Letters

Letters 10-20-2014

Doctor Dan? After several email conversations with Rep. Benishek, he has confirmed that he doesn’t have a clue of what he does. Here’s why...

In Favor Of Our Parks [Traverse] City Proposal 1 is a creative way to improve our city parks without using our tax dollars. By using a small portion of our oil and gas royalties from the Brown Bridge Trust Fund, our parks can be improved for our children and grandchildren.

From January 1970 Popular Mechanics: “Drastic climate changes will occur within the next 50 years if the use of fossil fuels keeps rising at current rates.” That warning comes from Eugene K. Peterson of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

Newcomers Might Leave: Recently we had guests from India who came over as students with the plan to stay in America. He has a master’s degree in engineering and she is doing her residency in Chicago and plans to specialize in oncology. They talked very candidly about American politics and said that after observing...

Someone Is You: On Sept 21, I joined the 400,000 who took to the streets of New York in the People’s Climate March, followed by a UN Climate Summit and many speeches. On October 13, the Pentagon issued a report calling climate change a significant threat to national security requiring immediate action. How do we move from marches, speeches and reports to meaningful work on this problem? In NYC I read a sign with a simple answer...

Necessary To Pay: Last fall, Grand Traverse voters authorized a new tax to fix roads. It is good, it is necessary.

The Real Reasons for Wolf Hunt: I have really been surprised that no one has been commenting on the true reason for the wolf hunt. All this effort has not been expended so 23 wolves can be killed each year. Instead this manufactured controversy about the wolf hunt has been very carefully crafted to get Proposal 14-2 passed.

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · Another job terminator
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Another job terminator

Robert Downes - February 28th, 2011
Another Job Terminator
Did anyone feel a chill run down their spine last week when the IBM computer Watson obliterated “Jeopardy” champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a stunt that has profound ramifications for the human race?
No, not some kind of SkyNet “rise of the machines” fantasy with Terminators running amok. The potential damage of Watson and his ilk is to eliminate millions of jobs in the name of “progress” and “productivity.”
Some background: several years ago, IBM set out to create a computer that could process all of the foibles of human speech: our slang, double-entendres, jokes, you name it, with the test being how well this critter would do on “Jeopardy.” They created a “question answering machine” composed of 400 mainframe computers containing 3,000 computer cores and 15 trillion bytes of memory.
Watson digested the equivalent of 10 million books prior to taking on Ken Jennings (a 74-game champion) and the undefeated champ Brad Rutter. By the second night of the match-up, the computer easily devastated his human competition, who seldom had a chance to even answer a question.
Watching the show, it was easy to see that Jennings and Rutter knew the answer to many of the questions, but never came close to beating Watson to the buzzer. This is because the computer was able to read the questions and provide a weighted answer within 10 milliseconds -- well before Jennings and Rutter could even read the first word or two of the questions.
Any guesses as to what IBM might do with this dandy new creation?
Well, for starters, how about replacing every medical transcriptionist in the world? Court recorders? Who needs them when the day comes that Watson is listening? And those tens of thousands of customer service reps now making a good living at call centers in far-off India? Gone.
Just about any job you can imagine that involves human speech has the potential to be replaced by the Watsons in our future, including of course, newspaper reporters, who rely on a simple “who, what, where, when and why” hierarchy to do their work. Watson’s children will surely be able to make phone calls and ask questions -- I hope to have Watson write this column soon, since it really is kind of pain in the ass at times, don’t you know.
It’s another example of how we’ve grown far too smart for our own good, steadily destroying millions of jobs with digital applications, automation and industrial robots.
Check out this issue’s article on the collapse of Borders Books for a related story. The digital replacement of books offers great news for the CEO at the top of amazon.com, but millions of jobs lost in book stores, publishing, logging, paper recycling, trucking, printing, binding and many other industries. You may be next.

A Tunnel Too Far...

It’s funny how the promise of money from a new hotel can so easily grease the wheels of progress while more worthy projects go begging.
For years cyclists and pedestrians have complained about the dangerous intersection at Division and the Grand Traverse Parkway in Traverse City. Angry confrontations between cyclists, roller bladers, pedestrians and motorists are common at this intersection, which handles between 26,000-33,000 vehicles per day.
You want to see moms with baby joggers scrambling for their lives? Red-faced cyclists and motorists screaming at each other over near-misses? It’s a nightly occurrence at that corner every summer, but city officials claim to be unaware of the situation. Perhaps they should try strolling across that intersection at rush hour in July, when scores of people are headed out for their evening exercise.
This is such an ongoing, urgent hazard that I suggested in jest a year ago that the city allow members of TART to pitch in with shovels and dig a tunnel under the highway.
Lo and behold, TC now has a pedestrian tunnel in the works, but it’s a half mile to the east to accommodate a new hotel and will do little to safeguard lives where it’s really needed.
Last week, the city commission approved plans to spend $1 million on a tunnel in the Warehouse District to connect the new Hotel Indigo project to the Open Space across the Parkway (Mayor Chris Bzdok cast the sole vote against it). This, although there is a relatively safe crosswalk at Union Street about 100 yards away. The idea is to nurture more business around the new hotel.
It’s good to see we have our priorities straight here in Traverse City.
And it’s nice to know that we have a new tunnel in the works for public safety, but it’s in the wrong place.

 
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