Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cars, Amazon, and TEOTWAWKI

David Warren has an essay musing on cars, and the driverless cars and trucks that now are threatening to take over North America.

It's nice for him to say that cars aren't needed, but we didn't have a car when I was young, so my mom had milk and bread delivered, bought veggies from the farmer who came around in season, her detergent from the Amway dealer, and for the rest of the stuff walked six blocks to the nearest large grocery store, using my brother's red wagon to carry the bags home.

Nowadays, it's worse, of course: In the slums, people take a taxi to Walmart superstore to shop once a week, and the reason Walmart got rich is that it provided the same service to rural folks: One stop shopping for busy moms...

of course, it meant the smaller local shops went broke. I did use the local shops but even though we had a small grocery in town, I did the same.

And I ran across an essay pointing out that Amazon's quick delivery service might destroy the Walmarts too. Right now someone posted an article criticizing Amazon for making it's employees work too hard.

But another article at FirstThingsBlog pointed out that anything that made it easier for overworked moms and dads was a blessing, and should be encouraged.

Perhaps the most under-appreciated difference is Amazon's remarkable commitment to serving families.The scarcest resource for any growing family is time, and in 2010, Bezos introduced Amazon Mom (Amazon Family outside the USA), a popular complimentary version of the company's two-day delivery membership offered to expectant and new parents. Shortly thereafter, Amazon acquired Quidsi Inc., parent of, for $550 million. The company's Kindle devices have powerful parental controls to restrict or limit children's access to media. A series of recent projects explores new ways to serve families including the Dash pantry reordering system; AmazonFresh for groceries; Prime Now one-hour delivery; and Amazon Echo, a voice activated virtual assistant for the home.

So overnight service to deliver diapers instead of going 30 minutes to Walmart or paying a high price at the local store (if there is any nearby).

But of course, this quick delivery might not work if you live in Frostbite Falls Minnesota, where I first was recommended Amazon by a fellow doc. I found not only could I find books not available at Barnes and Noble, but often I could buy them used.

Ah, but the ebook revolution is here, so the used book kiosk has now disappeared from our mall. Luckily most of what I read is available at Scribd, so no problem. And of course I brought 200 books with me here (alas, the cheap MBag to ship books is no more, so it costs too much to bring over the rest).

There is even talk to give the kids tablets here, so they don't have to use rolling luggage bags to tote books to and from school.

So what's the problem? Aside from brownouts due to typhoons, floods, earthquakes or just interrupted service because the hydro electric dam level is low?

David Warren's musings end with a sardonic note about the "Carrington Event" which could end civilization in our time: No cars, no food, no people. Ah, the wonderfulness of a depopulated world (/s)(sarcasm off).

Luckily my husband, who lived through the depression and the Japanese occupation, assured me that if I came to live with him in the rural Philippines, at least I would always have rice to eat.

Back to the future, anyone?

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