You probably don’t remember the première of this movie — it came out in 1917, when today’s world of machine ubiquity was a cloud no larger than a man’s hand.
We’re now used to robots being able to drive trains, planes, and automobiles, walk on Mars, defuse bombs, and carry out intra-vascular examinations (though not – yet, at least – all at the same time).
This week saw a game-changer, though – a team from Singapore has built a machine that can erect an IKEA chair (endearingly called Stefan) (the chair, that is, not the machine – please keep up).
Furthermore, it takes less than nine minutes — although (like its human counterparts) it first has to spend rather longer staring at the assembled pieces, wondering how in the world they are supposed to fit together.
Clearly more and more jobs which are presently done by
us knuckleheads H. Sapiens will eventually (and probably sooner than we think) be replaced by robots – but how much of a threat is this to your business?
Do you provide a service which depends on human to human interaction? And if not, could you diversify into areas which will?
This is not a straightforward problem – so perhaps eight heads would be better than one? How would it be if you could have regular meetings with seven other business owners, with no axe to grind, to give you challenging and supportive advice? If that sounds good, you know where to come!
That’s enough business stuff (Ed) – time to move on to other oddities of the week –
• …. starting with other robotic news, Alexa (Amazon’s digital handmaiden) (come to think of it, presumably all handmaidens are digital? – Pedantic Ed) is to diversify into a kids’ version (a snip at $80), which will teach the little dears to say “please” and “thank you”, and provides “age appropriate” content whenever they say “I’m bored”. The modification for the kids’ version followed earlier adverse feedback, with one father claiming that by obeying his four-year-old daughter’s every command without expecting any courtesy, Alexa (the adult version) had turned the little girl into “a raging monster” (who’d’ve guessed it, eh?)
• hope you’ve been enjoying the sunshine – not before time, eh? Just as well – a study of 3.5 billion social media posts (surprisingly, not just a couple of days of Mr Trump’s Twitter feed) reveals that freezing weather depresses people almost as much as a terrorist attack (3.5 billion? Who does this research stuff? And how do they get funding for it? – Old Fogey Ed)….
• …. but in other survey news, the Office for National Statistics has rather better tidings (for some of us at least) – Blighty’s pensioners are happier, have a greater sense of self-worth, and are less anxious than all other age groups (hurrah)
• if you’re younger than that (or even if you’re not) boffins from Lima Linda Uni (in California) (where else?) (presumably named after a lady from Peru? – I’ll get me coat – Ed) offer hope – eating chocolate can improve stress levels, mood, and memory (any woman could have told them that — Ed). It has to be the posh stuff, though (with a high concentration of cacao)
• the auction houses come up with ever more bizarre ways of recycling money from
rich idiots connoisseurs back into the economy – two bottles of The Macallan (1926) were sold this week for $1.2 million (I know it’s good malt, but …. – Ed)
• we’ve been accustomed to snazzy new words entering the OED, but it’s reassuring (to some at least) to find out that most of them don’t last long (think “youthquake”, which was Word of the Year in 2017) – though this is not a new phenomenon – other words which have fallen out of favour (slightly less recently) include “appetency”, “caducity”, “esurient”, “fizgig”, “picaroon”, and “slugabed” – if you fancy a shot at guessing their meaning, answers are at the end of the post (no peeking, though). If you know their meaning, you probably attended the première of this week’s movie
• this week’s Awww story involves the good ship Adventure, which embarked on her maiden voyage to America in November (from Mauritania) but has now run into trouble. The Adventure is only about three feet long, and is owned by Ollie Ferguson (8) and his brother Harry (5). She carries a tracking device, which shows that she’s now only about 100 miles from Guyana, but the batteries are running out. The crew of the Stena Carron(an offshore drilling ship which is rather longer than three feet) have offered to help to find her and recharge the batteries
• if you frequently have the urge to walk out of tedious work meetings or hang up on contacts who are banging on on the phone (and you don’t fancy running your own business hem hem), contact Mr Elon Musk (who recommended both courses of action in a leaked list of six productivity guidelines for staff at Tesla). Mr M, who is South African (he also owns SpaceX, where the Mars spacecraft prototype is codenamed the BFR – short for Big F**king Rocket), also advocates George Orwell’s Six Rules for Writing – of which more next week (if Radio 4 can broadcast endless trailers, why not the BP, eh?)
