June 20, 2018

Robots–Don’t Look Now . . .

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By Bishop,
Special Excentric Winter Scribe

A room without books is like a body without soul. Cicero

To Sedona’s most articulate author and war-time hero, Alan Graham Collier, “the purpose of education is to make people think for themselves.” Over coffee at a coffee house in Flagstaff, he was shaken to discover that this maxim isn’t always appreciated, celebrated or understood. It had been some time since he’d been to this celebrated place for coffee and gossip but his memory was clear enough to remember that most everybody was reading a book. Not this time, no sir. This time everyone had laptops, no one had a book, at all at all.

Steaming coffee in hand, Collier asked one young man typing away what he was doing.

“I am accessing information,” said the young man.

“Really, what do you do when you’ve got it?” Alan asked.

“Ah, I print it.”

“What do you do then?”

“I hand it in.”

“You hand it in for what?”

“For my course.”

“You mean you get snippets and you make…”

“Nothing like that.”

“What is the course for?”

“Global warming.”

“Interesting. Are you going to raise questions?”

“No. why?”

“Icebergs are melting.”

“Really?”

Relaxing at Judi’s recently, this pilgrim asked the brilliant Brit what the world of education will look like in a decade if educational disarray is not remedied at some level. Staring at me, locking my green eyes with his baby blues, he pronounced that “it is going to be a robotic society. People today don’t read much, they want instant gratification, a few facts; indeed the problem is we have a fact oriented education. How do young people relate to the philosophy of life? What of care, what of compassion, sympathy. What do robots know, anyway?”

A legendary teacher at Yale U., a master of English grammar, the elements of style, the dear man managed to get his tense wrong. It’s not just going to be a robotic society, such a society is nearly here, is here in the military. What’s more, citizens will see vehicles roaring by with no one at the wheel. Even now airplanes are being assembled by robots; so are cars. Surgical operations in more places than you think, gentle reader, are being performed by robots right straight out of sci-fi novels.

Money is being moved from one coast to the other. Companies have been spun out from MIT along with a wide variety of engineers that work creating robots in Asia, Europe, and across the U.S. and near Tombstone, Arizona.

Already some weird stories are breaking in newspapers less responsible than the one you have in your hand right now. Leading the list is a special creature created by an electronic company in Japan. I don’t know the Japanese language, but I surely would if the publisher of this overpriced sheet were not such a skinflint. Anyhow, the beast of a robot stands 13ft high, and is controlled by an iPhone. Way past any kind of gun control or NRA fantasies, its futuristic weapons are capable of firing 6,000 bullets a minute. The way it is, according to deeply confused sources in China, it fires when the pilot, whoever she is, smiles. Any amount of research in other, smaller local papers won’t reveal that robots are fighting all over the place, and casualties have gone unreported due to secrecy.

Closer to home, rumors are flying that somewhere east of Cornville disgruntled politicians, losers across the board, are creating handsome, smart robots to run for the glory in the next election. Insiders say they will have the face of Teddy Roosevelt or Brad Pitt.

Even closer to home, meaning from Maine to Prescott, teachers are being furloughed, let go, sent into dungeons because their students can’t count or spell, let alone write a smooth, mellifluous sentence. Any hope is bound to be dashed by news that a robotic-like auto grader which can score essays on standardized tests, at least as well as human teachers are able to score. Worse news still is that the robo-grader can work many times faster than human teachers. Get ready for what faster means, according to neutral sources after swilling adult beverages at a local watering hole somewhere in deep West Sedona: 16,000 essays can be graded in 20 seconds according to one outgoing local teacher now aiming for a lifeguard job at a fancy swimming club deep in Skull Valley, Arizona.

One drawback: the Robo-grader. According to amazingly well-informed inside sources, actually two, it refuses to fact check and does not appreciate poetry.

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