Robot Or Not To Robot

There is a lot of news these days about robots, and how they will replace workers. Yes, there will be some automation to replace human beings in the work place. How soon? It is hard to say because of all the possibilities. Robots have done amazing things in car factories. They weld, they paint, they assemble, they replace human effort. Or do they? We tend to think a robot is human. It is not. A robot is a machine that is controlled by a computer. Who controls the computer? Answer, a human. Ah, but the level of artificial intelligence has grown rapidly, and computers can now think like humans. Maybe, yes, but maybe no. even with artificial intelligence (AI) software the amount of memory and programming it takes to get a machine to think like a human is enormous. But, computers are now defeating humans in the game of chess, isn’t that proof that AI is gaining on us? Yes, but again, the computer required to play chess at that level is enormous. We take our brains for granted, but within our skull resides a computer the likes of which no computer designer or programmer will ever be able to match. Well, at least not in my lifetime.

How about the claim that robots that look like people are now able to act as sex surrogates. I’m not ready to try that one, nor do I want to. The idea of placing my very valuable and sensitive member into a machine to pleasure myself gives me visions of gears and ratchets, and gnarly wheels that turn and grind and abrade, and well you get the idea. Robots are a poor choice for having sex, maybe only a little better than the blow up sex dolls available. Think about this, you are engaged in a passionate french kiss when the saliva from you tongue leaks into the robot’s circuitry and causes the electrons to short circuit making the robot lock its arms around you in a bear hug that leaves you breathless and lifeless.

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I worked at a factory and my primary goal was to reduce labor from the manufacturing process. After trying many concepts that failed our R&D boys came up with a novel idea that worked in a prototype system. We loved it and ran with it. The concept was workable, but the practical execution was not. My teams worked out a better mechanical way to make it work. Our system had problems too, but we continued to take baby-step improvement toward long term success. When we got the thing running smoothly and steady we switched to solve another problem which was start-up. The start-up procedure we invented was purely manual, and it took a skilled technician to make it happen. Often start-ups required ten or fifteen minutes to achieve. Fifteen minutes doesn’t sound like much in a twenty-four hour day, and it wouldn’t be if things ran smoothly for twenty-four hours. The whole system was complicated, and often problems totally unrelated to automation caused the system to shut down, and that required a new start-up. To make a very long story shorter this project took a team of too many engineers twenty-years to accomplish. At the end, the system was equal to a lights out operation with very few humans present. Except when an alarm sounded and the technical-department had to come to the rescue. Automation requires a level of expertise to maintain. Alley-garage level mechanics were not the level of experts it took to get to the heart of the problem.

If automation was so easy, why do companies choose to move their operations to China and places more remote? First is the cost of automation. Making machines to make things is expensive and time consuming. The investment required to automate is enormous. It is easier to pay very cheap wages to make things by hand.  Second, maintenance is expensive and automation requires highly skilled workers to maintain them, and highly skilled workers make a very good salary.

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After finally achieving the goal to automate an entire factory the owner decided to ship the whole thing to a foreign country anyway. Why? We cost him too much. True, he eliminated most of the labor of making the product, but he was going broke paying for the technical staff required to maintain the process, and to keep it running. Think about that sex-robot you are dreaming about. Again, you are actively engaged in the act with the robot when a previously undetected bug causes the bot to go wild and he sends an alarm to the tech-staff for help. In the meantime he shuts down with his arms locked around you in an embrace of passion. There you are stuck until the Robot-nerds can come from wherever they will come from to unfreeze the operation.

It is my professional opinion that robots have come a long way toward becoming successful workers in our society, however, they will require a staff of experts to manage and maintain. It will be years before they are reliable enough to be safe in our midst. Of course Hollywood will make them glamorous and desirable by showing us how useful and good they can be. Except, that Hollywood lies a lot in the name of creativity, and over simplifies, and glorifies the actual mechanics of operation.

Back in the thirties we had some wonderful automatic food dispensers called Automats. Previous to that there were automated food vending machines in Germany in the late eighteen hundreds. The systems in the US lost favor with the public for various reason, the main one being it worked on nickels only. Think about paying for your $4.95 hamburger in nickels. At twenty nickels to the dollar you would have to pump 99 nickels into the machine to get the burger. Of course we won’t have that problem because we use credit cards today, even for a candy bar.

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Robots replacing humans is a scare tactic used by businesses who stand to lose profit if political issues like a minimum wage are on the docket. In that regard a robot works, but I don’t believe the business people understand the technical issues that would drive them into bankruptcy. Eventually, robots will succeed in making our lives better, but for now I think they are just a vision of the future. I remember the sales pitch I got from computer salesman who convinced me of all the wonderful things I would be able to do with a personal computer.  He was right, except the computer he sold me was twenty-five years away from doing all those wonderful things. Mr. Robot is probably at that stage today.

