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Circuit Training

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

Back at work this week I had an employee bursting with excitement to share with me an article she had read during the holidays.  Her enthusiasm was feverish and I knew it had to be important because she kept asking over and over if I had read it till I complied.  

The article was about how thoughts can reshape your brain, and thereby change a physical construct of reality which probably needs a quick physiology lesson to get you in the picture: In our brain we have synapses (junctions between two nerve cells) and these are separated by empty space which is called the synaptic cleft. Each time we have a thought, one synapse shoots a chemical across the cleft to another synapse, thus building a bridge over which an electric signal can cross, carrying along its charge the relevant information you’re thinking about. Each time this electrical charge is triggered, the synapses grow closer together in order to decrease the distance the electrical charge has to cross.  So in a way it’s like evolution or adaptation as the brain rewires its own circuitry, physically changing itself, to make it easier and more likely that the proper synapses will share the chemical link and thus spark together–in essence, making it easier for the thought to trigger. What my employee found so powerful was the proof that thoughts shape your brain and by inference, change the physical construct of reality.

The discussion we had was insightful, her learning is significant and as a result she is determined to rewire negative thoughts with positive ones. Happiness is after all a habit. It was so exciting to see this ‘Eureka’ moment in her. She is such a positive person anyway and now she has found a route to be even more of a practicing optimist.   But I wondered if these days I might be too jaded to have significant breakthroughs in my own thinking (I hope not…note to self ‘re-wire my thinking’) I can reflect on many paradigm shifts, eureka moments and Road to Damascus experiences I have had, and there have been a few – and as you’d expect at a ripe old age there should be (second note to self about re-wiring!) – but had they had the desired effect of my cephalic circuitry?

I remember attending an Industrial Relations Programme early in my career and what a profound effect it had on me. As a means of opening my mind to the dynamics of workplace relationships, the trainer encouraged me to read the Sowetan and New Nation which at the time were typically ‘Black’ newspapers.  The idea of whites reading such in the early 80 was quite radical and would raise a few eyebrows at the newsagents but as the trainer propounded, “Wouldn’t you want to know what your workers are reading before they get into work every day?” It was a significant moment that opened my eyes to change the way I perceived South Africa and its work force. My frame of reference up to that point was certainly tinged by what I was reading – The Star and Citizen, two newspapers appealing to the white mass –  this being a dichotomy as they were not a  mass but a minority. Under apartheid, the media operated in a minefield of laws designed to make it almost impossible to publish any information without authorization from the government, especially on political and national security issues. Newspapers were even prevented from publishing the names of banned people, who included almost all the anti-apartheid leaders.

Up until that time my thoughts about black South Africans had been significantly influenced by my white school upbringing, where classroom education was interspersed with routine terrorist attack drills instead of fire drills in a ‘normal’ environment and watching government propaganda films about communism, the ANC and how if we weren’t vigilant we would all surely be killed in our beds one day! My synapses were wired to think black equals danger and this evoked fear. Now reading newspapers of the black community was exposing me to people who were suffering, being suppressed etc and so the thoughts that I had were rewired from fear, mainly of the unknown, to empathy and understanding. It was profound and dramatically changed the way I viewed my construct of reality which was South Africa’s state of emergency.   My perception was altered from believing this was an action to protect us to an action to suppress and control others.  In retrospect this was a radical rewiring of my attitude and understanding – a quantum leap across a synaptic chasm of misinformation.

Back to the future and recently I was talking to someone about re-reading ‘The Road Less Travelled’. I loved the book the first time I read it and absorbed so much of its content that I could quote excerpts verbatim. Yet returning to it 30 years later I was amazed at all the gems of knowledge and wisdom that I had missed the first time around. I was reading sections thinking there is no way I could have missed this because of the depth of the content and the message being so profound and relevant. If I had not been reading from my original copy I might have thought that I was working through a revised edition.

Obviously in the last 30 years my cerebral synapses have changed as I have evolved and as such I can get to conclusions faster and understand things more broadly and with clarity which I lacked in my teens. Circuitry rewiring has allowed connections to be made which were too distant, ill-defined or obscure before.  It seems incredible that our brain is consistently doing this – shifting and morphing with every thought.  Even more exciting is the fact that synapses which most strongly bonded together (by occupying our thinking more frequently) come to represent our default personality: our intelligence, skills, aptitudes, and most easily accessible thoughts. So we move from conservative to liberal, not understanding to enlightenment and so on.  To sum up, I believe I’ve just had a brainwave about brainwaves!

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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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