In the UK today is the Queen’s speech, which is the day each year the Government sets out its programme of work for the coming year – what laws it plans to pass.

There has been some mutterings about there not being much in it due to other political things going on at present.

But when historians look back the piece of legislation (assuming it does become law) which will change our society from today are the plans to allow driverless cars onto our roads (sixth item down in their list of points) and the legislative framework for insurance companies to provide policies for vehicles on our roads without humans.

(the bill also outlines the framework for commercial UK space ports as well as extending use of drones – lots in there which will change our society)

This blog first mentioned the concept of driverless cars about six years ago. So on the one hand I am pleased to see this is finally becoming a reality. But on the other, we really need to be considering what this means for us all. In Australia the trucking industry appears to be worried. What needs to also be considered beyond the truck drivers themselves is the insurance industry (fewer accidents, less claims), the healthcare industry (so we have less accidents and less sick people, hurrah, except if you are a physio who makes your living fixing broken people) the mechanics (less accidents, less repair work) as well as all the road side cafes and motels no longer feeding hungry  drivers or providing beds for when they are tired.

This is not the first area robots are changing our work place – I blogged previously about supermarkets and how jobs were being effected post the big global crash of the last decade. What we are still seeing now, eight years on from this crash is high levels of youth unemployment across Europe and in the UK anecdotal evidence of middle-aged workers laid off from whatever they were doing and now competing with young people for entry-level roles and getting them due to the years of experience they bring.

As well as putting legislation in place to allow the technological changes robots bring us, our Government’s should be looking at how to manage the social change which will accompany them. An option I have heard a lot about is the Basic Income idea. This would avoid a great deal of the social issues around a changing economy – there is already hysteria around robots taking jobs.

I am not necessarily advocating the Basic Income at this point, but it certainly is one of the options policy makers should be looking at when they plan how to tackle this likely social change.

It is also possible we could all find alternate jobs which spring up around the rise of the robots. I have heard it argued stable boys thought the coming of the automobile would leave them jobless forever, yet around the automobile industry whole new classes of careers opened up in the factories building them, the garages repairing them, on the oil rigs fueling them and the law firms insuring them. So perhaps all the humans will be working in jobs which haven’t even been invented yet.



A recent article in the UK press discusses how robots may steal our jobs and ruin the economy.
This is a topic I have covered before – quite some time ago.
Anyone got any thoughts on this issue?

The Kepler data keeps giving us more data about potential earth-like planets in other solar systems.

This latest batch discusses planets nearly 500 light years away from our solar system.

With the galaxy (and one assumes universe) teeming with planets in the zone we recognise as habitable, the statistics of us being the only planet with life forms seems remote (and bearing in mind we know little about the possibility of life developing outside the zones we view as habitable, we shouldn’t discount the possibility of life by completely different rules to those we know).

But our own planet is the only guide we have to the evolutionary process required for life to develop. The bad news to be found here lays in the logic of the reptile being the most likely creature to develop to the top of the food chain in any ecosystem.

Dinosaurs ruled the earth for many. many millions of years. Only knocked down from their dominance by what scientists believe is a freak extinction event of an asteroid crashing into the planet and wiping them out. The likelihood of this kind of event being replicated on other planets with such lifeforms seems relatively low.

And in all those millions of years pre extinction event, no intelligent dominant reptile species evolved on earth.

Even if it did, again looking at the history of our own planet for guidance, the rate of development of humans was different in locations across the world  A relatively advanced civilization such as the Mayans was developing at the same time as Europeans were much further down the line of technology. The Mayans from my understanding were similar to civilizations like the Egyptians of 2,000 years BC. And while the Mayans were at their height, in North America and Australia the aboriginals living in both places were not too far beyond the stone age level (if my understanding of their civilisations is accurate).

So when we eventually get out into the galaxy, I suspect the odds tell us the planets with life will quite likely have reptiles. possibly of dinosaur scale, or if there are intelligent life they may well be far less advanced than us. Which probably means we need a Star Trek style Prime Directive.

There is the possibility any intelligent species could have wiped itself out (we have been pretty close ourselves with nuclear weapons). Or overtaken by robots (another interest of mine) or be much more intelligent than us and view us how we would view a Bronze age society.

So, while I am excited about Kepler finding these planets and I expect them to be teeming with life of one sort or another, I am quite sceptical about finding intelligent life.

A film I blogged about some time ago now has a UK cinema release date – so those of us in the UK  may now get to see it. Hurrah!

I am often advocating the future is robot shaped and it seems someone has the tech that allows you to print your own for $500 – which sounds awesome to me (altho I don’t yet have a 3D printer, but that is probably only a minor detail, 20 years ago I didn’t have a cell phone and now everyone does).

Robot and Frank

August 3, 2012

This movie is a pretty good introduction to how robots will fit in to our lives in the future (or at least during the difficult transition phase to having robots in our society).

How robots are likely to fit into social care of the young and elderly is an ongoing debate as is the legal aspect of a machine in your home that remembers everything that happens there.

The text on you tube describes the nameless robot as a ‘butler’ which I am not sure is how we should describe robots in our homes. Will we name them like we name our cars, pets and our children? Or will the manufacturers do that for us (will they all end up with alphanumeric strings like R2 D2 / C3 PO?) cos I don’t think we can all call the ‘robot’ as they are in this movie.

I am sure when this movie is re-running on late night TV 25 years from now I will comment to my Asimo about how quaint and old-fashioned it all seems.

Great post here about NASA robots and Mars – there are, I guess two general schools of thought – send humans into space or send robots.

Robots are hardier and dont need as much oxygen / heat / organic fuel (food) / water as humans, so cheaper to achieve and health and safety aspects lower too.



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