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Party Time

STUART WHITE
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

 

So the elections are done and dusted and the nation has a new government.  Parliament will soon be getting back to doing what it does best, with a few fresh faces and a few familiar ones.  A Cabinet re-shuffle can probably be expected and it will be business as usual. The election results came in pretty quickly, all things considered. 

Naturally enough announcements from the urban districts were the first to be announced whilst returns from the rural areas had to trickle in, something only to be expected with such vast distances to cover and with many isolated polling stations served only by dirt roads. 

In fact the entire process, in the words of one local political officer put it, was ‘a logistical and organisational nightmare’ in terms of pulling the registered electorate together, getting the message across to everyone in the constituency and co-ordinating the key personnel in the district, sometimes by remote control.


It’s a problem which wouldn’t be understood in more populated, first-world counties.  The day was rightly pronounced a public holiday in order to allow staff the opportunity to exercise their electoral right.  But of course with such a large proportion of the urban workforce still registered in their home village one day is not necessarily enough and I know of many companies in town who closed early on Wednesday to enable staff to start their travels in good time.

Then again some places of business such as supermarkets and garages needed to open their doors as normal so staff would have had to make arrangements to cast their votes before or after their shift.  The same goes for all the emergency services.  Election or no election it would be unthinkable for hospital staff, fire, ambulance and police not to be carrying out business as usual so they too would just have had to make a personal plan.


I don’t have to tell you that national elections here are held every 5 years as they have been since 1965 and if maths isn’t your strong point that makes this current plebiscite the country’s 10th.  In global references this is fairly average.  The UK, for instance, puts a 5-year limit on the term of office of a serving Prime Minister before he or she must call an election, though theoretically they may call one any time during that period.  Five years is also the time frame for elections in India, though the United States favours 4 years. 

And whilst a British Prime Minister can be re-elected as many times as the nation wishes them to keep serving their country and their party wishes them to remain at the helm, the USA limits any President to a maximum of 2 terms in office, after which they must stand down, popularity notwithstanding.  Four years also works in Australia, though you can’t help noticing they change their Prime Ministers as often as some people change their sheets, a practice also replicated in Italy.  And though the same period is also in operation in Switzerland, their devolved system of governance demands that a referendum must be held on every important issue, rather than left to elected representatives. 

This means that a Swiss national is given a say on just about everything and votes on an average of 6 times a year.  At the other end of the scale, in the UK, for instance, such a mid-term single-issue vote, such as the recent one to decide on Scotland’s future within the Union, is extremely rare and might only happen once or twice in a voter’s lifetime, all such decisions having been ceded to one’s local parliamentary representative.  That, of course, is the thing about governance by the majority, the acceptance that on any issue a section of the population will not be happy with the decision.  In some cases where a free vote is offered to Members of Parliament this can even result in more dissatisfied constituents than satisfied ones. 

This is precisely why Switzerland has chosen to give its citizens so many opportunities to micro-manage all decisions of conscience or convenience.  For instance one extreme example would be the subject of abortion or euthanasia, controversial, divisive and multi-faceted issues with moral, ethical and religious dimensions where you might not be expected to know where your MP stood on the matter when you voted him or her in.

Less of an emotional topic but just as hot a topic might be a proposal to construct a new factory in your area.  You might be concerned at the creeping industrialisation and burgeoning population that might ensue.  Your MP, on the other hand, might see it as a benefit to the greater community and a bonus opportunity for job creation and local wealth.  So you would want a ‘no’ vote and you end up with a ‘yes’, even though your MP of choice was returned at the election.  And this is where the Swiss multi-referenda come in, giving every man and woman a say on matters of import.  In fact paraphrasing George Orwell it might be said that all European democracies are equal but some are more equal than others.


So although according to the great British Parliamentarian and Prime Minister Winston Churchill “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter” and to American author Robert  A. Heinlein “Democracy is a poor system of government at best; the only thing that can honestly be said in its favour is that it’s about eight times as good as any other  method  the human race has ever tried”, as you all digest and debate the results of our most recent national plebiscite it’s probably worth sparing a thought for all those disenfranchised folk around the world for whom the words in those two quotes would ring very hollow indeed.


STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at www.hrmc.co.bw
 

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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