Monday, May 11, 2015

Why would I think our lives will get any better?

It is a rainy Friday morning and I am sitting in “Moe’s Bagel” shop, having earned my half a bagel and lox smear by walking on a treadmill and doing my 7.5 min of elliptical …Worth it!

The statistics clearly lie – the unemployment stats do not explain why the gym is filled to the brim at 10 am on a Friday – and I know that many of my fellow hamsters are preparing for yet another round of resume sending while walking on treadmills - smartphones and tablets clearly at the ready.

As I watched from our favorite bagel shop here in Boulder, I could see a garbage truck, green and shiny, using mechanical forks to lift two huge garbage containers, and it empties the contents into its huge belly.  It has a driver, who is also the operator. Period! I recall garbage trucks where two guys were in the back, catching a half-hazard ride, and as the truck came to a stop they would grab a garbage bin and empty it with the driver moving on to the next collection point. The two guys would jump back onto steps in the rear fenders and continue their ride somewhat nonchalantly and completely uninterested in what they do.

That is two jobs per garbage truck that no longer exist in their previous form. That’s my little example. There are many more!  I am reading in the South China Morning Post (about a manufacturing facility. Reading the paragraph about the sheer number of replaced humans made me wonder what will be the future for my grandchildren? “Since September, a total of 505 factories across Dongguan have invested 4.2 billion yuan in robots, aiming to replace more than 30,000 workers, according to the Dongguan Economy and Information Technology Bureau.”

So, it is safe to assume that there will be a shortage of jobs, possibly much greater than I am observing here, in Boulder, CO, today. That would imply that people will have even more time on their hands. But will it be fun? Disney is about to come out with the Tomorrowand, a movie based on their showing at the 1964 World’s Fair (and now a Disney attraction) and I have to wonder, are they behind this movement to automate everything? “What if there’s a place. A secret place. Where nothing is impossible. A miraculous place? You wanna go?”

I don’t really think so. I also recently read a Washington Post article about Google perfecting self driving cars! “Google’s algorithms can determine whether a cyclist is present, and then identify parts of his or her body. Once Google has identified a cyclist’s hands and arms, it can recognize signals and act accordingly. So if a cyclist sticks out his or her arm to indicate a left turn, Google can recognize the motion and adjust the car’s speed or direction as necessary.”

Sounds like a great step forward, but it makes me think that my grandkids will not have a chance to enjoy driving cars, real fast! They will be driven by smart, self-driving vehicles with very little interaction with their occupants. Yik!


Not all of it is gloomy, I know. In the April 27, 2015, issue of the Khaleey Times, there appeared the article Smart policing to come Dubai with robo-cops.  “‘Colonel Khalid Nasser Alrazooqi said that in the next two years robots will be used to bolster police forces patrolling malls and other public areas. The robots will interact directly with people and tourists,’ he said.  ‘They will include an interactive screen and microphone connected to the Dubai Police call centers. People will be able to ask questions and make complaints, but they will also have fun interacting with the robots.’” 


In four or five years, however, Alrazooqi said that Dubai Police will be able to field autonomous robots that require no input from human controllers. ‘These will be fully intelligent robots that can interact with people, with no human intervention at all,’ he said. ‘This is still under research and development, but we are planning on it.’”

In one respect, it sure beats the recent standoffs with real cops …

OK, yes, I am concerned with what the future holds for my grandchildren, but I am also thinking that, if what is coming is to my liking, I may try to see if there is a chance of taking advantage of the new research on aging and dying – NOT! 

Amazing! Coming from down under the article tells us, “‘To achieve longevity, de Grey is developing a therapy to kill cells that have lost the ability to divide, allowing healthy cells to multiply and replenish the tissue.’ de Grey said his research aims to undo the damage done by the wear and tear of life, as opposed to stopping the ageing process altogether. If we ask the question: ‘Has the person been born who will be able to escape the ill health of old age indefinitely?’ Then I would say the chances of that are very high,” he said. ‘Probably about 80 per cent.’”

Why would you want to live longer, what would you want to see?

I am thinking that I may want to see a world where robots take over jobs nobody really wants to do (robo garbage collectors being a perfect example, but robo cops come to mind too), where people have way more leisure time thanks to the progress in automation of anything and everything, where computers will be “using electrons for computation, photons for communication, and ions for storage.” Wait! The Machine from HP is not that far away - check out the HP web site.

It’s no coincidence then that the rise of The Machine, the opportunity to live forever, and robots are just around the corner. I’ve been following the IoT for some time but really hadn’t connected all the dots – it’s the Internet of Anything / Everything even if I want them communicating or not. And while I can imagine rebooting a robo cop and perhaps even a stalled garbage truck, when it comes to anything / everything else, always-connected as they will be, then it’s going to be a perpetually working world. Without interruption, or downtime!

With that then I have to admit, yes, I am almost certain that the soul of the new machine will be of the NonStop variety – why would you spend all this money, effort and human talent to create something less than a NonStop? Why would I ride in a car that could simply stop? Why would I call 911 if my robo cop was in maintenance? Why would I even contemplate a longer life if I was to be left “on hold” interminably? Nah – it’s just got to be a NonStop world. Will someone pen a song about “it’s a NonStop world after all”, as I reckon it will catch on quickly if not today, then obviously, tomorrow.  

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