A cotton crop growing at Cubbie Station, southwest Queensland. Cubbie is considered one of the world's largest private irrigation projects and can store up to 538,800 megalitres of water sourced from the Murray/Darling basin. A standard Olympic-size swimming pool contains 2.5 megalitres.
A cotton crop growing at Cubbie Station, southwest Queensland. Cubbie is considered one of the world's largest private irrigation projects and can store up to 538,800 megalitres of water sourced from the Murray/Darling basin. A standard Olympic-size swimming pool contains 2.5 megalitres. CUBBIE GROUP

If it's broke, why do we keep fixing it?


SELF-serve checkouts have been a contentious issue for some time. It's the public face of machines replacing humans and many people don't like it.

To demonstrate this people refuse to use them, opting for the human behind the counter, which is noble but at its best, but in reality just prolonging the inevitable.

Supermarkets of course make it hard to be noble. Most of the time there's only one or two humans available to process your goods, despite the number of counters they boast.

When you do see one there's usually a customer with a trolley full using them and another waiting behind.

So your hand is forced to opt for the gleaming self-serves standing there. Their quick turnover is a winner because no one wants to spend any more time in supermarkets than they have to.

And while there's usually someone paid to mill around to ensure you don't "accidentally” put your caviar through as carrots, they replace half a dozen checkout operators.

Beside their main aim of reducing wages, the behemoths of Australian retail also realise automation appeals to their 21st-century customers including the rise and rise of the single dweller.

More customers are doing smaller, more regular shops as opposed to massive pantry ones, so you barely require assistance scanning "eight items or fewer” (for the grammar fans) and you certainly aren't going to wait around for an old- school checkout operator for that.

If fact you don't even have to set foot in them any more if you are that disturbed by them. Weekly groceries are just a click and delivery fee away.

Supermarkets are embracing technology and changing the way they serve, or lately, don't serve you. As far as they are concerned it's good for their business and good for their customers. So how do you stop that?

Short answer, you can't. But people adjust. How often you go into the bank to withdraw money to save a bank teller's job?

And while you can blame technology, it is a two-headed beast.

We love some of it like our own children, while other aspects of it are destroying industries faster than you can book your next holiday online.

Who can remember life before mobile phones or the internet? Not me and I'm old so it's still a relatively new thing proportionally.

Plenty is changing at a pace we can barely keep up with let alone try to stop it affecting workplaces to save jobs.

Unfortunately work performed by humans that is mechanical by nature will, and has been, the first to go.

Newspapers and television stations aren't as mechanical (those jobs have already gone) but technology and changing palates means they too have had to move with the times when it comes to way they deliver their services. That would be journalism powered by advertising and paid readership.

Sure there are people who still buy their print editions and tune in their local TV stations for their news but those customers are a dying breed.

No one is there lining up at their newsagent or plonking themselves in front of the telly at the same time every night to get their dose of nightly news with the intention of saving jobs. It's just not feasible for businesses to think like this in the 21st century.

Customers dictate to business and businesses adjust their models to cater for change. This disruption can't be avoided but you can see the success stories (media pun) out there.

But there are still plenty of hard conversations that need to take place.

While technology is a huge disruptor in the business world so too is the climate.

On the front line of the latter are our primary industries.

Here in Australia we are already up against it. A lot of practices have already been defying the drought nation in which they operate for generations.

You could say the Murray River is the public face of this.

Water drained to irrigate crops that normally require monsoonal weather, running thousands of hard-hooved beasts on massive holdings on ground so decimated it relies on takeaway food, methane production that contributes to global warming, harvesting oceans and water systems like bottomless pits. Even the bees are telling us we have a problem.

When the weather really goes pear-shaped the government and the community chip in to help producers navigate the hellish conditions. But it won't be the last time. And while climate change can still ignite polar opposite furore, what we see now is only going to get worse.

So what's the business disruption plan here? Do we still pride ourselves on being a nation of food producers whose main markets are tens of the thousands of miles away? We're a nation of 25 million people that produces enough food for 75 million. But with billions at stake and the romanticised view of living in a nation built on the sheep's back what's next for a drought nation staring down the 21st-century barrel of a changing planet and world (two different things).

Our penchant for blindly digging up stuff, chopping down things and harvesting bounties is well known but when do we take the foot off the accelerator? When do we start having the serious conversations about the pending impact ahead for people and the planet if we keep propping up broken models?

Unfortunately producing, building and designing things sustainably isn't our catchcry but changing our mindset isn't impossible.

Technology and climate change are going to continue to unapologetically disrupt, sometimes cruelly (extended droughts/job losses), so rather than being a country that soldiers on blindly relying on Band-Aid solutions until all hell breaks loose, heed the warnings and think about what we are doing.

It's plain enough to see, even in supermarkets.