I love you R2-D2

Synopsis : The world of technology that gives us computers,skype and touch screen cell phones is a world of fascination for anyone. It has made our world smaller and people are closer to each other through the marvelous technology but it also has a downside that should not be overlooked. The blogs throws some light on this subject.

I love you R2-D2

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Source : Google photo

Once we were at the Disney World in Orlando with our two small children before going to Haiti where I had taken a job. The kids were excited to visit Disney World even if they were tired after their very long flights from the Philippines because they saw the Mickey mouse, Tigger and other characters , posed with them to take photos and saw everything with their curious eyes.

At one point we were ushered into a large auditorium full of people when a beautiful young girl showed up to explain to us all how the Disney world worked and how behind the scene , a large array of super computers worked tirelessly to control every aspect of the Disney World.

She then pressed a button on her remote control and the massive blue curtain started to part revealing a very large room full of computers. She then spread her left arm over the computers thus creating a rainbow and walked on the rainbow to reach the computers. In the process she had become small and only then we realized that she was a hologram from the very start but in astounding 3D in dazzling colors that was so real that no one knew what was coming.

We were ushered into the realm of technology in a seamless way that took our breath away. The girl explained how the computers controlled everything from the sale of tickets to rides, to the crowd control, to food delivery, to lights and security. We learned how these computers kept an eye on all aspects of the Disney World all the time and reacted quickly when something was not working well and alerted the crew so that the problem could be solved quickly.

It controlled the emergency services in case an accident happened and alerted the hospitals right away. It kept an eye through CCTV cameras everywhere and assessed the situation in real time and took measures that were needed.

Then the curtains closed slowly and the girl reappeared stepping down from the rainbow and became the full size girl we first saw and bowed her head to the thundering applause. It was very impressive although to the kids it seemed all so magical. We too thought it was so magical.

We have grown up watching Star Wars and R2-D2 and C-3PO and grown to love those robots that not only could talk, walk and had a sense of humor but were fun to watch. R2-D2 could only chirp like a bird but could project holograms and do many magical things while C-3PO constantly nagged R2-D2 thinking it may do something foolish and get into trouble which it often did.

What we still do not understand is how much robots have taken over many routine works in factories and do myriad of chores that may seem to you and me nothing short of miraculous. All you have to do is to visit a modern car assembly plant somewhere if they let you in and watch in amazement how the robots assemble cars, weld all the parts together with uncanny precision and watch the welding through its camera eyes and detect the slightest fault and re weld the spot. You watch how the robots spray and paint the cars in a funny dancing or zigzag way and miss nothing in the process.

Then other robots attach the wheels and do numerous other chores before they  push the finished shiny car to the next station.

Then you may visit another factory in Japan where numerous robots work 24 hours a day seven days a week to manufacture car parts with computer controlled precision on massive machines. The process is so automated that a supervisor just watches the process with a bored look because he has nothing to do but watch.

If you visit the massive shipyards in Korea or China, you may see how the robots weld massive steel plates together to give the shape to a huge ship under construction.

So robots perform numerous tasks that may be at times difficult and even dangerous but with precision and care because they are programmed to do so. Behind every robot is an expert who writes the programs that run the robot and tell it what to do and how to do it.

There was a time when such tasks were done by people who were although trained to do it often made mistakes leading to danger because they were tired or sleepy. Assembly line accidents did happen that brought the entire assembly process to a halt until the problem was solved.

There are robots that work in deep mine shafts extracting coals and minerals under conditions where a miner would choke to death due to dust or lack of oxygen but robots are machines that do not tire and can work under such conditions.

Naturally some jobs became redundant as machines took over doing what people did so there was some opposition from workers who felt threatened by the robots but now have accepted that robots do a better job and do it more efficiently than humans. People are being retrained to do other jobs that still need human acumen and dexterity.

The boring and repetitive jobs that are often very tiresome and dangerous are now done by machines so people can do other jobs that are more creative and imaginative but retraining is not as easy as it sounds. Depending on the job, it may require higher education, great deal of experience and understanding how the modern technologies work.

How an algorithm works and what in the world is an algorithm that controls these complex robots? The older generation may not be up to the task so they protest but protest or not the robots are here to stay and gradually will take over more and more complex tasks.

Already robotic cars are being tested where you only just sit and enjoy the ride while the automated car drives by itself and even parks by itself. Now I hear of robotic trucks that will carry goods across the country guided by GPS and computer technology that boggles the mind. Someday there may even be ocean liners being automated this way but I guess I will draw a line when it comes to flying. I will never get into a plane unless I see the captain.

