My dictionary says a robot is “a machine with human appearance or functioning like a human”.
Why do I kick-off so many articles with my dictionary?
Because it is written-down, and a definition that is written-down provides an mutually-agreed starting point for discussion.
My dictionary (1) is probably different from yours; nonetheless I am confident that any word definition I quote from mine will parallel the definition in your dictionary.
If it does not, then you have a good argument against me – we are looking at the problem from two different viewpoints, and perhaps we are not likely to see eye-to-eye from the get-go.
But if the two dictionary definitions (yours and mine) agree, then at least we are starting off on the same foot.
(1) Strictly speaking “any one of the seven dictionaries in my home”
The Guardian today carries an article about robots: Dawn of the age of the robot.
So what’s new? Technology has arrived. Is here. Will be coming.
Soon, to a life near yours.
We have seem movies of machine-tools automatically spray-painting car bodies.
We’ve seen movies of automated carriers of parts navigating the shop floor.
We’ve seen movies of pilotless drones scanning the ground from clear blue skies in Afghanistan.
Some of us have mastered Cruise Control in our Toyota Camry.
Which, if any, of these examples (and others) can be said to be robotic?
My dictionary says a robot is “a machine with human appearance or functioning like a human”.
The fist part of that definition suggests a puppet; we don’t worry about that.
The second part is the implied use “functioning like a human”.
Where a man-made machine assumes elements of intelligence, i.e. problem-solving, then we have a robot.
Machines that follow a fixed-set of instructions, such as spray-painting are, to my mind, not robots.
Machines which are controlled remotely such as drones are not robots; they are fly-by-wire devices.
Cruise control is not a robot.
Machines which can cope with obstacles which arrive randomly in space and time are robots.
That leaves me thinking that the true frontier lies on the shop-floor. That’s where the soccer-playing robots probably spawned. And the ballroom-dancers.
The Toronto Star carried another death-by-accident story this week, sadly, someone crushed between a rock and a hard place.
I am saddened, because this was NOT an accident, despite the report that “she was crushed in a bizarre car accident”.
My dictionary reads “Accident: An event that is without apparent cause, or is unexpected”.
Forty years ago in Adelaide South Australia, instructors at the state’s Advanced School of Driver Training taught me to apply the hand-brake (“parking brake”) whenever I came to a stop at traffic lights or in any kind of line-up.
I do that to this day. There are sound logical and physical reasons for doing this.
On arrival at a ticket kiosk (“she opened the door and got partially out to stick her ticket in the machine”), or waiting in line at the border crossing, or sitting at a red light, I habitually apply the parking brake, a passive device.
If Jennifer had applied the parking brake, she most likely would not have been pinned. Or at least, would have had more time available to scramble back into the car, or to get out of the way.
For every driver who does NOT apply the parking brake when stopped, a certain percentage will pay the consequences.
Sometimes the consequence is a run-away car and some smashed bricks, sometimes a bodily injury, sometimes death.
These events are NOT without apparent cause, and they ARE predictable.
They are not accidents.
They are a direct result of drivers not exercising care.
Use the parking brake.
It can save your life.
A couple of snap quizzes, to get you in the mood, then on to the posting.
Quiz : What is the size of a plant cell? I mean the cell that sits in a leaf and uses Magnesium-based molecules for photo-synthesis to spew out Oxygen and Carbon-Dioxide and in the process makes fodder for animals that eat leaves and hence make fodder for us.
Estimate to the nearest INCH (it’s a CELL, right?)
Quiz : What is the size of a coral polyp? I mean the little animal/vegetable like thing that grows atop atolls in tropical seas and makes reefs that break up ships that get too close.
Estimate to the nearest INCH (it’s a little animal, right?)
Right! Thank You. Now down to the business of Clear Thinking:
The Toronto Star carries an article doubtless duplicated in your local newspaper around this time, about “Life elsewhere seems even more likely“.
I have felt disturbed about these kinds of statements for years, for we have a pretty good idea of the MINIMUM number of Galaxy Groups out there, the MINIMUM number of Galaxy Groups per Galaxy Cluster out there, the MINIMUM number of Galaxy Clusters, and the MINIMUM number of stars per Galaxy, and when we multiply these out the odds are, quite literally, astronomical against there being NO life out there.(1)
Think 1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000; I just KNOW that you wouldn’t drop a quarter in a slot-machine that advertised those odds, so you shouldn’t bet on there being NO life elsewhere in the universe, especially since we already know that there IS life in at least one spot in the universe.
