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The Three Rs V The Three Ws

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE


Like many of you I have to admit it’s been a while since I had to sit an exam.  O-Levels, A-Levels, driving tests, end-of-course degree finals, add-on qualifications– at one stage in our lives they seem to come thick and fast.  And even though it’s a long way in the past, the experience and memories never completely leave us. 

I can still remember the weeks, days and hours of swotting; the burning of the midnight oil; the stomach-churning realisation that there were only hours left to go; the swirling thoughts of inadequacy and nagging doubts that wouldn’t go away – had we studied hard enough, learned enough, memorised enough?  Were we smart enough to pass? 

Could we bear the humiliation if we failed and had to re-sit?  And then the actual moment of truth, sat in the exam room, isolated in our own bubble, waiting for the signal to turn over the exam paper and begin, surreptitiously watching to see who in the room was out of the blocks first, then settling down, concentrating and focussing on your own test paper, desperate to set out all your hard-earned knowledge and finish within the specified time. 

And of course even when the exam was over and the paper turned in, it was far from over because then came possibly the worst time of all  – the agonising wait for results to come through, be it by mail or posted up on a college notice board, opening the letter with trembling hands or scanning the list for your name, fingers crossed that you’d made the grade.

It’s something that pretty much all of us have been through at one time or another because, let’s face it, ours is a very competitive world.  Even when you make it through the youthful examination phase in your life, the testing is far from over. 

Every job you apply for is another dog-eat-dog proving ground where you have to convince an individual, a panel or an entire board that you are the best man, or woman, for the job, that you have sufficient knowledge and experience for the post, that you are better than the next candidate, that you were top of the class and now you are the top dog. 

And once again you have the agonising wait to find out if you  were successful or whether it’s back to the Sits Vac page, whilst you deal with what feels like unfair rejection, replaying the selection processes again and again in your mind  to try and pinpoint where you went wrong, what you could have done or said better  and wishing you could re-sit the interview just as you were once able to re-take  an exam.

And the one thing that job interviews and exams have in common is that they are set up as a test of you and you alone.  You are not expected to bring along any physical tools or cheat sheets to assist you in passing the exam or landing the job. 

You are there to be tested on your personal smarts, on what you have learned, your ability to process that information,, the intelligence of your interpretation and your succinctness in laying it all out in a finite amount f time.  So how would  you react to the opinion of Mark Dawe, recently appointed head of OCR (Oxford, Cambridge & RSA) in the United Kingdom, the body which oversees A & A-level exams and testing, who caused controversy recently by saying he thought “Introducing tools like Google or calculators will help teachers assess the way students draw on information and apply it to their learning.”. 

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mr. Dawe went on ““Everyone has a computer available to solve a problem but its then about how they interpret the results. We have tools, like Google, why would you exclude those from students’ learning? “Surely when they learn in the classroom, everyone uses Google if there is a question. It is more about understanding what results you’re seeing rather than keeping all of that knowledge in your head because that’s not how the modern world works…”

If you think this sounds vaguely familiar, think back to when the idea of using pocket calculators in exams was first mooted.  The argument was exactly the same – that they were a tool readily available outside the exam room that pupils would avail themselves of in real situations where mathematical calculations were required so why not bring them in to the exam? 

And of course the counter arguments remain the same – that the ability to properly use a calculator relies on a basic knowledge of mathematical principles and the exam sets out to test that knowledge, not the candidate’s dexterity with a miniature numerical keyboard and a mini computer doing all the working out for them. 

So when Mr. Dawe opines that outside of the testing centre, candidates can do a quick sweep of Wikipedia and other online information source sites so why not during the exam, the same objections arise – that they are not being tested on their surfing skills but on their accumulated and stored knowledge, stored in their head, that is, and not on the worldwide web.

If you think about it, there is no substantial difference to the idea of bringing textbooks into the exam than to calculators and iPods or laptops.  Don’t bother learning anything beforehand; just rather concentrate on learning where to find what you need to know. 

And of course that’s exactly what we do when we are not in an exam situation.  We use our min electronic tools, we hit the internet and we pick up books to accomplish tasks easier and faster, just as I surfed the net to find the full quote above from Mr. Dawe. 

But then again, I’m not being tested and I’m not sitting an exam because I’ve already been there, done that and got the qualification and it wasn’t an O-Level in calculator sums, an A-Level in surfing speed and a degree that reads Bwww.

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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