Saturday, August 27, 2011

what Steve Jobs has yet to do

Certainly, Steve Jobs could sit on his hands, attend board meetings, show up at the Apple campus occasionally, and otherwise do nothing, for as long as life and breath remain to him. He could, that is, if he were someone else.

But don't expect more of the same from him; others are quite capable of carrying Apple's products and services forward, and Steve's time is too precious for him to be spending it on what others can do (except as he might find dabbling therapeutic).

With unique abilities come unique responsibility, and Steve's abilities are at least a rare combination, if not altogether unique, and are amplified by the tremendous resources his past successes have placed within his reach.

Moreover, he commands the attention of millions; even his offhand remarks are routinely widely distributed.

From where I sit, there's no telling what he will choose to do with all this, but I'm anticipating something insanely great!

Monday, August 15, 2011

the importance of robotics to the achievement of sustainability

I firmly believe that (short of convincing the vast majority of people to return to subsistence farming, something which could only be accomplished through intense coercion) robotics is vitally important to achieving sustainability. This belief so permeates my thinking that it seems necessary to state it explicitly.

I won't be making any arguments in support of this belief today, but just wanted to get it out there, plainly stated.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

a sleeping dog and a bush

In describing the current state of military robotics, IEEE Spectrum says...

Some of the DOD's most advanced UAVs carry dozens of sensors, including high-resolution night-vision cameras, 3-D imagers, and acoustic arrays. Yet most cannot distinguish a sleeping dog from a bush, even at high noon.

We humans, as participants in the larger economic, social, and political currents of our time, suffer from similar perceptual inadequacy. Many of us fail to understand which among the presumptive alternatives (parties and candidates) comes closest to knowing the way to a better future and intending to lead us there.

More of us fail to comprehend, or forget, that it's up to us, both individually and collectively, to help make that better future possible. Even with the most enlightened of leaders in power, it isn't enough to support that leader's agenda, since such agendas inevitably become bogged down in the struggle to rise above the muck of long-since co-opted politics, forced to compromise away much or most of the content that made them worth supporting in the first place.

But just because compromise is inevitable doesn't mean that we should therefore point to the shadow and call it the light. Our struggle is with those who would, if allowed, take us back to a feudal society, divided between aristocrats and serfs, or something very like it. Not only do they seek to reinstitute classist society, but their effort to do so distracts us from other matters, such as climate change, pollution, the loss of farmland to spreading cities, and the loss of soil to erosion.

We have no choice but to fight both wars at once, to put the devil of aristocracy back into chains and to remake our material culture into something sustainable, able to continue on indefinitely without fouling the planet we all depend upon.