Letters

Letters 02-08-2016

Less Ageism, Please The January 4 issue of this publication proved to me that there are some sensible voices of reason in our community regarding all things “inter-generational.” I offer a word of thanks to Elizabeth Myers. I too have worked hard for what I’ve earned throughout my years in the various positions I’ve held. While I too cannot speak for each millennial, brash generalizations about a lack of work ethic don’t sit well with me...Joe Connolly, Traverse City

Now That’s an Escalation I just read the letter from Greg and his defense of the AR15. The letter started with great information but then out of nowhere his opinion went off the rails. “The government wants total gun control and then confiscation; then the elimination of all Constitutional rights.” Wait... what?! To quote the great Ron Burgundy, “Well, that escalated quickly!”

Healthy Eating and Exercise for Children Healthy foods and exercise are important for children of all ages. It is important for children because it empowers them to do their best at school and be able to do their homework and study...

Mascots and Harsh Native American Truths The letter from the Choctaw lady deserves an answer. I have had a gutful of the whining about the fate of the American Indian. The American Indians were the losers in an imperial expansion; as such, they have, overall, fared much better than a lot of such losers throughout history. Everything the lady complains about in the way of what was done by the nasty, evil Whites was being done by Indians to other Indians long before Europeans arrived...

Snyder Must Go I believe it’s time. It’s time for Governor Snyder to go. The FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the EPA Criminal Investigation Division are now investigating the Flint water crisis that poisoned thousands of people. Governor Snyder signed the legislation that established the Emergency Manager law. Since its inception it has proven to be a dismal failure...

Erosion of Public Trust Let’s look at how we’ve been experiencing global warming. Between 1979 and 2013, increases in temperature and wind speeds along with more rain-free days have combined to stretch fire seasons worldwide by 20 percent. In the U.S., the fire seasons are 78 days longer than in the 1970s...

Home · Articles · News · Features · We, Robots: The Japanese are...
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We, Robots: The Japanese are Bringing More ‘Bots our Way

Harley Sachs - January 13th, 2005
Mention robots and some people think of that old sci-fi situation comedy, “Lost in Space,” with a frantic robot waving its arms and yelling “danger, danger.” What they don’t realize is what a robot really is, how many are already in our lives, and what the next generation may be.
Just what is a robot, anyway? They began in World War II as servo mechanisms, devices that took the effort out of jobs that were strenuous if not impossible for human beings to do, such as controlling the wing and tail surfaces of bombers. A simple “joy stick” like those in the old open cockpit World War I fighters would demand too much strength in a bomber.
Servo mechanisms such as auto pilots on airplanes have something similar in the cruise control in my Ford Taurus, except my cruise control doesn’t allow me to take a nap at the wheel. Someday they will.
We are, in fact, surrounded by automatic mechanical servants. One might argue that an automatic toaster is not a robot, but there’s no disputing that the new disk-like, self-propelled vacuum cleaner now being advertised on television is a robot. It is programmable and once sent into motion does its job without human intervention.
That’s a step beyond the garden sprinkler that drags itself along, guided by its own hose, but the basic idea is similar.
Now there is a whole new generation of robots. The Japanese -- gadget fanatics -- are the great innovators. Robots come in roughly four categories: entertainment, home clean-up and guardians, industrial, and special function robots.
The entertainment gadgets are familiar to anyone who has wandered the aisles of Toys R Us -- robot dogs that bark and do tricks, humanoid-shaped robots that dance, and mechanical pets. The SDR-4X II can sing, dance, and speak with a vocabulary of 60,000 words. That’s more than in my old pocket dictionary. The SDR-4X II can recognize people by the sound of their voices and even hold a conversation. You can visit this rascal at www.tokyodv.com/news
There’s another Japanese robot called tama that roughly resembles Garfield the cat but has a practical purpose, as it can be hooked up to a cell phone and serve social workers dealing with the elderly. Imagine your robotic “cat” telling you it’s time to take your meds! Makes the Chuckie monster movies more frightening than ever.
The home alone robots can actually work as guardians. The maron-1 can help run appliances and sound an alarm if it detects an intruder.
The ifbot by Sanyo can understand human language, especially if you speak Japanese, and recognize up to 10 persons from their faces or voice.
Sounds like one of these gadgets could be trained -- excuse me, programmed -- to act as a baby sitter and call for help in case of trouble.
These are not much more than toys, but there are serious robots that do important services, such as the robotic painter that can work in an environment that would kill a human worker. Auto commercials often show assembly lines “manned” by robotic welders that unerringly move through their programmed routines, don’t get bored or sleepy, and aren’t hurt by the fumes.
In case of fires or earthquakes, there are robots that can wriggle snake-like through small passages to find trapped victims, or travel inside pipelines and inspect for malfunctions, leaks, or blockages. For wartime, a robot has been developed that seeks out buried land mines and marks the earth so crews can dig them up.
Perhaps the most ambitious robot being developed uses artificial intelligence and is said to be as smart as a five year old. Anyone who has experienced a two year old in the house will wonder what mischief a robot with a five year old’s intelligence might get into.
In Isaac Asimov’s classic science fiction book, “I Robot,” machines are ethically programmed to do no harm to humans. Extended to the ultimate that meant preventing humans from any activity that might injure them, such as knitting (those needles could hurt you) and the humans become virtual prisoners of their servant machines.
Then there’s the classic “The Machine Stops” story in which people live inside what might be termed a giant robot dwelling which repairs itself and takes care of all their needs. In the end the machine that repairs the machine itself wears out.
From what we’ve seen of computers and appliances, it’s not the wearing out and breaking down of our robotic machines that’s the problem. It’s the rapid obsolescence that forces us to upgrade to the newer model, the Japanese answer to Microsoft and Bill Gates. So your robot cooks only a few favorite meals and has the mentality of a five year old? Forget about macaroni and cheese dinners and games of Go Fish. Upgrade now, if you can afford the new model and want a robot that always beats you at cribbage or bridge, then makes smart remarks. No thanks.

Harley L. Sachs, author of “Ben Zakkai’s Coffin” and “A Troll for Christmas” at ZumayaPublications, Mystery Club cozies at Wings ePress, “Scratch--out!” by Fire Mountain Press and books from IDEVCO.
www.hu.mtuedu/~hlsachs.



 
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