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Thursday, February 26, 2009
Armageddon and Me part 3

As I stated in my story "Amber Waves", how many times are we going to suffer from the poor and fraudalent judgement of bankers before we permanently reign them in? We like to stop listning after they tell us about double digit returns at a minor cost. We don't like to look further because we will have to face the truth that the toy is extra bright because it has lead in its paint. The shiny toy fulfills our over-demanding expectations and if we admit that it is less than it is, then we will have to admit we are greedy. In other words, we selectively blind ourselves to what businesses or governments are doing to peserve our illusion of having a good lifestyle. We don't want tobeleive that we play a part in this vicious cycle of waste.

Sorry I took so long to reach this point, but I had to lay down the foundations of my concern about the direction of robotics before dealing with the specifics. I will also let you know that I am reasonably versed in science fiction and the many varieties of robots represented within. Mr. Singer alludes to SF's roll as a predicator of the direction some technologies take. I essentially see SF as taking the roll of devil's advocate. SF writers like to examineideas/technologies,throw in the tried and true human nature, and then speculate on theresults. In this roll, I feel they are far more prepared to access technologies future roll then any government, business, or average individual.

Posted by Rob Garbin 2009-02-26 00:17:44

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Armegeddon and Me Cont.

Scientist like to spout very niave phrases like "I only created the technology, they are the ones who misused it.", "I could do it, soI did.","I have a right to persue my ideas wherever they lead.", or "If I didn't figure it out, someone else would have, probably our enemies." There is truth in these statement, but there are deeper truths than these words express. To me they are easy cop outs for people who let their pride get in the way of their conscience.

Yes, a lot of technology is twisted by people other than the inventors. Yes, everyone has a right to persue their dreams and yes, someone else may think of it too. However, Ifeel that these words do not absolve the scientists from their duty to humanity byreflecting on the technology they are creating, thehuman history they are part of, and the potential damage their dreams could cause. Yes, growth is about change, either good or bad, but unbridled growth can make even good changes turn bad. The scientist has asmuch duty to humanity as they have to their dreams. By putting blinders on in order to make their creations, they share as much guilt as the people who subvert their works.

Such people burn with a hubris unmatched because they feel their intellect excedes the world of humanity. How can mere humans understand or limit the grandness of their dreams. What they tend to forget is that they are human too. Like normal people, they can easily make decisions from base desires instead of the nobel ideals they champion. They are subject to the same human frailities that cause mistakes in workmanship and judgement.

Reading Mr. Singers book so far is interesting because he has yet to truly reveal his stance on the issues. At one minute he is elaborating on the facts like a devoted follower than steps back and tosses some of the ethical issues at you. What I do like; however, is the examples from the field that illustrate the point.

My biggest concern with the United States approach to robotics is the same concern I have with the way we are approaching the study of genetics and cloning. On one hand we have the scientists in their insular universe creating technology and on the hand we have businessman cherry picking what they think can be profitable. What most people tend to forget is technology has to be funded from somewhere. Businesses and Governments fund these projects for their own reasons and not necessarily the ones they state. In addition, human history and current affairs show us a clear track record of business sensibility.

Posted by Rob Garbin 2009-02-24 20:54:24

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Armageddon and Me

Here is a glimps of what keeps me up at night and chews away at my stomach. These are the thoughts that make me want to grab people by the neck, smack their heads together, and say "Hey, hey, hey...whadya doin'".

I am currently reading a book by P.W. Singer called "Wired for War", which is about the sharply increasing use of robotics in US warfare. The subject scares me alot. Not necessarily the intial reasoning for robots in the military, but the lack of any real consideration for the moral and ethical issues involved let alone the potential dangers involved.

I am now into part two of the book where Singer is beginning to look at the issues involved. The first part of the book gives you historical background and brings you up to the current state of the industries.Let me preface my further discussions by saying that I don't equate robotic technology as the whole source of armageddon, but it does point the way. My thoughts are based on my observation of the human condition, which can produce evil without even meaning too.

One of my concerns with the current direction of the robotics industry is the main financer, which is the US Military. While I can understand some of their earlier reasons for turning toward robotics (saving lives), I feel they are on a very slippery slope with their current decisions. In truth, I believe we have been laying the groundwork for armageddon ever since Cain killed Able (the first battle). With each battle/war we have learned to kill better, faster, and more. We started with nearby neighbors, then towns, cities, countries, and now anyone, anywhere, and anytime.

Each step has put more and more pressure on the kettle that is humanity. At first war was up-close and personnel. Now we can sit at home and kill millions before dinner. Instead of only being the prevue of highly trained warriors, who have earned their skills, people with no learned discipline can partake of war. Also, the ability to pause and reflect on the horror and hardships of war is getting shorter and shorter. We can do great unintentional damage with justified anger before reason can wake us up. The biggest problem I see with robotic technology, technology in general,is the pacethat we are going at. Singer addresses this danger in several sections.

We had the same problems with the Manhattan Project. The scientists involved were so intent on creating what they knew could be made, they did not think of whether they should make it. They began to think about dealing with the issues the technology would raise only after it was out of their hands. I don't want to argue about if or should we stop technology, but I want to focus on how we handle the issues we are creating.

