It’s not easy to imagine a thing more gorgeous than Santiago Calatrava’s original 2004 design for Manhattan’s post 9/11 transportation hub–a cloud-like construction that could make you forget all about the rain–but it was from the start a promise that could not be completely kept, a dream demanding downsizing. Still beautiful, but more modest and twice costlier than planned. But wishing too hard can’t be the only cause of enmity directed at the architect by peers, press and some clients, can it? Why does he rile so many? The following is the opening of Karrie Jacobs’ Fast Company feature, “Santiago Calatrava: The World’s Most Hated Architect?

___________________________

At a recent symposium featuring the renowned architects Michael Graves and Peter Eisenman, talk turns to fellow architect Santiago Calatrava.

“Cala-fucking-trava! What a waste,” says Graves, a founding father of Postmodernism and the man who brought high design to Target. Then he does his best Calatrava impression: “‘I will make wings for you and this subway station will cost $4 billion dollars.'” 

Eisenman, best known for the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, chimes in: “When Calatrava came to Yale, he got up after a long introduction. He said: ‘I’m going to draw.’ He had a camera over a drawing board. He turned on music. And he drew for a whole hour. He turned the music off and walked off the stage.”

“Such arrogance,” Graves says.

It’s rare to hear important figures in architecture publicly attack a colleague with such undisguised venom. But, where Calatrava is concerned, it is open season.

The Spanish architect built his reputation on a series of graceful harp-like bridges—Seville’s Puente de Alamillofor instance—that transformed engineering into an art form. But now he is better known for his design of the wildly overbudget and behind schedule World Trade Center Transportation Hub (due to open by late 2015). Last year, the New York Times ran a feature-length takedown of him, enumerating every disaster—the slippery bridge in Bilbao, the flood-prone opera house in Valencia, the over-budget bridges in the Netherlands. The name of one website cited in the piece: “Calatrava bleeds you dry.”

In a recent interview at Calatrava’s Park Avenue townhouse in New York, I asked the architect why he thought he was getting such awful press. “Because you have to suffer,” he replied. “There is so much vulgarity in the everyday, that when somebody has the pretension to do something extraordinary for the community, then you have to suffer.” And suffer he does. On paper, his projects seem like worst-case scenarios, architecture as extravagance, the Versailles School of infrastructure. But then, every so often, you set foot in one of Calatrava’s works.•

Tags: , , ,

Russian oligarchs are generally thought to tacitly approve of Vladimir Putin despite his devastating recent impact on the economy, having been so enriched by his chronic kleptocracy, but that’s not necessarily so of former oligarchs. Once one of the wealthiest people in the world, the erstwhile oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 on charges of fraud and later jailed for nine years. It may be difficult to imagine big business in post-Soviet Russia free of fraud, but Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment was clearly motivated by Putin’s political gamesmanship. Now a free man with a much-diminished-but-still-impressive bankroll, the petrol plutocrat these days identifies more with his recent political-prisoner status and speaks openly of Putin’s ouster. From Neil Buckley at the Financial Times:

“Then he makes a startling admission, telling me that before his arrest, he had — as was rumoured at the time — held talks with deputies from Putin’s ruling United Russia party and other political groups about constitutional changes were Putin to step down as president in 2008, at the end of his second term. The idea was to make it ‘safe’ for Putin to leave office, by reducing the power of any future president and increasing that of parliament. Khodorkovsky, who was briefly a deputy energy minister in the Yeltsin era, says the politicians he was talking to suggested that he should be interim prime minister, to conduct that reform. As he tells it, he was ready to do so, if the next president wanted him.

Did Putin know about this? Was this why he was arrested?

‘Putin knew, but I don’t know if [my arrest] was because of this. It was a whole set of reasons. Of course, he was afraid. He feared I might organise a revolution. You know, I didn’t have that kind of idea then. But I do now.’

He is not planning an actual revolution, he quickly adds: his supporters in Russia do not want it, and it would be dangerous since the country is not, he believes, ready for political change.

Russia is, however, undergoing a severe economic crisis. Combined with a plunging oil price, western sanctions in response to Russian intervention in Ukraine have helped bring about a rapidly devaluing rouble, rising inflation and recession. Some suggest that Putin, despite Ukraine-boosted approval ratings, could fall victim to the problems.

A few days after our conversation, the Russian currency goes into an even more serious meltdown. But Khodorkovsky cautions against over-estimating the impact of the crisis, saying Russia’s reserves should be sufficient to get through its difficulties. A popular uprising is possible but unlikely; the street protests of 2011 proved shortlived.

‘Economic crisis won’t decide anything by itself, unless society understands that there’s an alternative,’ he says. ‘And that’s what we’re trying to show people.’

If things continue to deteriorate, the Russian president could, says Khodorkovsky, be forced from power in various ways, including a palace coup by his entourage. ‘We don’t know of a single authoritarian regime that is eternal, still less one that’s not based on any ideology. There’s the question of whether we’ll live to see this or not, but there’s a chance we will.’ He laughs.”

Tags: , ,

The less-important fallout of the Sony hack has been the trove of hilariously bitchy comments about this actor or that one by producers and executives who seem to have only one foot in the editing suite, the other lodged in a sandbox. Apart from those with bigoted overtones, none of the messages should have seen the light of day. It’s unfair and an invasion of privacy. But, you know, wow. 

Of course, it’s nothing new. In 1976, the exasperated filmmaker and erstwhile journalist Frank Pierson needed no cyberterrorists to reveal the mishegoss that was the making of A Star Is Born, gleefully “hacking” himself for “My Battles with Barbra and Jon,” an article he penned for New West magazine. Amazingly, it was published before the film premiered. That is something that is not done now in Hollywood, and was it not done then, but Pierson did it, much to the chagrin of star Barbra Streisand and her husband/producer Jon Peters, a notoriously difficult duo, and Kris Kristofferson, who went the Method route for his character of an erratic rock star with substance-abuse issues. An excerpt about the fraught filming of the centerpiece stadium scene:

“It is three weeks before the outdoor rock concert, for which we’ve rented a vast football stadium in Phoenix. The scene will run at most five to eight minutes on screen. The action involves Kris showing off to Barbra by taking her onstage at a huge concert. Drunk and coked up, he abandons the music and, trying to ride a motorcycle onstage, loses control and zooms off into the audience. It is the last straw and will ruin his career. We must fill the stadium, which takes some 40,000 or 50,000 people. It is essential to get some feeling on screen of the weight and size and pressure in the lives of rock musicians. Jon has been full of mad schemes. Now, only three weeks away from shooting, the planned all-day live concert turns out to be nonexistent. This is a disaster of such magnitude that I cannot think about it. All I can do is shoot whatever is there the day we arrive.