Here We Go Again

 

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The debate about repealing the UN-affordable Care Act has rekindled once again. Democrats are determined to keep the crap they invented going for as long as they can. Their hope is to stall the ACA act into bankruptcy, and to then foster a bill to push money into its entrails to keep it alive. In the meantime, the millions of people who have not been able to afford it go without any health care at all. Those who can buy it will have crappy care, and go bankrupt because they won’t be able to afford it either.

Years ago while traveling in Canada I learned that the Canadian government has universal health care for all the provinces. In their wisdom they invented a scheme which paid each province the same amount of money. It was up to the province to spend it however they wished on meeting the needs of their constituents health needs. Canadians were happy. I don’t know if that is still the case, but that is what it was back in the eighties or nineties when I traveled there.

The company I worked for decided how much they could afford to spend on health care without going broke and subsidized our company policy to that tune. If we demanded a stronger policy, the dollar difference came out of our paychecks. We grumbled a bit about having to pay more, but overall we were happy with the situation. I was lucky, I had a job, but there were still too many people who didn’t have insurance at all. Yet, none of them with a serious illness was ever refused by a hospital because they didn’t have insurance. They wound up paying the bill on an installment plan.

Currently, the Democrats are fighting against a plan similar to the one I described Canada to have. To me, granting the same amount of money to each state to take care of us makes total sense. Each state has the freedom to decide what kind of system it will have to care for us. If Illinois, a totally blue state wants to venture its bankrupt ass into a single payer system let them have at it. If Indiana wants to come up with something more cost-effective let them invent it. In either case any over-cost will be the burden on the residents living in the state.

A popular argument against the latest system proposed is that there is no provision to include insurance for customers who have a pre-existing condition. This is a very popular feature of Obama Care. It is also one of the reasons the Affordable Care Act evolved into the UN-affordable Care Act. My opinion on this matter is an argument addressed to insurance companies. Isn’t being born a pre-existing condition? When we are conceived we get a blueprint from our parents called DNA. As I understand it our DNA has within it all the reasons we get sick. Somewhere inside that helical ladder of the DNA molecule lies the nucleus for every genetic reason to get sick in a life time. After that we add into the mix the way we choose to live, eat, rest, etc. to make our health or unhealthiness more under our control. I have never heard a definition of what a pre-existing condition is. I think it means that if I apply for insurance and know I am a diabetic, that diabetes is not covered. What happens if I have diabetes and don’t know about it like too many people in the world have? Does the insurance lapse because it is discovered? Jimmy Kimmel’s argument about his son being born with a heart murmur keeps him from getting his son insured. If Jimmy was on a family plan doesn’t that include any new child born into his family? Of course if he wasn’t on the family plan and he had to purchase a separate insurance policy for the new-born I guess the kid is out of luck if Jimmy waited to buy it until he knew of his condition. It is my logical thinking that the difference between being insured, or not insured was the knowledge one has before the condition. What that leads me to is a proposal to insure your child as a fetus with a lifelong pre-condition policy. This policy would cover any pre-existing condition throughout one’s life from the instant of conception until death.

Well Grumpa Joe, how the hell am I going to do that? Does it mean I have to call my insurance agent from the bedroom, the back seat of my car, or the tent immediately after doing the deed? Of course not, you would call him upon learning of your success.

I am shocked that the insurance companies have not offered this kind of policy or policy-rider before. One can buy a life insurance policy at the time of birth, and I would say death can be defined as a pre-existing condition. We all know it is going to happen we just don’t know when. Isn’t the same true with diseases, viruses, or other conditions? Insurance companies argue that they will be taken advantage of by patients who are dying of some terrible disease, and will wait to buy insurance at the latest moment possible to cover their costs. Often they use the example of the man who crashes his uninsured car, and calls to buy insurance from the scene of the accident. I agree that scenario is not fair to the insurer, but I could buy a new car, and buy insurance from the dealership and crash the car on the way home, and the insurance company would have to cover me. I could argue that the accident was a pre-existing condition that one had by virtue of driving on any road. Diseases are no different, and insurance companies are going to have to deal with the facts and offer products for us to cover those situations.

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You may choose to buy my arguments and proposals or not, but I recommend we all push for a practical resolution to the health care problem, and not some utopian country-bankrupting system like Obama Care is intended to be. The Bill currently being proposed by Congress labeled Graham-Cassidy appears to be the most logical approach to something that will work for all of us. Call your Congressman ans Senator to vote for this bill. Imagine 50 states working independently of one another with insurance companies from all over the USA and possible from outside to brainstorm how to meet the needs of each state population. The power of that number of teams working to find solutions is unimaginable. Certainly, it will be stronger than a bunch of bureaucrats working in the walnut paneled rooms of Washington, D.C.

