We’re leaving Montreal today, and as we passed through each stage of the travel process at the United terminal of the Pierre Trudeau International Airport I was struck at how much of our lives has become automated and self-directed.
We used the standard ticket terminals to check in, entering our confirmation numbers and scanning our passports and credit cards and retrieving our boarding passes from the printer slot at the bottom. The agent directed us to an automated baggage loading machine, where we scanned our tickets and input information into a terminal, hoisted our bags on a conveyor belt, then watched while a laser scanned our bags and a machine lowered them into the vowels of the airport. It’s the first time I’ve used one of these machines, but the instructions are easy enough to follow and they are bound to discourage travelers from overpacking super-heavy bags. We went through all of the security scanning devices, then moved to Customs. There we found another machine on which we scanned our passports and had our pictures taken — they were unflattering, of course — before talking to the Customs agent and passing through to our departure gate. It’s the first time I’ve encountered one of those machines, too. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before we see all of these devices in the U.S.
Science fiction has long forecast that we would enter the age of robots and machines. I think it’s here, now.