The action I have planned is detailed in sketches. Barbra and Jon want to see them. ‘This is the heart of the picture, this is the action part for people like me!’ Jon says, bouncing around the office. He acts out his idea of how to do it. He wants to hire Evel Knievel for $25,000, construct a jumping ramp so Knievel, doubling for Kris, will drive the bike off the stage through the paying customers for a hundred yards, scattering them like bowling pins, and, hitting the ramp, fly into the air from the audience 150 feet back over the stage and crash into the instruments. The stunt of the century. Something nobody who sees this picture will ever forget. ‘For people like me, who like action. We got to set some action, some excitement into this picture.’ He is pacing about feverishly. I look at Barbra. She’s not listening. ‘Listen, where are the close-ups?’ she asks. ‘There are never any close-ups in this picture. When I worked with Willy Wyler, we had close-ups in every scene.’

I call her attention to some of the more recent close-ups, forgetting my decision not to discuss these things with her. Soon we are embroiled in exactly how close up a close-up really has to be to be called a close-up. Jon studies the storyboard for the stunt. ‘This is shit,’ he says.

We have no concert, I remind him. Let’s get the concert organized before we worry over the stunt. Promoter Bill Graham is hired to get together a concert. After a month of Jon’s waffling about, Graham has it all nailed down in a few days, together with a schedule that allots me four hours on stage with camera, in two two-hour sessions. Peter Frampton is the topliner. We are selling tickets at $3.50 apiece. We might even make money. ‘I’m paying him a fortune.’ Jon crows, ‘but he’s worth it. He’s tough, he’s like me, he’s a street fighter.’

Evel Knievel has been forgotten.

We look at a first assembly of major scenes, the recreation of the Leon Russell piano incident. Kris croaks the lyrics to her music with a boyish delight. He sounds as if the music and the words had only that moment occurred to him. He is perfect. She is magical. Words are no good for it; the scene simply makes you feel wonderful. Barbra is crying. ‘It’s better than my dreams!’ she says. And then she turns to Peter Zinner, the editor. ‘But Peter! You used the wrong take! Why did you do that? That was a mistake!’ We patiently explain the difficulties of cutting, how sometimes you have to sacrifice a marginally better take in order to get a better rhythm, or to be able to use some other piece that is essentially better. She is unconvinced.

‘When I get the film,’ she says to me later, ‘will he do it my way?’

I check. Barbra’s companies own the negative. She has final cut on the film. Barbra is preoccupied with a press party Warners is giving, flying in reporters and photographers from all over the country for a conference, a luncheon press party on the set and the outdoor rock concert the next day.

Kris, uptight about press, worried over his music, is tense, angry over her interference. His new record has just come out and been panned by Rolling Stone and most everyone else. He’s drinking tequila washed down with cold beer.

Barbra rehearses with the band on her numbers and uses up Kris’s time, so he has no rehearsal. Coldly furious, he refuses to come out of his trailer. ‘Goddamnit!’ he says. ‘I’ve got to go out and play it in front of 60.000 people, but she doesn’t give a damn.’

Barbra and I are trying to explain a minor change; we agree for once, but Kris has had all he can handle. He doesn’t want to be told what to do with his music. He explodes. Barbra explodes. The mikes are open: they are screaming at each other over a sound system that draws complaints from five miles away. The press is delighted. This is what they came for. Sulks in trailers. Jon Peters threatening Kris. Kris talking tougher. The director knocking on trailer doors, playing Kissinger. Notable quotes. Quotable notables. You read about it inTime.

Now our differences have become news events. It heightens the tension, and the feeling of being perpetually misunderstood. These clashes happen on all pictures: they become part of the creative process from which the picture emerges. They are unavoidable. And the press is uncontrollable and mischievous. They know a good story when they see one, but we wish they’d check their facts.

At seven o’clock in the morning, the dawn brushes the crowd with blood orange. They are there. By mid-morning some 55,000 curiously clean and docile people are listening to the opening acts. It is overwhelming. The sheer size and sound of the crowd reduce our conflicts and tensions to a proper perspective. But the communications are incredibly difficult. I have a schedule of shots in mind: I run from setup to setup. At the morning break, the two-hour session during which we have the stage, I face horror: The props and set dressing for our action have all been pushed back and replaced with instruments and amps and paraphernalia of the various acts onstage. The first hour of our allotted two is wasted moving furniture to match what I’ve already shot.

The crowd is mercurial. Fifty-five thousand strong, they scream and chant: ‘No more filming, no more filming!’ though we haven’t even begun. We make the shot. Things break, a plug-in wire for Kris’s guitar is too short, nothing works. Nobody can hear. The noise, the pandemonium, the incipient panic are all but overwhelming. I remember the advice of a London bobby about facing crowds and one’s own tendency to panic: Imagine a piano wire attached to the inside of one’s skull, stretched tight all the way through the body and down to the center of the earth. Nothing can move you. Zen.”

Tags: , , ,

Neither Mussolini nor Michael Jackson died for their art, but for something else. They each used every tool and talent to build something which would outlast them. They hungered for enduring fame, to be perched in a pantheon. But why did they care about their legends outliving them? Why does anyone? Notoriety has its privileges during life, but the bigger payoff is one that can’t be enjoyed by those who “possess” it. It’s the gift that can never really be opened.

Two passages about fame, the first from Zia Haider Rahman’s panoramic novel, In the Light of What We Know, the second the opening of “Everlasting Glory,” a customarily excellent piece by Stephen Cave at Aeon.

_______________________________

From Rahman:

“The whole thing is too abstract, continued Zafar, this business of our lives standing for something else. All we know is that we don’t want it to stand for nothing. So we dive headlong into becoming heroes, becoming the big swinging dick on Wall Street or the rock star or the hot-shot human rights lawyer. Which is about making our lives stand for something that our intelligence can grasp, saving us from what we fear might be true–or what we would fear if we gave ourselves the chance–namely, that we’re accidental pieces of flesh, mutton without meaning.”

