While recently dining at Outback Steakhouse, I was vaguely annoyed by the tabletop kiosk placed in the middle of the table. We were already crammed into the booth and the kiosk made the table equally tight. I understand that they can be useful, however, at a nice restaurant I prefer to have a person wait on me. The ambiance of dining-out is somewhat diminished when you can order and pay with a small device. At one point, our waiter actually picked up the kiosk and ordered our appetizer from it. He explained that he’s doing this because Outback wants to get a return on their investment. A $200 meal where they’re trying to reduce the wait-staff seems a bit misguided.
Pondering this kiosk thing brought me to my next thought. The X-Files episode ‘When Tech Attacks.’ Season 11 Episode 7 is one of my favorite of all time. The X-Files’ Agents Mulder and Scully find themselves in a similar situation at a sushi restaurant. Because they won’t leave a tip (probably with the same reasoning that I had), all their personal electronic devices retaliate. The driverless Uber car, home security system, even the Rumba all coordinate efforts to punish them. The show ends when Mulder grudgingly tips the sushi restaurant from his iPhone for the meal they consumed hours earlier. The electronic harassment wore him out. I loved the episode because all these devices exist now and can very possibly interact that way. There was a chilling plausibility to the episode.
You might think this is a first-world problem. But maybe it’s a world-wide problem. While in Indonesia, of all places, we ordered sushi from a mini kiosk on our table and it was delivered via a miniature train to our table. We could also pay from this device. The funniest part of the actual experience is that you could leave a tip for your server. A tip. To who and for what?
Brace yourself. It’s coming.
Thoughts that are alien to any of my other projects can be found here.