It’s the little things.
I’ve been studying electronics as a hobby, learning what I can from Youtube videos, books, and mistakes. I’ve wanted to understand computers and the like. I’ve built a couple. You open up a computer; see all the pieces; and then you ask, “Where is the magic? Which piece is the piece that turns electricity into thinking?”
After I few years I can still say that I don’t know much, but I know there is no such magic piece. It’s not there. You’ve got resistors, capacitors, diodes, transistors, inductors, and chips made from combinations of these on the micro scale, but there is not a bit of magic in any of them.
Working with these electronic parts is like plumbing, but instead of piping water around, you are piping electricity around.
And this is hard to understand. We are now at a point where a computer can tell me what I want to buy; it can get me to where I want to go; it can help me to communicate with hundreds of people all over the world. And it if got here from a machine that could only awkwardly do arithmetic less than 100 years ago.
How did we get here?
Well, it happened little by little.
While I don’t know much, I have found out that the folks who design computers know how to sweep complication under a rug. They draw their diagrams in such a way as to show you only what they want to talk about. Anyone who has tried to read one of these diagrams will agree that’s hard enough, but the engineers do their communication in such a way to keep you focused on what they are trying to tell you.
It’s sort of like saying Romeo and Juliet is about a boy and a girl. They get out one thing first; they make sure you’ve got a grip on that; and they make sure you understand it before they show you the dead bodies.
So we started in with adding machines and have ramped ourselves up, one step at a time, building complication upon complication until we are where we are.
And where is that?
I was reading my phone last week and saw that in Japan they’ve developed a robot that looks just like a woman. (Well, at least close enough to evoke the word “creepy.”) Beyond looking like a woman, it is like a woman in other ways. Anyway, while we need not out and say it, those who understand how the world works know what this robot is going to be used for.
Japan has been out in front on robotic design. It has robotic factories. And on the human front, It has an inverted population pyramid. What I mean when I say that is they have more old people than they have young people because of a low birthrate. I may be going out on a limb here, but it doesn’t seem too far a step to say that they have more robots because they don’t have enough people to do the work.
And given human propensities and the fact that dealing with a robotic human is easier in so many ways than dealing with a flesh and blood one, I don’t think that this robot is going to help the inverted pyramid any.
Just a guess.
Big changes very often come incrementally over time. While there were a few visionaries who saw what changes could happen with the computer back in the day, they were mostly those wild-eyed science fiction writers.
I can’t say what’s going to happen because I am not crazy enough — please, someone agree — but we need to be careful because we get to where we are going with baby steps.
— Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.