_______________________________

From Cave:

“Glaucus was no coward. He had killed four men, and that was no easy matter when they were charging at him through the dust and din, waving sharp swords and screaming. In those days, it wasn’t just a matter of pulling a trigger or pressing a button. You had to push your spear hard through armour and bone, and watch as their eyes first pleaded, then grew large, then went out.

At the same time, though, Glaucus wasn’t entirely sure about this business of killing and dying. At the head of the Trojan allies gathering to storm the Greek camp, he hesitated. His cousin and commander, Sarpedon, king of Lycia, saw his hesitation, turned to him and said: ‘My good friend, if, when we were once out of this war, we could escape old age and death for ever, I should neither press myself forward in battle nor bid you do so. But death in 10,000 forms hangs ever over our heads, and no man can elude him; therefore let us go forward and win glory.’

So together they led the Lycian division in a charge at the Greek barricades, causing panic among the defenders. But the Greeks had their own heroes out to win glory: the giant Ajax came running to rally his comrades, accompanied by his brother Teucer the archer, who promptly shot Glaucus in the arm as he was mounting the rampart. Our hero was forced to withdraw from the battle, his bid for glory thwarted.

Only later, when the tide of war had changed and the Greeks were on the offensive, did Glaucus have a second chance. Achilles, the greatest warrior of them all, had led a charge deep into Troy; a fierce fight then raged over the body of his companion Patroclus, who had been wearing Achilles’ god-forged armour, and Glaucus led the Trojan side. But again the mighty Ajax stood in his way, and this time ended the young Lycian’s glory seeking for good.

You might not have heard of Glaucus. His was, after all, only a bit part in the drama of the Trojan war. He was valiant enough, but failed in both his attempts to win a place on the A-list of heroic celebrity. This might make him seem rather pitiable (and we haven’t even mentioned the episode when ‘Zeus took his wits’ and Glaucus swapped his golden armour for another warrior’s outfit of mere bronze). But if we are tempted to pity him, then we haven’t listened closely enough to his friend Sarpedon: if Glaucus had not fought at Troy, would he have ‘escaped old age and death for ever’? Of course not; no one does. But through his valorous – if slightly ineffectual – exploits, here I am writing about him 3,000 years later. That was the prize for which he fought. He won.

The idea that fame is a kind of immortality is an ancient one that shows no sign of losing its attraction. But why? What good does it do the dead to be famous?”

Tags: , ,

Complicated things scheduled to arrive in a decade or so almost never do, and Elon Musk’s Hyperloop tube-transport idea is likely no exception. But it seems real progress is being made. From Rex Santus at Mashable:

“Tesla Motors CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s idea for the Hyperloop is one that sounded a bit like fantasy to some.

But it appears that there’s progress being made on the potentially game-changing transit system: The developers estimate an up-and-running Hyperloop in just 10 years.

Of course, there’s still plenty of work to do. On Friday, the brains behind bringing Hyperloop to reality released a 68-page white paper outlining progress on the land travel system, which transports people in pods that move as fast as 800 mph. Since then, it’s not so much in Musk’s hands as it is Dirk Ahlborn’s. He’s the CEO and cofounder of JumpStartFund, the startupoverseeing Hyperloop with Musk’s approval.

The paper includes new renderings, showing pods with a improved geometry and design. The front end is circular for better aerodynamics. And people now sit in capsules that are then loaded into outer shells. There will be tickets for the rich and the poor, too, of course, with freight, economy and business classes.

Originally, Hyperloop was slated to travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Ahlborn said that he believes the LA-San Francisco route could be built for $7 billion, up to $16 billion. The plan is expanding, too. But the ultimate goal is to create a vast network for Hyperloop, so that travelers could go from Houston to Phoenix, New York to Salt Lake City — all faster than air travel.”

Tags: ,

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was many things in Mussolini’s Italy: fascist, modernist, machine-lover and misogynist. As the leader of the Futurist Movement, he was a crackpot with an aluminum tie and tin books who deified machinery and automation and extolled the virtues of war (“the world’s only hygiene”). He not only favored violence being visited upon many institutions and people but also wished to legally protect technology, the kind that made Italo Balbo’s office hum. In the following article from the October 8, 1927 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, one of his minions, Signor Azari, proposes a society to guard machines as if they were family pets. Two interesting things: The question of robots having legal rights has come into vogue again in our time, and the idea that an autonomous society would eliminate economic inequality has proven false so far in our digital era.

Tags: , ,

The Peer Economy, great for inventory-less intermediaries and (sometimes) consumers, is less wonderful for workers. “Independent contractor” and “freelancer” are often just descriptives for those without security or benefits. When service is cheap and convenient, someone is likely being cheapened and inconvenienced. Since this popular new part of the economy isn’t going to be outlawed (nor should it, really), political answers are required. From John Gapper at Financial Times:

“The growth of the freelance economy brings two challenges.

First, some freelance jobs are really cheap forms of direct employment. Companies call workers ‘independent contractor’ to avoid paying employment taxes and indirect benefits while treating them as employees — they must wear uniforms, obey rules and so on. Many are low-paid workers, such as delivery drivers or warehouse stackers.

This is legally dubious, since many countries impose laws against sham self-employment. In August, the US Appeals Court ruled against FedEx for classifying delivery drivers in California as contractors when they were in effect direct employees. One judge quoted Abraham Lincoln’s quip that calling a dog’s tail a leg does not turn the animal into a five-legged dog.

Many sharing-economy companies, including Uber, classify the providers of their services as contractors and insist on them, for example, driving their own cars. Some Uber drivers in the US have mounted a legal challenge but the sharing economy is too new for the principle to have been tested.

Second, even if workers are self-employed, the company or platform that routes work and orders to them could choose to offer more than the minimum benefits. Employers traditionally provide health and pension plans, as well as training, to create a productive, reliable workforce. It is more expensive but, if it pays off in the standard of service they offer, then it will help them to beat lower-quality competitors.

If companies abdicate the role, then society needs to devise other ways to offer long-term support and security to the self-employed.

 

Tags:

In addition to wealth inequality in America, there also seems to be haves and have-nots in terms of courage. Ever since 9/11, we’ve wanted to be swaddled and protected, and sure, we should be vigilant, but how about those of us who are civilians show some degree of the bravery we ask of members of our military? Our fears led us into wrong-minded war in Iraq, horrid torture and a surveillance state. How has that made us any better?

Sony’s capitulation to cyberterrorists is the latest confounding example of our state of panic. From Jason Koebler’s Vice interview with security expert Peter W. Singer:

Question: 

Let’s just cut to the chase—Are these hackers terrorists? Are they cyberterrorists?