• if you’re at a loose end on Sunday, why not drop in at the Novello Theatre (in the West End), where the latest mock trial of a Shakespearean character will be presided over by Lady Justice Hallett (a Court of Appeal judge). This year’s man in the dock is Richard III, following Macbeth in 2015 (acquitted, after blaming it all on his wife) and Hamlet (acquitted in 2016 after pleading self-defence – causing Hallett LJ to comment that the verdict was “against the weight of evidence and against all reason”)
• this week’s news from the animal kingdom –
• …. English Heritage reveal that clothes moths prefer the Soft Sahf (Worcestershire, Wiltshire, and London are the worst places) ….
• …. Prof Marc Bekoff (author of Canine Confidential, a new book on dog behaviour) reckons that dogs are not just brighter than cats, but have a sense of humour (“I have seen no evidence of a sense of humour in cats”). Huh – a) clearly he didn’t look hard enough — b) the Prof has a book to plug – c) he’s hardly unbiased – and d) which species contributes nothing practical, lives the life of Riley, rules the household, is waited on hand and foot (or rather, paw and paw), and spends most of the time asleep? ….
• …. and our beloved Prime Minister has been warned of a new security threat – a broody (subbies – please check spelling – Ed) duck which has taken up residence in a window box outside the Cabinet Room, and which is extremely aggressive if approached too closely. She has acquired the nickname Duckula (and as an aide explained, “when their eggs are about to hatch, they go a bit quackers”)
• …. which provides a seamless (what other kind is there? hem hem) link to two other great (??) punchlines this week –
• …. a(nother) study shows that horses can recognise human facial expressions and remember them later (enabling a variant on an old classic – man goes into a stable – horse says “why the long face?”) ….
• …. and minutes of the Bank of England disclose that all the cash (£600,000 of it) smuggled out of its incinerator plant in the 1990’s (by fraudulent staff who hid the notes in their underpants) has now been recovered. Offers a new take on money laundering ….
• and finally, some rather depressing news – schools are removing clocks with hands and numbers from exam halls and replacing them with digital clocks, because pupils have lost the art of telling the time, according to Mr Malcolm Trobe (deputy general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders). All very well – but as a Times letter correspondent pointed out, if they’re that
thick challenged, how will the little dears be able to subtract the time on the clock from the exam finish time accurately enough to know how much time is left?
On to Columbo Corner, which features the week’s Bluffington Post D’ohhh Award Winner. Step forward Mr Timothy Hill (67) who was photographed three times on the A19 in North Yorkshire in December sticking his middle finger up to a police speed van. Plod was puzzled why no speed was registered by the camera, and it turned out that Mr H’s Range Rover was (illegally) fitted with a laser jammer. Unfortunately it didn’t occur to him that they could track him down via his numberplate…. PC Andrew Forth commented “if you want to attract our attention, repeatedly gesturing at police camera vans with your middle finger while you’re driving a distinctive car fitted with a laser jammer is an excellent way to do it”. Mr H got eight months in chokey
Have a great weekend – and if you’re visiting Dobbin, don’t forget to smile….
Have a great weekend –
Cheers for now
Those words –
• appetency = desire or longing
• caducity = the infirmity of old age (welcome to my world – Ed)
• esurient = hungry
• fizgig = silly young woman
• picaroon = a scoundrel
• slugabed = a lazy person
I presently run three Boards –
Dark Blue (for people who run large businesses) – one spare seat
Light Blue (for people who run large businesses) — two spare seats
White Board (for people who run fast-growing businesses) — two spare seats
“Climate is what we expect; weather is what we get” (Mark Twain)
“I am determined to prove a villain” (Richard, in Richard III Act I sc I) (but he hadn’t been read his rights…. and the recording machine hadn’t been switched on….)
“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea” (Robert Heinlein)
“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this” (Terry Pratchett)
By Tom Morton, TAB Harrogate