If I may quote Forrest Gump’s mother “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” In this analogy our illnesses, accidents, conditions are all chocolates in the box and we have no pre-knowledge of which situations we will get in life. few of us dies of old age. As my mother used to counsel me “we all have to die from something.” Life is a pre-existing condition.

 

PSA-170921-Senior Musings

Most old timers will know exactly how true these memes are, and will not consider them to be funny. I find them hilarious.

 

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PSA-170919-Baby Step to Improvement

IT TAKES SO LITTLE TO SOLVE BIG PROBLEMS!

For generations the Black community in Baltimore has been under assault by 4 Confederate Monuments! These monuments were relentless in their destruction of the Black family, resulting in over 70% of Black children being born out-of-wedlock.
So affected are Baltimoreans by these monuments that over 60% of Black men in the city could not work a job and found comfort in fathering many children with too many different women that they could not feed, nor support.
Just knowing that the monuments were there made Black school children have the lowest test scores in the Nation and many turned to drugs to relieve the pressures of those damnable monuments’ presence.
Worst of all, the mere existence of the monuments caused death! Not being able to handle the hate and violence that the monuments represented, the black men in the city took to killing each other. Just in the last 2 years they have murdered over 500 of their own!
It is a new occupying way-of-life! Praise be to God, and for the Wisdom of the Mayor…..
It is a new dawn for Black Baltimoreans! THE CITY CAN NOW PROSPER!
The shackles are gone, and we can all say…

“Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last!”

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One can now expect that Baltimore black men will marry their girl friends, and single mothers will become a term unheard of. All blacks who want a job to support their family will have one, and black children will have the social connection they need to succeed in school. Baltimore will be the model city in America proving once and for all that those damned Confederates were the cause of all racism, and hatred of blacks in America. There will no longer be a need for laws allowing blacks to receive favor for entrance into schools,  favored in job applications, and granted mortgages they can’t afford. Black Lives Matter, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton will retire permanently because their cause is gone. America will be great again, and live happily ever after.

No Explanation Needed

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Dream A Little Dream

When I listen to all the talk about DACA, and about how valuable the Dreamers are to our country I often wonder why they haven’t spoken up about the American Dream. Why don’t the Dreamers exclaim the virtues of America in comparison to their own country? Why haven’t they spoken of the great gifts they received by coming here? In comparison, other immigrants from countries further removed from the USA speak highly of their experiences. Take for example, the speech given by a Vietnamese boy, now a man, who had to flee his country. Luckily he was able to come to America. His love for America was developed by living here, and living with the freedom he didn’t have in Viet Nam.

Let hear something positive from the dreamers. Instead, we watch them demonstrate, hoot, and holler about being sent back to their homeland. They have been given a gift that others did not receive but are eternally grateful for. We don’t put demands on them, yet they proclaim their rights are being denied. What rights? Who gave them these rights? Why do they think they have rights? In school, were they taught in the English language or the language of their home country? Did they receive health care? Did they receive financial aid? Have they asked to become citizens? I can go on asking questions, but my readers will only size me up as a grouchy old man who is racist. I am grouchy, but I am not a racist. I happen to believe we are a country of laws and those who break the laws to cross the border should be held responsible. I also happen to believe that if your parents dragged your ass across the line as a child that you should be given an easier way to become a citizen, but your parents should pay the price for your good fortune. It is they who wanted you to have a better life, and they risked all they had to get it for you, now it is time for them to pay the price.

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Quang Nguyen

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2576024/posts

Thirty-five years ago if you were to tell me that I am going to stand up here speaking in English to a large group of patriots, I’d laugh at you. Every morning I wake up thanking God for putting family and me in the greatest country on earth.

I just want you all to know that the American dream does exist and I am living the American dream. I was asked to speak to you about my experience as a first generation Vietnamese American, but I rather speak to you as an American.

If you hadn’t noticed, I am not white and I feel pretty comfortable with my people.

I am a proud US citizen and here is my proof… It took me 8 years to get it, waiting in endless lines, but I got it and I am very proud of it. Guess what, I did it legally and it ain’t from the state of Hawaii.