Donald Brownlee should know better, or else he has been mis-quoted: “Donald Brownlee, an astronomer at the University of Washington, is less optimistic because he believes what’s likely to be out there is not going to be easy to find — or that meaningful. If it’s out there, he said, it’s likely microbes that can’t be seen easily from great distances.”.
Back to my quiz questions. No matter what you estimated for the size of a plant cell, there’s no doubt that vegetation can be seen on earth from a near-earth orbit satellite. It’s not the size of the plant cell (Think “microbe”) that counts; it’s the size of its Phenotype.
Now I confess that it’s one thing to send a camera to Jupiter, quite another thing to send one to the nearest star (about 4 LIGHT-years away), let alone another galaxy, but truth is we really only have to find a phenotype on a planet in our galaxy to be sure that life exists elsewhere.
(1) “There are probably more than 170 billion (1.7 × 1011) galaxies in the observable universe” and “Our own galaxy … contains about two hundred billion (2×1011) stars “. Do the math.
I have grave doubts about the spiritually therapeutic benefits of Mistletoe after reading this story in The Guardian.
Especially this bit: “Briggs – who keeps mistletoe in his house in Gloucestershire all year to ward off evil spirits”.
Seems to me it’s not very good at evil spirits if “Mistletoe could vanish within 20 years, …”.
From today’s Toronto Star we read the story (but by no means the end of the story) of the Concorde crash near Paris in July 2000.
This blog is about clear thinking, and you should know that I am an emotional persons; perhaps that’s why Clear Thinking is so important to me.
“The July 2000 crash outside Paris killed 113 people.” Reads the article in a plain statement.
The article goes on to say who/why/what the courts found guilty.
Yet I am struck by the date (9 July 2000) and the number of people who dies (113).
I’m going to let you do the math.
Law Courts regularly assign a monetary value to a human life; in part actuaries are roped in to use (a) age of person at death (b) probable life expectancy at death (c) probably earnings during the interval (d) emotional and other costs. Terrible though it is, we humans have decided that we can assign a dollar value to death.
For your calculation purposes you might start by assuming that the 113 people who died were influential and affluent business men, and that the cabin staff were young, intelligent, healthy, well-trained etc.
You will come up with a number of dollars. Set that to one side.
Now consider that, within minutes of the crash, all Concordes were grounded. On 10 April 2003 the announcement came that Concorde would be retired later that year; part of the retirement was attributed to a slump in sales following the crash. Concorde’s retirement flight was on 26 November 2003 after 27 years of commercial service.
Assume that the aircraft had another 10 years commercial service up its sleeve at the time of its retirement.
Now calculate the loss in earnings for staff stood down after the crash (including ticket-counter staff, catering services and so on), and the reduced staff needed between 2000 and 2003 and the permanent retrenchment cost after 2003.
Bear in mind that staff “over a certain age” would have found it hard to find a new permanent position, and will have slid to menial low-paying jobs, or just been loaded onto government pension schemes.
Which of the two costs (death, retrenchment) is higher?
If you feel up to it, consider the economic cost of the interruption in the development of supersonic and sub-orbital flight for generations to come
From today’s Toronto Star:
George Djura Jakubec admitted to robbing three Bank of America branches in San Diego in November 2009 and June and July of this year, a search warrant affidavit said.
He also admitted to attempting to rob a fourth Bank of America branch in November of last year, the warrant said.
According to the search warrant, items seized from the house included sulphuric acid, nitric acid and hydrochloric acid. Authorities also confiscated a grenade mould, a bag with pieces of metal, a jar with ball bearings and three wireless doorbells with remotes. Two handguns, a .22-calibre Ruger and a Glock 19, also were taken, along with a blue Escondido police shirt.
Investigators also confiscated three computers, a book on high explosives, two moulds of human faces and four wigs.
Authorities said it was unclear what Jakubec may have planned to do with the materials.
Now, Let Me Guess …