Peter W. Singer: ​

There’s two layers to it now. There’s the definition of terrorism and the reaction to it, which has been a combination of being both insipid and encouraging to future acts.

The first is what has already happened. Sony has labeled what happened to it as cyberterrorism and various media ​have also described it as cyber terrorism. The reality is having your scripts posted online does not constitute a terrorist act. The FBI describes it as an ‘act that results in violence.’ Losing your next James Bond movie script that talks about violence is not the same thing as an act of violence.

What has happened to Sony already does not meet the definition. They’re saying ‘This is an act of war.’ We’re not going to war with North Korea over this act just because Angelina Jolie is now mad at a Sony executive. Acts of war have a different standard.

Literally, we are in the realm of beyond stupid with this.

Question:

And then we have the actual threats of violence.

Peter W. Singer: ​

​This same group threatened yesterday 9/11-style incidents at any movie theatre that chose to show the movie. Here, we need to distinguish between threat and capability—the ability to steal gossipy emails from a not-so-great protected computer network is not the same thing as being able to carry out physical, 9/11-style attacks in 18,000 locations simultaneously. I can’t believe I’m saying this. I can’t believe I have to say this.

This group has not shown the capability to do that. Sony is rueing any association it has with the movie right now. We are not in the realm of 9/11. Did movie chains look at the reality of the threat? Or did the movie theater chains utterly cave in? This is beyond the wildest dreams of these attackers.”

Tags: ,

Like Pittsburgh, Yahoo needed to downsize. Whether it’s steel or silicon, dotage comes for all, re-scaling required. But the search giant in steep decline doubled down, trying to regain its Web 1.0 glory by hiring Marissa Mayer away from Google in 2012 to be its new CEO. For two years, she’s shuttered profitable properties and hatched haute ones that can’t pay their way, made questionable acquisitions and some terrible hires. The company, separated from its pre-Mayer acquisition of a large chunk of Alibaba, is nearly valueless. While Google wants to be everything, Yahoo still doesn’t know what it wants to be (search? content? mobile?). Mayer hopes for more time to pull a Jobs, but her job security is on the wane. From Nicholas Carlson’s brutally frank New York Time Magazine article about the beleaguered company:

Mayer’s largest management problem, however, related to the start-up culture she had tried to instill. Early on, she banned working from home. This policy affected only 164 employees, but it was initiated months after she constructed an elaborate nursery in her office suite so that her son, Macallister, and his nanny could accompany her to work each day. Mayer also favored a system of quarterly performance reviews, or Q.P.R.s, that required every Yahoo employee, on every team, be ranked from 1 to 5. The system was meant to encourage hard work and weed out underperformers, but it soon produced the exact opposite. Because only so many 4s and 5s could be allotted, talented people no longer wanted to work together; strategic goals were sacrificed, as employees did not want to change projects and leave themselves open to a lower score.

One of the uglier parts of the process was a series of quarterly ‘calibration meetings,’ in which managers would gather with their bosses and review all the employees under their supervision. In practice, the managers would use these meetings to conjure reasons that certain staff members should get negative reviews. Sometimes the reason would be political or superficial. Mayer herself attended calibration meetings where these kinds of arbitrary judgments occurred. The senior executives who reported to Mayer would join her in a meeting at Phish Food and hold up spreadsheets of names and ratings. During the revamping of Yahoo Mail, for instance, Kathy Savitt, the C.M.O., noted that Vivek Sharma was bothering her. ‘He just annoys me,’ she said during the meeting. ‘I don’t want to be around him.’ Sharma’s rating was reduced. Shortly after Yahoo Mail went live, he departed for Disney. (Savitt disputes this account.)

As concerns with Q.P.R.s escalated, employees asked if an entire F.Y.I. could be devoted to anonymous questions on the topic. One November afternoon, Mayer took the stage at URL’s as hundreds of Yahoo employees packed the cafeteria. Mayer explained that she had sifted through the various questions on the internal network, but she wanted to begin instead with something else. Mayer composed herself and began reading from a book, Bobbie Had a Nickel, about a little boy who gets a nickel and considers all the ways he can spend it.

‘Bobbie had a nickel all his very own,’ Mayer read. ‘Should he buy some candy or an ice cream cone?’

Mayer paused to show everyone the illustrations of a little boy in red hair and blue shorts choosing between ice cream and candy. ‘Should he buy a bubble pipe?’ she continued. ‘Or a boat of wood?’ At the end of the book, Bobby decides to spend his nickel on a carousel ride. Mayer would later explain that the book symbolized how much she valued her roving experiences thus far at Yahoo. But few in the room seemed to understand the connection. By the time she closed the book, URL’s had gone completely silent.”

Tags: ,

Fidel Castro visited by Ed Sullivan in 1959 after the triumphant revolution, promising a democratic Cuba that never materialized, though perhaps he was just pacing himself.

“Just seeking an executive producer to help finance film.”

Tight powerful foreign haitian screenplay seeks investor producer

A pampered tight script is written for a wide audience. Haitian creole based in Haiti an NY about a farmer who saved a Haitian leader leader from kidnap attempt and having blessed to travel to the US and going through various different opticals in life phenomenon great story to be seen, need your help we have a film crew and actors on board, just seeking an executive producer to help finance film…you will be credited and respected.

Distribution awaits film.

Things fall apart, sure, but which nations are most likely to? In “The Calm Before the Storm,” a Foreign Affairs piece by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Gregory F. Treverton, the authors use five criteria to assess which states are most likely to crumble: a centralized governing system, an undiversified economy, excessive debt and leverage, a lack of political variability, and no history of surviving past shocks. (I wonder further if kleptocracy has had historical influence on such upheavals.) It’s an interesting thought experiment, though I think it only works as a rough outline. I mean, our new friend Cuba has long been on the wrong side of a number of those measurements, but that country hasn’t cratered. An excerpt:

“When it comes to overall fragility, countries can vary from exhibiting no signs of fragility to being very fragile.


Saudi Arabia is an easy call: it is extremely dependent on oil, has no political variability, and is highly centralized. Its oil wealth and powerful government have papered over the splits between its ethnoreligious units, with the Shiite minority living where the oil is. For the same reason, Bahrain should be considered extremely fragile, mainly on account of its repressed Shiite majority.