I still remember the images of the Tet offensive in 1968. I was six years old. Now you might want to question how a 6 year old boy could remember anything. Trust me, those images can never be erased. I can’t even imagine what it was like for young American soldiers, 10,000 miles away from home, fighting on my behalf. 35 years ago, I left South Vietnam to come to America for political asylum. The war had ended. At the age of 13, I left with the understanding that I may or may not ever get to see my siblings or parents again. I was one of the first lucky 100,000 Vietnamese allowed to come to the US. Somehow, my family and I were reunited 5 months later, amazingly, in California. It was a miracle from God.

If you haven’t heard lately that this is the greatest country on earth, let me tell you, IT IS!!! It is the freedom and the opportunities presented to me that put me here with all of you tonight. I also remember the barriers that I had to overcome every step of the way. My high school counselor told me that I could not make it to college due to my poor communication skills. I proved him wrong. I finished college. You see… All you have to do is to give this little boy an opportunity and encourage him to take and run with it. Well, I took the opportunities and here I am. This person standing tonight in front of you could not exist under a socialist/communist environment. By the way, if you think socialism is the way to go, I am sure many people here will chip in to get you a one-way ticket out of here. And if you didn’t know, the only difference between socialism and communism is an AK-47 aiming at your head. That was what I knew and grew up with.

In 1983, I stood with a thousand new immigrants, reciting the pledge of allegiance and listening to the National Anthem for the first time as an American. To this day, I can’t remember anything sweeter and more patriotic than that moment in my life.

Fast forwarding, somehow I finished high school, finished college, and like any other goofball 21-year-old kid, I was having a great time with my life, I had a nice job and a nice apartment in Southern California. In someway and somehow, I had forgotten how I got here and why I am here.

One day I was at a gas station, I saw a veteran pumping gas on the other side of the island. I didn’t know what made me do it, but I walked over and asked if he had served in Vietnam. He smiled and said Yes. I shook and held his hand. His eyes started to well up. I walked away as fast as I could and at that very moment, I was emotionally rocked, this was a profound moment in life. I knew something had to change in my life. It was time for me to learn how to be a good citizen. It was time for me to give back.

You see… America is not place on the map; it isn’t a physical location. It is an ideal, a concept. And if you are an American, you must understand the concept, you must buy into this concept and most importantly, you have to fight and defend this concept. This is about Freedom… and not free stuff. And that is why I am standing up here. Brothers and sisters, to be a real American, the very least you must do is to learn English and understand it well. In my humble opinion, you cannot be a faithful patriotic citizen if you can’t speak the language of the country you live in. Take this document of 46 pages… Last I looked on the internet, there wasn’t a Vietnamese translation of the US constitution. It took me a long time to get to the point of being able to converse and until this day, I still struggle to come up with the right words. It’s not easy, but if it’s too easy, it’s not worth doing.

Before I got to know this 46-page document, I learned of the 500,000 Americans who fought for this little boy. I learned of the 58,000 names scribed on the black wall at the Vietnam War memorial. You are my heroes. You are my founders.

When I was eligible to vote, I went out and performed my civic duty. For all of you young people out there, who just turned 18, I encourage you to exercise your duty as an American to be an informed voter no matter where you are or what you do. America fought and died for your rights. DON’T LET HER DOWN!!!

At this time, I would like to ask all the Vietnam veterans to please stand. I thank you for my life. I thank you for your sacrifices, and I thank you for giving me the freedom and the liberties I have today. I now ask All veterans, firefighters, and police officers, to please stand. On behalf of all first generation immigrants, I thank you for your service and may God bless you all and may God bless America!

Strange, Sad, Hilarious

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Authors who write fiction amaze me with their ability to create characters. Where do they get them? Do they model the people whose stories they tell after real people, someone they know, a relative, themselves, or do they create them from scratch?  I just finished reading a sometimes funny sometimes sad story about a man who is strange indeed. He is a loner, an introvert, as honest as can be, but also secretly loving. His name is Ove, and the story is called A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. It came to me from my book club, and so far I have to say this story is a little unbelievable in the beginning because of the strange and unique habits of Ove. As the plot evolves so did I. Ove dug his way into my mind, and I began to like him. Slowly the humor of his eccentric life began to unfold and his actions are hilarious.

Ove is not the only character in this story that makes it a good read. Author Backman created a cast of misfits from various ethnic backgrounds to be his neighbors in a tight-knit row of houses. Even Ove’s deceased wife is a character who he talks to often during visits to her grave, and by flashing back his memories of her. We learn all about his Sonya, and their marriage through these graveside visits.

Grief is the emotion that plays on Ove’s mind. He is so saddened by his wife’s death that he wants to be with her as soon as he can. Several times he meticulously plans suicide, each time by a different method, but some strange event diverts his mind to something else, and averts his demise. This story has a happy ending but also a sad one which is not predictable

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