Leading article: Slow food

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The average queue times for staffed tills in supermarkets have lengthened since automated tills were introduced, according to a survey by The Grocer magazine. The supermarkets insist that queue times overall have come down since shoppers with fewer items now opt for the self-service tills.

But if the new technology has resulted in longer waits we should not be surprised. This would be the latest in a long line of supposedly time-saving innovations that have ended up eating up a greater chunk of our day than the technology they preceded.

It was assumed that the telephone would be a quicker and more convenient alternative to keeping in touch by mail, yet most of us spend far more time on the phone than our ancestors ever did writing letters. The food processor, the microwave, the dishwasher: they were sold as time-savers, yet we seem to spend countless hours in our kitchens trying to recreate elaborate dishes we have seen on TV. Computers and the internet were supposed to make us more efficient workers, but how long do we spend on Twitter and Facebook each day?

Perhaps someone ought to devise a new technology with the express purpose of slowing us down – that way we might actually get something done quicker.