Egypt should also be considered fragile, given its only slight and cosmetic recovery from the chaos of the revolution and its highly centralized (and bureaucratic) government. So should Venezuela, which has a highly centralized political system, little political variability, an oil-based economy, and no record of surviving a massive shock. Some of the same problems apply to Russia. It remains highly dependent on oil and gas production and has a highly centralized political system. Its one redeeming factor is that it surmounted the difficult transition from the Soviet era. For that reason, it probably lies somewhere between moderately fragile and fragile.
 …

Then there is the China puzzle. China’s stunning economic growth makes its future hard to assess. The country has recuperated remarkably well from the major shocks of the Maoist period. That era, however, ended nearly four decades ago, and so the recovery is hardly a recent comeback and thus less certain to protect against future shocks. What’s more, China’s political system is highly centralized, its economy is dependent on exports to the West, and its government has been on a borrowing binge as of late, making the country more vulnerable to slowdowns in both domestic and foreign growth. Are the gains from past turmoil big enough to offset the weakness from debt and centralization? The most likely answer is no—that what gains China has accrued by learning from trauma are dwarfed by its burdens. With each passing year, those lessons recede further into the past, and the prospects of a Black Swan of Beijing loom larger. But the sooner that event happens, the better China will emerge in the long run.”

Tags: ,

China now has the world’s largest economy, but it came at a steep price: Inhaling has become a danger, the atmosphere so toxic. The architecture has begun to alter to accommodate this new reality, bubbles and domes dotting downtowns which seem like parts of Martian cities only survivable under cover. The opening of Oliver Wainwright’s Guardian report “Inside Beijing’s Airpocalypse“:

“The scene could be straight from a science-fiction film: a vision of everyday life, but with one jarring difference that makes you realise you’re on another planet, or in a distant future era.

A sports class is in full swing on the outskirts of Beijing. Herds of children charge after a football on an artificial pitch, criss-crossed with colourful markings and illuminated in high definition by the glare of bright white floodlights. It all seems normal enough – except for the fact that this familiar playground scene is taking place beneath a gigantic inflatable dome.

‘It’s a bit of a change having to go through an airlock on the way to class,’ says Travis Washko, director of sports at the British School of Beijing. ‘But the kids love it, and parents can now rest assured their children are playing in a safe environment.’

The reason for the dome becomes apparent when you step outside. A grey blanket hangs in the sky, swamping the surroundings in a de-saturated haze and almost obscuring the buildings across the street. A red flag hangs above the school’s main entrance to warn it’s a no-go day: stay indoors at all costs. The airpocalypse has arrived.

Beijing’s air quality has long been a cause of concern, but the effects of its extreme levels of pollution on daily life can now be seen in physical changes to the architecture of the city. Buildings and spaces are being reconfigured and daily routines modified to allow normal life to go on beneath the toxic shroud.”

Tags:

In the podcast conversation between Russ Roberts and Gary Marcus, the latter mentions the 1960s computer “psychotherapist” Eliza. Here’s a repost from a year ago about the pre-Siri shrink.

The real shift in our time isn’t only that we’ve stopped worrying about surveillance, exhibitionism and a lack of privacy, but that we’ve embraced these things–demanded them, even. There must have been something lacking in our lives, something gone unfulfilled. But is this intimacy with technology and the sense of connection and friendship and relationship that attends it–often merely a likeness of love–an evolutionary correction or merely a desperate swipe in the wrong direction?

The opening of Brian Christian’s New Yorker piece about Spike Jonze’s Her, a film about love in the time of simulacra, in which a near-future man is wowed by a “woman” who seems to him like more than just another pretty interface:

“In 1966, Joseph Weizenbaum, a professor of computer science at M.I.T., wrote a computer program called Eliza, which was designed to engage in casual conversation with anybody who sat down to type with it. Eliza worked by latching on to keywords in the user’s dialogue and then, in a kind of automated Mad Libs, slotted them into open-ended responses, in the manner of a so-called non-directive therapist. (Weizenbaum wrote that Eliza’s script, which he called Doctor, was a parody of the method of the psychologist Carl Rogers.) ‘I’m depressed,’ a user might type. ‘I’m sorry to hear you are depressed,’ Eliza would respond.

Eliza was a milestone in computer understanding of natural language. Yet Weizenbaum was more concerned with how users seemed to form an emotional relationship with the program, which consisted of nothing more than a few hundred lines of code. ‘I was startled to see how quickly and how very deeply people conversing with DOCTOR became emotionally involved with the computer and how unequivocally they anthropomorphized it,’ he wrote. ‘Once my secretary, who had watched me work on the program for many months and therefore surely knew it to be merely a computer program, started conversing with it. After only a few interchanges with it, she asked me to leave the room.’ He continued, ‘What I had not realized is that extremely short exposures to a relatively simple computer program could induce powerful delusional thinking in quite normal people.’

The idea that people might be unable to distinguish a conversation with a person from a conversation with a machine is rooted in the earliest days of artificial-intelligence research.”

New West, the magazine that Clay Felker launched as the Left Coast sister to New York, managed to survive only a few years, but it made its mark. A 1977 exposé by Marshall Kilduff and Phil Tracy, “Inside Peoples Temple,” about the Rev. Jim Jones, which alleged all manner of abuses by the preacher, drove him and some of his followers to relocate from California to Guyana, where the real madness began. I didn’t realize until reading this piece what pull Jones had among San Francisco politicos. An excerpt about a family that quit the church.

____________________________

“After Elmer and Deanna Mertle joined the temple in Ukiah in Novem­ber, 1969, he quit his job as a chemical technician for Standard Oil Company, sold the family’s house in Hayward and moved up to Redwood Valley. Eventually five of the Mertle’s children by previous marriages joined them there.

“When we first went up [to Redwood Valley], Jim Jones was a very compassionate person,” says Deanna. “He taught us to be compassionate to old people, to be tender to the children.”

But slowly the loving atmosphere gave way to cruelty and physical punishments. Elmer said, “The first forms of punishment were mental, where they would get up and totally disgrace and humiliate the person in front of the whole congregation. . . . Jim would then come over and put his arms around the person and say, ‘I realize that you went through a lot, but it was for the cause. Father loves you and you’re a stronger person now. I can trust you more now that you’ve gone through and accepted this discipline.’”

The physical punishment increased too. Both the Mertles claim they received public spankings as early as 1972 – but they were hit with a belt only “about three times.” Eventually, they said, the belt was replaced by a paddle and then by a large board dubbed “the board of education,” and the number of times adults and finally children were struck increased to 12, 25, 50 and even 100 times in a row. Temple nurses treated the injured.

