The Atlantic has a piece about the barcode, describing it as "the plumbing of global capitalism," and suggesting that while "Basically nothing about the symbol itself has changed in 50 years," the time finally may have come for it to be replaced. "The barcode’s success in building an America that crams its stores and warehouses with an ever-expanding pile of stuff might finally be its own undoing," the story says.
You can read the entire story here.
- KC's View:
There's one particular passage in the story that grabbed my attention:
The UPC barcode was only ever supposed to be confined to the grocery industry, and it nearly didn’t make it to that. Fears that the symbol’s spread would automate workers out of their jobs led unions to wage a decades-long war against it. Even some of the people who developed the barcode predicted that fewer than 10,000 companies would ever use it. Over time, convenience won out. Now more than 10,000 UPC barcodes are scanned every second. “Think of the barcode as the Rosetta stone of the 20th century,” Mark Cohen, a retailing professor at Columbia Business School, told me. “Thousands of years from now, some archaeologist is going to uncover the barcode, and it will be revealed to be the first step in digitizing information.”
Fears that the symbol’s spread would automate workers out of their jobs led unions to wage a decades-long war against it.
One can try to fight the tides, but when it comes to things like this - technology that moves the world forward - the effort usually is fruitless. Better to embrace the tides and figure out how to make them work for us, understanding that time spent fighting the tides is time wasted, time that we never get back.
Or, as William Shakespeare once wrote:
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end.