Is using an Amazon Go store ‘Right Action’?

Many of you, by now, have heard of Amazon’s new Just Walk Out technology. When I first heard about it my first reaction was how futuristic and exciting it looked. My second reaction was to worry about what this meant for the future of jobs in the service industry. 
And this is only one of many things to come along to threaten jobs as we move towards more and more common use of robotics and AI in the future. The brilliant Steven Hawking wrote an article recently where he stated:

the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.

We should remember that in a free society we are free to choose many aspects of how we live our lives – what we spend our money on, what we participate in, etc. And we should also remember that this is an aspect of participating in a democracy.  More than simply one vote every x years, you have several ‘votes’ each day. Whether you spend money at local businesses or large chains is a vote for one or the other. Buying battery-farmed hen eggs is a vote for that industry to continue. Using a self service check out is a vote to move to a more automated service industry. 

It is the true ‘power of the people’, and it arguably shapes society more than any political vote ever could. 

I once heard a Dhamma teacher talk about ‘society-level kamma’ remarking that as well as individual action & result, there is also the fact that the combined actions of many people have consequences for society as a whole. The individuals of that society can be affected by the ‘bad kamma’ of the larger group. It can go some way to explaining why bad things happen to good people. 

So when we consider ‘Right Action’ should we be considering the wider impacts of our actions on society as a whole? Should we start being more aware of what we are ‘voting for’ with our wallets and actions each day?

(Image used is from Amazon Go Introduction video on YouTube.)

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Author: Bite-Size Dhamma

I'm a Buddhist layperson, trying to live well and skilfully with compassion, generosity, and discernment. I work in the field of housing law and homelessness casework. I have a beautiful kind wife, a very cute dog, and two loveable but surly cats.

4 thoughts on “Is using an Amazon Go store ‘Right Action’?”

  1. Very interesting post, thank you for bringing my attention to this. I was already in a bit of inner dialogue lately, considering whether i should or should not buy books only through amazon as there were stories that workers were not treated properly.

    This brings it all to another level. Long have i felt that this technology (and whatever advancements will be made in the not so far away future) could serve humanity, or could work against us. And so i find it very helpful to hear you’re asking the same questions, perhaps from a different angle. But the question remains the same; how do we want our society to be?

    So i think we do need to become (more) aware of how we use our wallets and actions! I realize that i have too been helping the automation industry, by shopping with a self scanner. But lately i´ve been going back to the cashiers. Only now do i see that and i realize how important it is to do so. It´s about human interactions, not about efficiency. I think that we´re getting tricked into this whole ´more efficiency is good for us´ thinking. Sure in the beginning it´ll be good, but then we need even more to give us that temporary feeling of satisfaction. No end to that cycle..

    I´ll use this as a reminder to be thoughtful. To support local economies and to let go of not wanting to wait in line. And with this bigger picture, it should be easier 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful response. 🙂

      I agree with you that there’s an element of trickery from those with most to gain from this sort of advancement. Those same people have little reason to safeguard society’s greater needs.

      It’s rather scary, and all the more reason to be vigilant and thoughtful about how we engage with it as individuals.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A version of this topic has come up for me quite a bit lately and it’s so much bigger than Amazon. I have a sense that we are going to have to shift our values rather drastically in the near future, and the process probably won’t be pretty. The end result will be less desperation for money and things (simply because they won’t be available), and a great appreciation for kindness, love, compassion, generosity, etc. A collective karmic shift. Thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

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