ingrained into our lives—and that can be a very good thing. Artificial intelligence, robotics, facial recognition, personalization, camera vision,  and everything I ever wanted to know on my phone—are all here and all expanding. I accept that. I even think it’s cool. But, as a consumer/customer /user, I need the teams of engineers and developers inventing and installing this new tech to better understand me:

  • The technology needs to make my life truly easier, safer, and even more efficient. Then it can benefit the company pushing it at me.

  • The user interface has to be even more intuitive. It must address the gigantic spectrum of tech users from digital natives, like my youngest daughter, all the way to those of us who still know what a main frame is, er, was.

  • The tech has to be near-100% reliable, AND it has to work as it was intended. Too often, my self-checkout suddenly and unnecessarily stops, and I have to wait for help from some associate.

  • It can’t be creepy. It is creepy when my phone tells me how long I have to get to Starbucks when I leave the garage in the morning…knowing it’s my first stop. It is creepy when my wife and I are talking about buying a new microwave while sitting at the kitchen table (in front of our Echo device that’s “NOT supposed to be listening”), and then my wife gets an email the next morning with a suggested model number. It is creepy having our neighbors share stories about complete strangers talking to them through their home security system or hearing stories about random weirdos watching their grandkids through digital monitors.

  • I want to be asked to opt into the technology. I want to be made aware…with full transparency that the information being collected on me will not be used without an expressed benefit to me. Have you ever really read the 40+ page privacy agreement you “accepted” with Facebook? Or understand how much our your privacy you voluntarily gave to Google every time you search or send an email?

We need technology. It can make our lives better. Our businesses better. Our world better.  BUT, there are unintended consequences of installing it without bringing the customer, the employee, the user along as a partner.