At first, the Mertles rationalized the beatings. “The [punished] child or adult would always say, ’Thank you, Father,” and then Jim would point out the week how much better they were. In our minds we rationalized … that Jim must be doing the right thing because these people were testifying that the beatings had caused their life to make a reversal in the right direction.”

Then one night the Mertles’ daughter Linda was called up for discipline because she had hugged and kissed a woman friend she hadn’t seen in a long time. The woman was reputed to be a lesbian. The Mertles stood among the congregation of 600 or 700 while their daughter, who was then sixteen, was hit on her buttocks 75 times. “She was beaten so severely,” said Elmer, “that the kids said her butt looked like hamburger.”

Linda, who is now eighteen, confirms that she was beaten: “I couldn’t sit down for at least a week and a half.”

The Mertles stayed in the church for more than a year after that public beating. “We had nothing on the outside to get started in,” says Elmer. “We had given [the church] all our money. We had given all of our property. We had given up our jobs.”

Today the Mertles live in Berkeley. According to an affidavit they signed last October in the presence of attorney Harriet Thayer, they changed their names legally to Al and Jeanne Mills because, at the church’s instruction, “we had signed blank sheets of paper, which could be used for any imaginable purpose, signed power of attorney papers, and written many unusual and incriminating statements [about themselves], all of which were untrue.”•

Tags:

Google’s translated text isn’t perfect, but it’s far better than I could do. Of course, those algorithms aren’t conscious of their accomplishment, while I’m aware of my shortcoming. Erasing that distinction isn’t a bridge too far, but it’s going to take a long time to cross. EconTalk host Russ Roberts did an excellent podcast this week with cognitive scientist Gary Marcus about the future of AI. A couple of excerpts follow.

________________________________

Russ Roberts:

Now, to be fair to AI and those who work on it, I think, I don’t know who, someone made the observation but it’s a thoughtful observation that any time we make progress–well, let me back up. People say, ‘Well, computers can do this now, but they’ll never be able to do xyz.’ Then, when they learn to do xyz, they say, ‘Well, of course. That’s just an easy problem. But they’ll never be able to do what you’ve just said’–say–‘understand the question.’ So, we’ve made a lot of progress, right, in a certain dimension. Google Translate is one example. Siri is another example. Wayz, is a really remarkable, direction-generating GPS (Global Positioning System) thing for helping you drive. They seem sort of smart. But as you point out, they are very narrowly smart. And they are not really smart. They are idiot savants. But one view says the glass is half full; we’ve made a lot of progress. And we should be optimistic about where we’ll head in the future. Is it just a matter of time?

Gary Marcus:

Um, I think it probably is a matter of time. It’s a question of whether are we talking decades or centuries. Kurzweil has talked about having AI in about 15 years from now. A true artificial intelligence. And that’s not going to happen. It might happen in the century. It might happen somewhere in between. I don’t think that it’s in principle an impossible problem. I don’t think that anybody in the AI community would argue that we are never going to get there. I think there have been some philosophers who have made that argument, but I don’t think that the philosophers have made that argument in a compelling way. I do think eventually we will have machines that have the flexibility of human intelligence. Going back to something else that you said, I don’t think it’s actually the case that goalposts are shifting as much as you might think. So, it is true that there is this old thing that whatever used to be called AI is now just called engineering, once we can do it.

________________________________

Russ Roberts:

Given all of that, why are people so obsessed right now–this week, almost, it feels like–with the threat of super AI, or real AI, or whatever you want to call it, the Musk, Hawking, Bostrom worries? We haven’t made any progress–much. We’re not anywhere close to understanding how the brain actually works. We are not close to creating a machine that can think, that can learn, that can improve itself–which is what everybody’s worried about or excited about, depending on their perspective, and we’ll talk about that in a minute. But, why do you think there’s this sudden uptick, spike in focusing on the potential and threat of it right now?

Gary Marcus:

Well, I don’t have a full explanation for why people are worried now. I actually think we should be worried. I don’t understand exactly why there was such a shift in the public view. So, I wanted to write about this for The New Yorker a couple of years ago, and my editor thought, ‘Don’t write this. You have this reputation as this sober scientist who understands where things are. This is going to sound like Science Fiction. It will not be good for your reputation.’ And I said, ‘Well, I think it’s really important and I’d like to write about it anyway.’ We had some back and forth, and I was able to write some about it–not as much as I wanted. And now, yeah, everybody is talking about it. I don’t know if it’s because Bostrom’s book is coming out or because people, there’s been a bunch of hyping, AI stories make AI seem closer than it is, so it’s more salient to people. I’m not actually sure what the explanation is. All that said, here’s why I think we should still be worried about it. If you talk to people in the field I think they’ll actually agree with me that nothing too exciting is going to happen in the next decade. There will be progress and so forth and we’re all looking forward to the progress. But nobody thinks that 10 years from now we’re going to have a machine like HAL in 2001. However, nobody really knows downstream how to control the machines. So, the more autonomy that machines have, the more dangerous they are. So, if I have an Angry Birds App on my phone, I’m not hooked up to the Internet, the worst that’s going to happen if there’s some coding error maybe the phone crashes. Not a big deal. But if I hook up a program to the stock market, it might lose me a couple hundred million dollars very quickly–if I had enough invested in the market, which I don’t. But some company did in fact lose a hundred million dollars in a few minutes a couple of years ago, because a program with a bug that is hooked up and empowered can do a lot of harm. I mean, in that case it’s only economic harm; and [?] maybe the company went out of business–I forget. But nobody died. But then you raise things another level: If machines can control the trains–which they can–and so forth, then machines that either deliberately or unintentionally or maybe we don’t even want to talk about intentions: if they cause damage, can cause real damage. And I think it’s a reasonable expectation that machines will be assigned more and more control over things. And they will be able to do more and more sophisticated things over time. And right now, we don’t even have a theory about how to regulate that. Now, anybody can build any kind of computer program they want. There’s very little regulation. There’s some, but very little regulation. It’s kind of, in little ways, like the Wild West. And nobody has a theory about what would be better. So, what worries me is that there is at least potential risk. I’m not sure it’s as bad as like, Hawking, said. Hawking seemed to think like it’s like night follows day: They are going to get smarter than us; they’re not going to have any room for us; bye-bye humanity. And I don’t think it’s as simple as that. The world being machines eventually that are smarter than us, I take that for granted. But they may not care about us, they might not wish to do us harm–you know, computers have gotten smarter and smarter but they haven’t shown any interest in our property, for example, our health, or whatever. So far, computers have been indifferent to us.•

