by Ben Rachel, Op-Ed Contributor, December 15, 2016, 9:04 AM
There is a brutal simplicity to how Amazon does things. The complexity behind Amazon Go is immense, but the simplicity of the experience is beguiling. Just watching the explanatory video makes you want to do it.
Much like an extremely cocky shoplifter, you just walk in grab what you want and, well, go. Sensors track you as you wander around the store and record items you pick up. Scanning the Go app as you enter means the cost of your purchases is automatically billed to your Amazon Prime account.
Should Amazon bring Go to the UK, I doubt many would bet against its success. Amazon understands how to use technology to the benefit of people. However much we might rail against the tech giant’s hegemony, there will be few people whom Amazon has in its sights that will be able to resist. Brutal simplicity usually wins out.
The impact on the high street and retail will be debated further here when Amazon shares more of its plans for the UK. I suspect, however, that Amazon Go will be to high street supermarkets and food stores as Uber has been to taxis. Its fusion of smart brick-and-mortar retail with a frictionless transaction model is pointing us firmly in the direction of the future of retail.
And when it rolls out here, perhaps the most interesting impact will be societal. The Amazon Go model not only does its best to wipe out the need for manual workers, hastening the robot takeover of human jobs, but innovations like these widen the divide between the metropolitan elite and the rest of the country, and between the internationalists and the strivers.
The divisions in this country have already been brought into sharp relief by Brexit. The voting map for the EU referendum made London look like a self-ruling dominion within a foreign country. Disruptive technological advances such as Amazon Go are likely to further that divide and make London once again appear more akin to New York or Tokyo than Sunderland or Carlisle.
Our movement toward the technological age is both inevitable and exciting. How we handle it is a matter of choice. Making the progress and advancements technology can bring with it accessible to all, and not just the privileged few, is critical.