Postal Service Still Needs the Human Touch

The corporate powers that be never miss a trick in calling for the automation of functions now carried out by human beings all in the name of improving efficiency.

In the latest case, reports that Swiss Post has already begun testing automated systems to have robots take over postal functions including delivery to homes and businesses

Citing this, the online global equity investment journal asks if such things are not far behind for the U.S. Postal Service. After all, if driverless cars are coming on the scene so why not robotic postal workers?

The e-newsletter invokes the usual tired rhetoric and blather about how the USPS is overstaffed, bleeds money and so forth. It also plays down the effects of the annual $5.8 billion healthcare costs it must shoulder for future retirees until the next century. It also refuses to acknowledge how much this obligation was the creation of hostile members of Congress when the last postal reform law was passed in 2006.

Or even how much the USPS has actually recovered financially in the past few years.

Perhaps most importantly, ignores how important postal workers have always been to their individual communities, especially in rural areas where the USPS has been trying to drastically cut back on services for years.

A few years ago, the postal service would have shuttered dozens of postal distribution facilities—and even more post offices–if it had not incurred the wrath of several Senators led by Jon Tester (D-MT)

These Senators probably wouldn’t have taken up this issue if their constituent businesses had not complained loudly about it.

Historically, postal workers have always been the only agent of the federal government that interacted with individual people and in some cases the sole link to the outside world.

In Alaska in the 1920s postmen filled this role when they had to deliver mail using sled dog teams. This was true even before famed sled dog Balto led the team that brought diphtheria serum to the remote outpost of Nome, Alaska in 1925, as Gay and Laney Salisbury reported in their book The Cruelest Miles

For other less dramatic postal duties the human brain supersedes machines.

Case in point: the USPS actually employs people whose sole job is to decipher badly written addresses

Maybe machines could eventually do this. Although this idea sounds good in theory perfecting such devices may take a while. Just look at how often global positioning devices provide automobile drivers wrong or misleading information.

At the heart of this robotization issue is greed, the and desire to privatize the USPS and turn it into a cash cow that would ultimately make it function with few, if any, employees. Most likely this would benefit large corporations and make the USPS even less accountable to ordinary people.

For at least the past 20 years the federal government has been selling off to for-profit operators many functions including prisons and military operations. There’s probably no turning back.
Since businesses—and even public entities– are always looking to cut costs a totally automated workerless postal service may come about some time in the future.

One hopes this day will never come. But who knows? Acclaimed science fiction writer Ray Bradbury predicted 24-hour-a-day robot bank tellers in his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451.

Who today isn’t totally dependent on automated teller machines?

This entry was posted in automation, Congress, Postal employees, postal finances, robots and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Postal Service Still Needs the Human Touch

  1. Lynn N. says:

    The human touch cannot be replaced. How many stories are there of letter carriers reporting when seniors don’t pick up mail and getting them to life-saving treatment? Computers can’t do that. England recently has touted its corps of face recognition personnel who have amazing powers to recognize faces. These human beings have helped solve crimes that computerized facial recognition software hasn’t been able to do.
    And, does anyone remember how they used to say computers will eliminate paperwork? Computers are not G-D.


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