Tags: , ,

From the November 18, 1926 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“After driving an unidentified woman passenger back and forth from 167th St. and Jerome Ave., the Bronx, to City Island for more than three hours this morning, Walter Clery, a chauffeur, stopped his taxi at a gasoline station at Williamsbridge and Boston Roads to replenish his supply. He looked into the cab and saw the woman apparently asleep. Failing in his attempts to rouse her, he drove to the Wakefield police station. She was pronounced dead. The woman was described as 40 years old, weighing 140 pounds, 5 feet 1 inch tall. She had bobbed brown hair and light blue eyes. She wore a black sealskin coat with brown fur collar and cuffs, a Poiret twill henna dress, tan stockings and black shoes. In her leather purse was found 13 cents.”

Tags:

The main cost of our connected world, after the new rules of privacy, is the way it’s changed human interaction, replacing actualities with avatars, making reality less real. Nothing indicates we won’t continue down this road. Another excerpt follows from the Pew Research report “AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs.”

___________________________

How will we interact with each other?

Vytautas Butrimas, the chief adviser to a major government’s ministry, expects technological advances to increase the distance between people: “AI and robotics will change the way we interact with other members of society. The tendency will be toward more social isolation and fewer human-to-human contacts taking place. Just look at what is happening at our airport waiting lounges. People sit next to each other but the interaction is not taking place with the neighbor sitting nearby but with a device communicating to some other device. The world will be more bureaucratic and ‘cold’ in 2025 than it is today.”

On the other hand, a self-employed writer, researcher, and consultant wrote, “I expect there will need to be a ‘human please’ option on most commercial and transport interfaces as there are always unpredictable elements. I also expect that consumers will demand tech-free places like restaurants where they can interact with each other.”

As more daily activities are automated, human interaction may become a luxury

Judith Donath, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, responded, “Even simple technologies have been doing this—most of what was a secretary’s job has been replaced by answering machines and Word. Robots will be able to stock store shelves and check out and bag groceries and other store purchases. They’ll do much of today’s custodial work, delivery services, and transportation. Customer service will be almost entirely done with scripted agents. Software agents will work their way up from the crowd scenes in movies to smaller speaking roles, and eventually to fully automated ‘live’ films. Employment will be mostly very skilled labor—and even those will jobs will be continuously whittled away by increasingly sophisticated machines. Live, human salespeople, nurses, doctors, actors will be symbols of luxury, the silk of human interaction as opposed to the polyester of simulated human contact.”

Andrew Bridges, a partner and Internet law litigator and policy analyst at Fenwick & West LLP, wrote, “’Brain work’ will increasingly become a commodity as computing power enables more artificial intelligence. We already see Google Translate displacing translators, investment advice algorithms displacing investment advisors, automated landing systems replacing airplane piloting skills, and so forth. I expect that the world will become increasingly divided between ‘standard’ service and ‘concierge’ service in many aspects, with standard service left entirely to the machines and concierge service resting more upon human relationships.”

Tags: ,

The fear that we’ll be reduced to McJobs is perhaps scarier than it seems at first blush: What if even such low-paying positions are automated? You don’t need people to take food orders, nor soon will you need them to prepare the meals.

Reports of Momentum Machines’ hamburger robot, which can turn out 360 customized sandwiches an hour, reminded me of this industrial video from exactly 50 years ago about AMF, which brought automation and computers to bowling, trying to make fast food even more inhuman.

I feel fairly certain that if humans reached our endgame on Earth at this moment, if we met, say, with the business end of an asteroid, and if anthropologists from some distant galaxy someday studied us, one of the things they would find most surprising, perplexing, and even endearing, is that oracles in a place called Hollywood spent hundreds of millions of dollars making individual comic-book movies, one after another, that they essentially engaged in celluloid nation-building. It’s insane–and understandable, given the economics of our globalized world. I have no interest in the product itself, no concern for Han Solo or the Hulk, so I am left to ponder other implications. Mark Harris does the same in his latest Grantland article, “The Birdcage,” which focuses on the year the film industry completely surrendered to the blockbuster. An excerpt:

“That’s not where we are anymore. In 2014, franchises are not a big part of the movie business. They are not the biggest part of the movie business. Theyare the movie business. Period. Twelve of the year’s 14 highest grossers are, or will spawn, sequels. (The sole exceptions — assuming they remain exceptions, which is iffy — are Big Hero 6 and Maleficent.) Almost everything else that comes out of Hollywood is either an accident, a penance (people who run the studios do like to have a reason to go to the Oscars), a modestly budgeted bone thrown to an audience perceived as niche (black people, women, adults), an appeasement (movie stars are still important and they must occasionally be placated with something interesting to do so they’ll be cooperative about doing the big stuff), or anecessity (sometimes, unfortunately, it is required that a studio take a chance on something new in order to initiate a franchise). A successful franchise is no longer used to finance the rest of a studio’s lineup; a studio’s lineup is brands and franchises, and that’s it. Disney, of all the big companies, is the closest to approaching the absolute zero of this ideal — its movies are virtually all branded, whether Lucasfilm, Pixar, Marvel, or Walt Disney Studios — and anyone who doesn’t imagine that other studio CFOs are gazing at that model in envy and wonder is delusional. Disney is a kingdom of subkingdoms. Nothing minor or modest need apply.

Every generation of studio titan is less apologetic than the one before. In Hollywood’s first golden age, the studios were run by shrewd, canny, undereducated first- or second-generation Americans — crass businessmen who claimed to love Art; they maintained offices in New York City where they deputized aides to elevate the tawdry screen trade from lowbrow to middlebrow by purchasing legitimacy in the form of the best-reviewed new novels and most acclaimed Broadway plays. God bless them every one; their aspirationalism built Hollywood. Decades later, once movies themselves had become a central and even revered part of the culture, that era of mogul gave way to a new breed: the bottom-line businessman who loved movies as long as they were entertaining, but was still willing to reassure doubters that he occasionally liked Art, too, up to a point and in small doses. They still had enough old-Hollywood DNA to feel an obligation to tithe: A modest portion of their profits would always be used to take gambles on the kind of great hopes that didn’t always translate to bottom-line success.

