Automation exists to make our lives easier, or sometimes to make our supplier’s life easier. We adapt our traditional manual behaviour to new behaviours on the basis that the new behaviour, thanks to the automation, is easier or less effort, or both, for us.

A few months ago I was in a gallery in Dublin and went to use the facilities on the way out. never waste a chance to use the facilities of the facility you’re in – no double pun intended – especially when you’re in a big city.

After completing my task and washing my hands, I moved across to the automatic hand dryer and hovered my hands under it and waited for the sensor to pick up my presence and whizz my hands into a dried frenzy.

Nothing doing, damn thing was broken I concluded, after several experimental variations of hand position.

Turns out I had mistaken an empty paper napkin dispenser for an automatic hand dryer. Learned behaviour, on auto-pilot, had let me down. Back to the drawing board, or rather another dispenser with a napkin or two in it.

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