Call me what you like but there has to be a limit to the introduction of the robotics into our lives. May be I am old fashioned but I would like to see a real policeman and not a robot  that may be programmed to shoot first  and ask questions later as if that does not happen with some rogue policemen. I may agree if the robo cops are programmed to be polite and not racists like some policemen.

What scares me most is the concept of introducing robots to fight wars in the future just like what they show in Star war movies. The idea is not so farfetched as it seems. The Japanese have made robots that almost look like human, can walk and talk like humans and may someday take over the war machines.

What interests me more is the introduction of robotic surgery that can do precision surgery that can be very complicated and tiring for humans to do. I have heard that tired surgeons make mistakes that may have severe consequences for the patient. The robotic surgery is already a reality in some hospitals but a lot more needs to be learned about the process and the risks involved.

I know how the automation in watch making created a revolution when a Japanese watch maker called Seiko promoted the idea that a very complicated watch can be assembled by a robot with precision just like a Swiss watch that is still hand assembled.

One American looked curiously at my Seiko in 1969 and appreciated its quality and beauty but did not know that it was assembled by a robot. Now such watches are common and sold in every country except perhaps North Korea but what do they know?

The future of robotics:

We don’t know what the future holds for robotics but there are plenty of hints of things to come like automated cars, trucks, ships and such. Perhaps robots can do some things like healthcare efficiently thus bringing down the cost so that more poor people can afford them.

I know that robot drivers do not text while driving and they do not drink and drive so perhaps such automation can save lives on the road. One fellow hit my car while I was paying my toll fee because he was texting and lost control for a second. I let him go scot free with just a reminder that he should not drive and text at the same time but in other countries there would have been fisticuffs flying for such mischief. I would really like to see robo police catch these miscreants and give them hefty fines and can’t be bribed out of the way.

I would like to see robots someday take over the back breaking jobs of planting rice. I know how hard it is because I have tried it so I have a lot of sympathy for the farmers who work so hard to make a living. Robots in agriculture can be a great help. A lot of such work can be automated. A great robot controlled hydroponic farm can grow tremendous quantities of food safely and pest free.

I would like to see robots take over all the dangerous jobs and free people to do the jobs they will really like to do and not lose their health doing it. They will be a great help in rooting out corruption that eats away at the GDP of every country giving a higher standard of living to people.

May be some day we will have a robo president who will be superefficient ,superintelligent and not corrupt but I guess I am getting ahead of myself here.

The use of technology to solve problems is nothing new but how the technology is used so seamlessly to make automation a reality is very interesting.

So I love you R2-D2. You and C-3PO have not lost your sense of humor. If the Japanese can come up with a robot that has one million jokes in 140 languages in its memory chips then it will be  perfect. Bob Hope would not have liked it but who cares?

 

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One thought on “I love you R2-D2

  1. This comment was written by Mr. Jose Luis Ramos Saavedra of the Canary Island in Spain and is worth quoting here.

    This article honors the blog: it is one of those extraordinary stories. On the one hand, it is narrated, that is, it begins as a narrative, although, later, the theme, so original and techno-scientific, makes us forget its narrative origin. On the other hand, what begins as a journey of family leisure becomes something that interests all humanity today: the reality of robots, and almost all aspects that are changing in our lives because of their advent. It seems very complete and informed, covers positive and negative aspects for the human being of these devices or machines.
    I would like to point out some aspect that I would mention: the danger for the workers, to leave them unemployed. The ethical problem, which is dealt with by you in this work, regarding its military use, but which does not indicate the possible problem dwells, l in the erotic use, of the robotic baby-dolls, with which one could even be marry. Well, or the boy-dolls ?.
    In my work, when I was practicing, I am already retired, as a secondary school teacher in the Canary Islands, Spain, I remember that in a textbook, which we used with students of 13 years or so, the robot-teacher . A question was posed to a machine still in its infancy and she answered unerringly with her stored knowledge or her artificial intelligence. And the students were asked if they would prefer to be taught by a robot or a human.
    The issue of artificial intelligence, together with that of robotics, will complicate the ethical question much more and perhaps also the fate of the human being. If a machine can think better, and even more creatively, than a human, what will be the advantage or vital sense of the human in front of the machine? Will the human program the machine for emotional intelligence? And the theme-problem of the cyborgs, which I understand as a function of the bio and the mechanical. And the threat of “2001, a space odyssey” by Stanley Kubrik, on computer cunning to take over the power of a spaceship, can thefts be programmed for evil, to assume power and dominate humans? Or worse, a machine with super artificial intelligence can self-improve and self-replicate? That will bring closer the danger that the film of S. Kubrik augured. Could it be that humans have already turned to themselves as machines, although biological, and thus approach, each time, their own destruction as humans less and less intelligent, heartless and even spiritless?

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