Today we have a different model: The modern studio chief loves business, success, replication, and reliability, and nobody expects him to offer even the most cursory nod to anything that smacks of ideals that relate to content; that’s not what he’s there for.”

Tags:

We may be on the doorstep of a miraculous mansion, but who will live there? It could be that the Digital Age, like the Industrial Age before it, creates as many jobs as it replaces, but that’s looking less likely, and society being wealthy in the aggregate without concern for the breakdown of the bounty could become a scary thing. From Claire Cain Miller at the New York Times:

“There are certain human skills machines will probably never replicate, like common sense, adaptability and creativity, said David Autor, an economist at M.I.T. Even jobs that become automated often require human involvement, like doctors on standby to assist the automated anesthesiologist, called Sedasys.

Elsewhere, though, machines are replacing certain jobs. Telemarketers are among those most at risk, according to a recent study by Oxford University professors. They identified recreational therapists as the least endangered — and yet that judgment may prove premature. Already, Microsoft’s Kinect can recognize a person’s movements and correct them while doing exercise or physical therapy. 

Other fields could follow. The inventors of facial recognition software from a University of California, San Diego lab say it can estimate pain levels from children’s expressions and screen people for depression. Machines are even learning to taste: The Thai government in September introduced a robot that determines whether Thai food tastes sufficiently authentic or whether it needs another squirt of fish sauce.

Watson, the computer system built by IBM that beat humans at Jeopardy in 2011, has since learned to do other human tasks. This year, it began advising military veterans on complex life decisions like where to live and which insurance to buy. Watson culls through documents for scientists and lawyers and creates new recipes for chefs. Now IBM is trying to teach Watson emotional intelligence.”

Tags: ,

A good economy and poor self-image have led some South Koreans to repair to the cosmetic surgeon’s office, from where they sometimes emerge far worse for their “beautification.” The opening of Stephen Evans’ BBC article about the needle and the damage done:

“On the train and in the street, you’re told you can ‘bring your face to life.’ ‘Facial contouring’ is on offer – ‘breast surgery,’ ‘anti-ageing,’ ‘eyeplasty,’ ‘body contouring.’ There is ‘square jaw reduction’ (mainly, the adverts imply, for men). Or transforming your face ‘from saggy and loose to elastic and dimensional.’ targeted mostly at women.

One acquaintance of mine complains that her chin becomes painful when it rains. And then it emerges that she went into the surgery for a nose job but got persuaded – or persuaded herself – that it was her chin that really needed its contours changing. The result: a more shapely chin that is also a more painful chin. Despite that, she is now intent on breast enlargement.

In this country, parents tell me that they give their teenage daughters a present of what’s called ‘double eyelid surgery’ which makes eyes more pronounced – ‘less Asian’ is the truth of it. Why, I wonder, when Korean eyes seem so beautiful the way they are?

The retort that blares from the adverts on the train is that ‘confidence in appearance brings positive energy which can be the foundation of happiness.’ Happiness – so easily found at the cut of a knife!

Except that, of course, it’s not.”

Tags:

At the conclusion of World War II, America collected as many Nazi rocketeers as we could find and dispatched them to Huntsville, Alabama, to do their voodoo. We dreamed that our new friends would help us develop a space program the world would envy, and while there were bumps along the way, that’s essentially what happened. In the first blush of our post-war power, unbridled enthusiasm for exploration was at high throttle, as evidenced by this article from July 30, 1946 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Tags:

Speaking of technological unemployment, there’s a new Pew Research Center report, “AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs,” in which some technologists and analysts worry that many professions will be headed down the vortex of an automatic, sensor-activated crapper. In a post at the “Upshot” of the New York Times, Claire Cain Miller pulled a few the prognostications. Two sharply contrasting views follow.

_____________________________

Most utopian:

“How unhappy are you that your dishwasher has replaced washing dishes by hand, your washing machine has displaced washing clothes by hand or your vacuum cleaner has replaced hand cleaning? My guess is this ‘job displacement’ has been very welcome, as will the ‘job displacement’ that will occur over the next 10 years. This is a good thing. Everyone wants more jobs and less work.”

— Hal Varian, chief economist at Google.

Most dystopian:

“We’re going to have to come to grips with a long-term employment crisis and the fact that — strictly from an economic point of view, not a moral point of view — there are more and more ‘surplus humans.’  ”

— Karl Fogel, partner at Open Tech Strategies, an open-source technology firm.

Tags: , ,

In conversation with Foreign Affairs’ Gideon Rose, Helen Grenier, founder of iRobot and CyPhy Works, addresses, among other things, the twin threats of technological unemployment and terrorism. An excerpt:

Question:

Old science fiction used to be filled with flying cars, jetpacks, and things like that. Will those eventually take advantage of the space you’re talking about, or will it be just drones?

Helen Greiner:

I believe that the technologies will come. We already have a lot of technologies in ground robots to sense and avoid things. I want to bring some of those technologies to the flying robot space. I think we can disambiguate the airspace; I see no reason why drones can’t share the airspace with man.

Question:

How will people be safe in a world in which drone technology has proliferated and drones become incredibly easy to purchase and operate?

Helen Greiner:

A terrorist could buy a drone today and start planning an attack with it, and I think the only way we’re actually going to catch that is with human intelligence. Terrorists aren’t going to get drones from a company building them for commercial reasons; they’re going to go to the hobby store and buy the ones that are already freely available, if they want to pack them with explosives. I think it’s a challenge. But you can do the same with a car, and you don’t say, ‘Well, we shouldn’t sell cars because you can use them in a suicide attack.’ All we have to do is figure out who’s going to be doing it and try to stop it.

Question:

You like the idea of a world full of robots, and a lot of people would agree if they helped them do things. But does that world full of robots have as many jobs for ordinary humans?

Helen Greiner:

Robots have been in place in factories for decades now, and jobs have changed, but there’re still people in factories. Maybe there are fewer, but we’re able to produce more. If robots happen to make things more efficient, you want to be the place that has them. You can’t stop technology; the world’s going to continue to move forward. I would love to see [technological productivity] change the social contract and how people think of a full workweek—as four days of work or, later on, even three days—because there could be more quality time that people spend with their families.

Question:

Did the Roomba’s making people comfortable with the idea of robots in their homes have a cultural significance beyond the economics?

Helen Greiner:

I believe it did.”

Tags: ,

« Older entries