Archive for May, 2012


Posted by on Saturday, 26 May, 2012




(Wait until they see what comes next!)

Remember how exciting war used to be? In World War II, for example, 60 million people were killed shooting, knifing, and bombing each other.

That was almost 3% of the entire population of the world! Back in the day, they really knew how to decimate themselves.


Afghanistan sounds awful (and thank you, thank you, for your service). But this is an army? 150,000 soldiers? It used to take twice that many to run the mess halls.The amazing reality of modern warfare is that it’s becoming a robot thing. As the number of robots goes up, the number of people goes down.

Just like at Walmart.

Our robot warrior drones aren’t particularly admired in the countries we have decided to save from themselves. In Afghanistan, for example,  the drones are accused of bloody excess in the fog of war. Maybe that’s to be expected from the population of a country where we weren’t too popular to start with. And, let’s be honest, our drones could use a little work on their social skills. Good as they are, they have the unfortunate habit of sometimes bombing the neighbors.

Not only are the number of robots in our armed services increasing, but so is their degree of autonomy. Already there are roboticized weapons (Jonathan Moreno, Huffington Post) on US ships that operate “on their own” while humans just keep an eye on them and we recently deployed a robot sentry in the demilitarized zone (Korea) which has built in surveillance, tracking, firing, and voice recognition along with the ability to operate independently.  This is where things seem to be headed.

Like it or not, the days of human combatants – at least from the industrialized nations – are coming to an end faster than you may think.

MisterScienceAintSoBad doesn’t understand the big picture here.

(Neither do you, right?)

Does (frightening thought) anyone?

What kind of world are we building? Will the rich guys fight with machines while the third world bleeds the old fashioned way? Is this a mere transition until everyone fights with machines? Will war become a bloodless chess match between robots? Is this good? Is this bad?

Yikes! Yikes! Can’t we have a moratorium on change just long enough for our brains to catch up with ourselves?

Pretty please?

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Credits for above image to “Bandia Machine Robo Rescue, Evil Robot”, Victorian Science Fiction Previews, Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Posted by on Friday, 11 May, 2012





Passenger: Could you pick up the pace a LITTLE?

Me: Are you NUTS? This is a safe speed.

Passenger: You’re driving like you’re a hundred (instead of just 71.)

Here’s the thing. You get older, you get more cautious. Sometimes you actually OBEY the speed laws. Which means extracting some tailgaters from your rear bumper after you arrive. I’m not braggin’ or nothin’ but when you get older.. okay .. it’s p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e your eyesight and hearing aren’t as good. Maybe. Even your reflexes aren’t..uh.. THAT sharp.

But screw you. I drive just fine. And you ain’t gettin’ MY keys!


In fact – and contrary to what you probably think – statistics favor geezers who, while doing everything wrong and forcing YOU off the road, tend to compensate for their degraded skills by not taking so many gee-whiz chances. And – yeah – after a hundred years behind the wheel, they DO recognize black ice better than a teenager does.

Wisdom, see?

Doesn’t mean geezering around in a vehicle’s perfect. The risks are real. Some older drivers are b-a-d! And I MEAN bad! Some oldsters could take you out  as you’re leaving the church with your top hat on. At the TOP of the steps.

What to do?

Senior drivers have, obviously, earned the right to a little consideration. It means a lot to be able to drive.

Independence and self respect.

For some, it doesn’t feel like a choice. They don’t have anybody in their lives to take the wheel.




The Intelligent Transport team  (Newcastle University) with Dr. Amy Guo at the head, has created a duded up car. It’s a mobile lab with sensors and monitors to figure out if customized aids such as night vision systems, specialized navigation systems, adaptive speed management, and various other innovations can keep older drivers behind the wheel longer and, hence, keep them healthier and more independent overall. The work is to be presented to the Aging, Mobility and Quality of Life conference in Michigan.

For those who are too far gone for Guo’s technology, autonomous (self driving) vehicles should offer another option before long.


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Credits for the car plowing through the stone wall to Martin Addison  Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.