home 3 July 2023
Technology generation gap
Robot Rights
The future of art?
Architects add the mistakes
CAD makes you go blind
That's the trouble with technology, it never works properly, does it? Chris Rand, 12 February 2010
To Infinity And Beyond! LEE GOLDBERG's column Electronic Design January 20 1997
UK Economic Decline
In praise of freedom Jon Titus, Editor - EDN May 21, 1992 p55

Technology generation gaps
IREX 2011
- a disdainful old guy,
- a young adult clutching his phone trying to show he is really at one with technology,
- and a kid just accepting it.

Robot Rights
Science fiction author Peter Watts takes a rather different view of the necessity for robotic rights - basically, there isn’t any.

“I’ve got no problems with enslaving machines — even intelligent machines, even intelligent, conscious machines — because as Jeremy Bentham said, the ethical question is not “Can they think?” but “Can they suffer?”* You can’t suffer if you can’t feel pain or anxiety; you can’t be tortured if your own existence is irrelevant to you.

You cannot be thwarted if you have no dreams — and it takes more than a big synapse count to give you any of those things. It takes some process, like natural selection, to wire those synapses into a particular configuration that says not I think therefore I am, but I am and I want to stay that way. We’re the ones building the damn things, after all. Just make sure that we don’t wire them up that way, and we should be able to use and abuse with a clear conscience.”

The future of art?

"the artist had defiantly consisdered the space he just hadn't 'pushed' it and i think because of this the work was not as exciting, and did not comment of society/ culture as much as it could of."

A comment on an art exhibition by a student studying Fine Art (BA) at Chelsea College of Art London. Draw your own conclusions.

Elektor magazine, Publication date: 9 February 2010

"One of the disadvantages of the large-scale glass façades used in modern architecture is that they cause indoor temperatures to rise sharply in the summer. Air-conditioning already devours 15 percent of the total energy consumed in Europe, and more in the US."

What a sad state of affairs these days when Architects design Follies and Engineers struggle to make them work.

What happened in the last hundred years or so that we allow architects to foist us off with buildings where -

  • the doors are too small;
  • the stairs can't accommodate the volume of people;
  • ceilings have pipes and panels which are never cleaned or even cleanable, all harbouring dirt and dust - human dust with all the attendant bacteria continually wafting down on the occupants;
  • gabion walls have the same hazard plus they don't even isolate the sound from one room to the next;
  • partition walls - especially plasterboard walls in modern houses - resonate with all the low frequency sounds adding to the general disquiet of modern city life;
    The list could go on.
    How different from say Bristol Temple Meads railway station where the engineer Brunel was the architect
    or the technician1 Brunelleschi's dome on the Duomo in Florence.

    1. Vasari the 16th century author in his famous 'Lives of artists' describes him as one of the first great technicians.

    CAD makes you go blind

    Now that we can use a CAD program to draw a part and a CNC mill to cut it out people seem to have lost the ability to see.

    What else could explain their inability to recognise that the part as it comes off the mill rarely looks like the CAD drawing. The photo is an example from Japan. Were they in such a hurry to use the bracket they didn't have time to clean up the edges?

    ENGINEERINGTALK - Issue 355: 22 February 2007, Chris Rand, Editor, writes:

    They say that engineering's biggest problem is its own PR, and that may be true. But when it comes to the negative PR created by technology not working, blame the management. How many engineers, scientists and technologists of any sort are, at any one time, working on something which they know should never have been commissioned in the first place? The most obvious culprits of all, of course, seem to be our political leaders, but worse still are the industrial management which leaps in to offer to meet the most hare-brained requests even when they've got "potential disaster" written all over them?

    There's always a string of firms queueing up to tender for every bridge, stadium or airport required to be built way past any previous price-performance benchmarks. But what gets me is when there's a scramble to get a contract when the technology obviously hasn't even been developed yet. The thinking goes like this: the client (a government, say) has a problem which needs solving through technology, and decides that the best way to find out if the technology exists is to ask "industry". Not wanting to miss out, industry gets its development engineers to rig up a small-scale development project and make it work, and then says "yep, we can scale that up as you require". And the next thing you know, every nurse is apparently going to be doing ward rounds clutching a tablet PC, every passport-holder is going to get their irises scanned, and every journey you make in your car is going to be monitored so you can be charged for it.

    Or not. That's the trouble with technology, it never works properly, does it?

