Friday, 25 April 2008

Odds and Ends #5

Moose Miracle

While I was waiting for the page to load, I was chastising myself for having missed any previous articles concerning the intelligence of moose. Up to that moment, I was unaware they even had the ability to add or subtract; never mind learning to multiply. I was immediately in awe of those stoic Scandinavians being able to herd these high strung ungulates into a classroom; and then instilling in them the basis of mathematics and the opportunity to become partners in the worldwide capitalist society. After all, years ago Mr. Ed could only add and chimpanzees have been restricted to short pictorial sentences, with a lot of food rewards for encouragement. So I eagerly anticipated reading the complete story as soon as it flashed on the screen.
Drats. I was sucked in by a cleverly worded headline. Moose in Scandinavia are no smarter than their brethren in Northern British Columbia, except they may be more amorous – how else to explain the multiplying.

Robot Rollouts

What the good professor is not telling us? Robots are loose among us and not only the benign ones building the cars and vacuuming the floors. Already, the competent companions for the elderly population and the happy helpers for the playschools and daycares may have been instilled quietly, with little fanfare, into our society at the behest and backing of our federal government. The head mechanical man is already well placed to continue infiltrating his kin into our population with the complete cooperation of our national ministries and departments. And who is this chief architect of our introduction to widespread robothood and possible ‘big brothers’ – why our very own Prime Minister Stephen Harper! What else could explain the slow, deliberated body and brain movements? None-the-less, rumour has it he is concerned about the appellation ‘dumb’ machines as applied to his extended family in the linked article.
Somehow the moral and ethical dilemmas concerning the future of robotics fail to get close to the top of the current impending doom list of troubles facing society. Concerns about climate, energy, food, and terrorism are but a few of the problems; living in fear of an ankle biting vacuum cleaner hardly hits the top one hundred.
BTW, if a robot doctor examines and operates on your prostate, will he/she/it be offended if you request that he/she/it warm up their hands or claws or snippers?


What a revelation; once again science triumphs over common sense. Anyone who has ever laboured in a dead end job, a repetitive function or non-stimulating atmosphere can attest to the fact of wandering focus. And in most cases, we know ourselves our attention begins to dart ever more swiftly among many competing thoughts and are entirely aware of our drifting concentration. The answer, of course, involves adjusting those in monotonous positions into regulated lab rats. Stick a beanie on them, insert wired probes into the brain mass and punish them for misplaced thoughts or inappropriate day dreaming. Given the opportunity to machine enhance the human species; science will continually opt for an invasive solution to problems instead of altering the task to better suit our psychology.
From my observation, it may be over concentration producing the same negative results and an electric impulse fired into the brain may not have the desired effect. Not long ago, I happened to be in a hospital emergency department where I was watching paramedics bring in a person who had suffered from a fall or possible heart attack. The patient was on a stretcher and breathing through an oxygen mask hooked up to a stationary tank. One of the paramedics began to adjust the intravenous needle in the crux of the man’s arm and casually pulled the stretcher over into the light. Unknowingly to the attendant, this wrapped the oxygen supply tube around the victim’s neck and pulled tight enough to restrict his breathing. Even though the gasping became audible the paramedic was so involved in replacing the needle properly, he failed to respond. Moments later, the other paramedic returned and initially began to help with the needle. As I started over to warn them about the man’s discomfort, the second paramedic finally became aware of the problem and moved the stretcher back to loosen the tube. Had a brain machine restricted their focus to the importance of replacing the needle correctly; the patient could simply die from lack of oxygen.
Personally, I have reservations about injecting fish genes into the DNA of tomatoes, and like experiments; so any unnecessary enhancements to my brain requiring relinquishing my decision making to a machine are presently rejected.


In a hockey centric city like Vancouver, it will be more than strange to find the lowliest member of the team structure – the stick boy - have more experience and knowledge than the newly installed General Manager. After mumbling through a press conference on the firing of Dave Nonis and explicitly acknowledging the need for a seasoned professional in the driver’s seat, the team ownership, led by Francesco Aquilini, opted instead to install a bobblehead figure in the front office. Based on previous interviews, the Aquilini’s have left no doubts as to their desire to micro manage the team themselves and are unlikely to tolerate independent underlings. Once they have Gillis totally indoctrinated, he will become the perfect figurehead to send to league meetings, handle the press and preside at photo ops. Be sure to take special notice if both Mike and Francesco are together at the same functions – are Aquilini’s lips moving when Gillis pretends to hold court? All in all, a very tactical and intelligent move. Should the situation not improve and the Canucks continually denied the glory of a Stanley Cup triumph; simply fire the underperforming general manager who was given’ carte blanche’ to build a contender and failed. Should a miracle occur and the cup come to Vancouver, make no mistake- all the credit will be claimed by ownership for their prescience in taking a hands on approach.

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