Posted by Rob Garbin 2009-02-24 20:51:43

Friday, November 14, 2008
Tip of the Iceberg

I have to admit that maybe I was thinking wrong about the need for the government bailout package. I was for it because of the need to do something to shore up our economy, but like everyone else, I didn't like it. I was mad that we had to use money that did not really exist to bailout companies that had put paper profits ahead of common sense.

I wonder though how wrong the thinking was. Could it be a problem of the Bush administration wanting a quick fix the mess they had a fairly large hand in creating. A quick fix that probably a lot of American think should happen. Unfortunately, everyone needs to understand that there is no such creature. The hole we have dug ourselves into may not even allow light to escape. Real results may not occur for years.

Another thought I have is that the problem may be a whole lot worse than we think and that a larger part of our population has a hand in it. The senario I see includes not only Banks being over extended on the bad mortgage debt but also on credit card debt. This would also include non bank run credit card companies. Virtually the entire credit sector.

Here is my thinking. For years now we have been hereing that personal debt levels have been sky rocketing, mostly fostered by the credit card industry. Now the economy implodes and everyone is running scared. People are losing their jobs and finding it hard to pay their bills. Some of these people have been barely managing their credit card bills before and now are getting socked with higher interest rates. This is another instance of companies following paper profits instead of common sense. I wonder, is it possible that the credit market is not openning up because they are as uncertain of covering their increasing credit card load as they are about their sub-prime mortgage exposure.

The reason the bailout may not be working as planned could be due to looking at only the tip of the iceberg. The government tried to fix what they saw as the problem at the time, but did not take a look at the wider picture. Our out of control debt spending as a country has come back to bite us.

I am not posting these thoughts to justify my original thoughts on the bailout, but to open peoples eyes to what may be a far bigger problem than we ever anticipated. I may be wrong again. However, I hope that at least I get people to start thinking beyond just the surface of the problem and examine all the interconnected parts of our economy that may be part of the problem. If we don't look at the larger picture, possibly none of our plans for fixing the problem will work.

Posted by Rob Garbin 2008-11-14 05:29:54

Saturday, November 1, 2008
Ugly is as Ugly does!

I just recently bought the documentary film "Who killed the electric car". I had caught bits and pieces of it on pay cable, but had not seen the whole thing. Before I tell you anymore of my thoughts, I want to tell you something that has been nagging me for awhile. Why are hybrid cars so ugly? I am not thrying to say that a person that buys a hybrid car has no taste. They may have a lot of style; unfortunately, this is all they are given.

This has bothered me for a while. Why is the only serious hybrid out there, the Prius, so for my tastes so crappy looking? I could not understand why they could not make a hybrid without at least some of the styling of their gas guzzling cousins. Having watch this documentary, it all became clear. They don't want them to be cool loking because then they would sell even more. Please, if my rantings have any meaning for you, watch this movie.

I will also tell you to take a slightly different tact then a pundit would toss at you. It is easy to point the blame factor at Big Oil, Big Auto, and the Government, but we are all in some ways responsible. We all fight change. Yes the big cats are sacrificing are national security for the sake of current profits. However, we are letting them by not standing up and saying no more. We are also supporting them by not changing our ways and/or scraficing cherished notions of the way we use our vehicles. In other words, this leads back to my post on patriotism. Giving up a little comfort for the greater good of the country is patriotism to me. Not to the level our soldiers and their families endore; however, if we all did a little more sacrificing, maybe they would not have to be doing any.

Another reason to be humble in how we handle this issue is that there needs to be a way to help transition workers in the affected industries. If cars didn't use gas, why would we need gas stations? Where do these workers go? If we don't need gas stations, why would we need gas truck drivers? Where do these workers go? If we don't need gas truck drivers, why would we need gas refineries? Where do these workers go? And on and on... Yes it is easy to blame the fat cats whom pray on our fears to maintain a status quo that keeps them rich. Unfortunately, there are an aweful lot of people below them in the trenches who will fight hard too, because they have to. Unless we can give them a viable alternative to feeding our addition, they will not change their ways either.

Any energy policy that says we can just make the change in only a few years is a sham. Any energy policy that says this can be done without any sarifice is a lie. We as a nation have to lift our eyes up from the pavement of short-term gains to the horizon of long-term gains before we walk out into the street or into a telephone pole.

I will leave you with one last piece of wisdom. Beware of the group mentality. Always question who you follow, but do so grasciously. I say this because of another documentary that I caught part of. I don't know the name of it, but it had to do with the crazy nuclear bomb testing that went on during the cold war. All these egg-heads running around coming up with ways to make bigger bombs that they were sure they understood and could control. The show told of one test for that the scientists predicted would be, I think, a 6 mega-ton explosion. After the detonation on a small Pacific island, the scientists were horrified to learn that they had unleashed something closer to 15 mega-tons. What if they had been even further off than that and unleashed a planet killer? We might not be here today. One person with a bad idea an a group of blind followers can do a lot of damage.

By the way, if anyone can tell me the name of the bomb documenary, I would be very greatful!

Posted by Rob Garbin 2008-11-01 00:34:23

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