Ed Driscoll

WHY I DON'T HAVE COMMENTS

WHY I DON’T HAVE COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG, PART MDCCXXXIX: The robot article in Tech Central Station has some unitentionally hilarous comments on it (scroll down to end of article). Perhaps the first one set the tone, where a reader complained that I should have written an article about our coming natural gas crisis rather than robots. I probably should have analyzed the Zapruder film, Paul Wellstone’s death, and figured out what was in the case in Pulp Fiction as well, but I didn’t–I wrote about what I wrote about, sorry.

The newest comment is a corker as well:

How sad. Old folks are to be kept in isolation, cut off from family and society, served (clunkily) by robots. How sad that this is our vision of the future, especially when robotics and computers could be used instead to enrich us all and free people from the need to do meaningless work. But no, increasing productivity means workers face cutoff from the economy, and must accept lower wages. Everyone who can must take whatever crappy jobs they can find. All the people who aren’t home taking care of their elders will instead be in boiler rooms phoning them with schemes to rip them off. The twilight of capitalism. What a travesty.

Let’s deconstruct this one, shall we?

Old folks are to be kept in isolation, cut off from family and society, served (clunkily) by robots.

When my mother-in-law (who passed away in February) had a series of strokes beginning around the fall of 2000, she was far from cut-off from society. My wife and I flew regularly across the country, to visit her in Manhattan. (Most of my blog entries from the East Coast last year were for that very reason). She also regularly saw her family and friends who lived in the area. But they couldn’t be there all the time, which is why we hired a home healthcare aide, a considerable expense. Engleberger’s idea for a robot isn’t designed to replace either family or an aide, but to supplant them, during those inevitable times that neither can be present.

How sad that this is our vision of the future, especially when robotics and computers could be used instead to enrich us all and free people from the need to do meaningless work.

When did I say this was “our” vision of the future? I simply reported what one entrepreneuaral inventor told me over the phone. Also, aren’t machines already enriching us already? Your dishwasher and garbage disposal in the kitchen are robots of a sort–simply very, very stupid robots. The Roomba robot vacuum cleaner is a slightly more sophisticated robot. And as I said in the article, these devices are the equivilent of where personal computers were in the mid-1970s. Think about the applications that your PC runs today, compared to (if you even experimented with computers in the late 1970s) the BASIC programs you tinkered with back then.

Everyone who can must take whatever crappy jobs they can find. All the people who aren’t home taking care of their elders will instead be in boiler rooms phoning them with schemes to rip them off. The twilight of capitalism. What a travesty.

Holy head-spinning jump to conclusions, Batman! Have we smoked a little too much Jeremy Rifkin?

Besides, if it is the “the twilight of capitalism”, why are you worried about phoning your elders “with schemes to rip them off”? Once the state replaces capitalism, I’m sure the state will have better jobs for you than simply phoning your elders.

But before we consign capitalism to the dustbin of history, let’s flashback a bit. At its lowest point in the early 1930s, at the very bottom of the Depression, the Dow closed at about 40. When it reopened on September 17th, 2001, a week after three fully fueled aircraft plunged into the two towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, it closed at 8,921.