    The Independent Weekly Product Information Guide for Product Design and Automation Engineers
    ISSN 1470-627X - Free subscription
    website http://www.engineeringtalk.com/

    To Infinity And Beyond!
    LEE GOLDBERG's column Electronic Design January 20 1997
    OK, call me a hypocrite, a supporter of corporate welfare, but I'm nuts for the space program. Despite its waste and inefficiency, I get a lump in my throat when watching a launch, knowing that it's my tax dollars that NASA's burning. When my sensible friends ask me to justify the billions spent on heaving a few dozen souls and a few tons of hardware into the void, I mumble pious words about technical spin-offs and scientific discoveries, but it's all nonsense. I've finally realized that the only honest justification for it is that it's a really cool thing to do - and that it gives us a chance to dream.
    Of all the breakthroughs and marvels that the space program gave us, its biggest contribution may have been inspiring generations of nerdy kids to crack their books, do their homework, and dream about one day going to the stars. Like our athletic counterparts, most of us fell short of playing in the major leagues. But, a lucky few made it, with the rest of us cheering them on from the sidelines - and we were all better off for having made the attempt.
    It would be great to give today's kids a chance to dream about the stars again.
    UK Economic Decline
    [cutting from an electronics magazine]
    In 1985, a report from MITI (Japan's Industrial/Banking/Government body, which masterminded its 'economic miracle') showed that, of commercially successful innovations since the last war, 53% had been British in origin. About 32% were American, Germany and France were both around 6% and Japan had 3%. Guess who made the commercial successes and why?
    Up until 1985, we had the world's greatest output of scientific papers and patents after the US. In 1994, we were struggling to keep up with France and Germany. Why?
    The following is from 'Electronics' 13 July 1992
    And by now it has got much worse both in America and Britain.

    "While U.S. corporations are hiring lawyers" we heard a prominent CEO grumble recently, "the Japanese are hiring engineers".
    That CEO isn't the only one grumbling. If you've ever wondered what happened to good old Yankee ingenuity and competitiveness, look in court.
    Litigation costs American industry an estimated $300 billion each year. And costs to our country in lost competitiveness and lost opportunities may be even more dramatic.
    For example, product liability insurance costs for American manufacturers often are 20 to 50 times higher than those for foreign firms. 25% of U.S. manufacturers have discontinued product research, and 15% have laid off workers as a direct result of product liability. Yet, each year more new lawyers graduate from U.S. law schools than work in all of Japan. America now has 70% of all the world's lawyers, a federal caseload that has tripled during the last 20 years, and a Congress (45% lawyers) too paralyzed to act. What can you do about it? Join with us.
    It's time to reconvince Americans that the best way to create wealth is to make something, not sue somebody.

    Nurturing is everything -

    In praise of freedom
    When my father died earlier this year, I wondered what it was that helped create such a strong bond between us. Our bond went deeper than the love between a father and son. One of the things that I think contributed to that, and that I most thank my Dad for, is the freedom he gave me to try new things, to experiment, and to fail.
    Once when I was eight or nine, some friends and I disassembled a large dry cell in the basement just to see what was inside. If we knew what was inside, maybe we could make our own batteries. The black powdery insides of the battery went all over the floor, permanently staining the concrete. When he discovered what we had done, Dad gave us a lecture about placing newspapers under experiments and then he showed us how to make a battery out of a lemon and a stack of coins.
    At about the same time, Dad helped out when we had trouble setting up a telegraph from one bedroom to another. Dad let us run strands of thin wire salvaged from an old transformer to make the connection. When the telegraph didn't work and we didn't know why, Dad told us about the high resistance in the thin wire and suggested using heavier wire. He never said a word about how we had "neatly" stapled and taped the wires to the hall molding. Instead he suggested running the new wires out one window and in another to avoid tripping people in the hall. We got the point. The newly wired telegraph worked the first time.
    Some years later, my brother Chris decided to build his own submarine with which he could explore the harbor near where we lived. Chris was about 12. Dad knew the submarine would sink, but he gave Chris the freedom to build it and to take over half the garage as he did. Dad drew the line at launching the sub from the town dock and instead took us to a shallow beach where the submarine dove into two feet of water and never surfaced on its own power — or ours. Even though the sub had failed, Chris had the opportunity to try it. He went on to take up scuba diving and enjoyed it for many years.
    As I look at my own children, I hope that I've given them the freedom they need to develop their own personalities and interests. Although no parent likes to see a child fail, part of freedom is watching offspring try, fail, try something new, and eventually, we hope, succeed. Encouragement and praise play roles, too. Along with the enjoyment of freedom comes the responsibility to pass it on to others without condition. Then it's up to them to decide what to do with it.
    Jon Titus, Editor - EDN May 21, 1992 p55

    home  top