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REMEMBERING THE SEVENTIES

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

‘As old as Methuselah’. We’ve all heard the phrase and though most of us don’t know much about the man, we do know that Methuselah is a Biblical character who, in a cast list of characters who all lived to what seems to us quite impossible ages, is reputed to have lived the longest, a total of 969 years, to be precise.  Not that he outlived some of his ancient contemporaries by that much.  Noah is said to have sired his 3 sons, Shem, Ham and Japeth, when he was a baby of 500 and lived to the ripe old age of 950 years. 

Adam managed 930 mortal years and Jared 962.  But then post-Genesis for some reason life expectancy began to shrink quite alarmingly.  Noah’s son Shem only managed 600, Aphraxad 438 and then down and down went the figures till we get to Abraham 175 and Moses who shuffled off his mortal coils at the tender age of 120, though curiously it was Moses himself who gave us the famous phrase ‘three score years and ten’ in reference to man’s average life span
“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” ( HYPERLINK "http://biblia.com/bible/nkjv/Ps%2090.10" t "_blank" Psalm 90:10).

For most of the intervening centuries that span persisted as everyman’s life expectancy.  If he popped his clogs much earlier than that, he was said to have gone too soon, much longer and he would have ‘had a good run for his money’.   Yet surely, in this the 3rd millennium, with our advances in medicine, our knowledge of the sciences of nutrition and fitness and in the general improvement in our living conditions, this 70-year span is outdated and a pessimistic underestimation?  Surely we can do better than our ancestors in Biblical times, men who did not have access to antibiotics, disinfectant, personal trainers, vitamin supplements, organic vegetables and let’s not forget an apple a day to keeps the doctor away, although according to the Bible, it was nibbling on that forbidden fruit which prevented Adam from enjoying immortality on earth.

Now you’ve probably noticed by now that I have been referring so far to the life expectancy of man, rather than Mankind and though I have referenced Adam and Noah, I have omitted any mention of Eve or Mrs. Noah, the reason being that female life expectancy is set slightly higher than that of the male and I do no want to muddy the waters or detract from the principle of the argument being set out herewith; in the face of all odds and after thousands of years between then and now, man still only seems to be able to average those self-same three score years and ten.

I bring it up after 2 very high-profile celebrity deaths recently, those of pop musician David Bowie and character actor Alan Rickman.  Both men died from cancers within a few days of each other and both men were aged 69, just a little shy of their promised 70 years.  We hear much these days of the great strides forward in oncology treatments and it is safe to assume that both would have the means at their disposal to source the best clinicians and the best treatment for their respective diseases; and yet neither was able to overcome the disease which ultimately took their lives.

Figures from First World countries show that despite greater public education on healthy living and  battalions of government watchdogs, committees and quangos dedicated to setting public health targets and disseminating a mind-boggling amount of do and don’t guidelines aimed at eliminating diseases and extending life expectancy, the opposite is actually happening.  The modern sedentary lifestyle, reliance on  ready-meals of questionable provenance, substitution of vitamin supplements to actual vitamins in the daily diets and food so cheap it seems sinful not to consumer more of it than anyone really needs has led to a generation of couch potatoes, an obesity epidemic and an explosion in rates of Type-2, or lifestyle-induced diabetes.   As for Bowie and Rickman, their respective deaths from liver and pancreatic cancers prove that strides may well have been made in oncology research but clearly much more is still to be done in terms of early diagnosis, identifying and eradicating risk factors and more effective treatments.

And therein lies the rub.  Because although lay folk talk glibly of ‘cancer’ singular, the problem is that modern man (and woman) is susceptible to many forms of cancers plural, all with different causes and all needing niche treatments and extremely type-specific selective drugs.  And though it is easy to assume that since there is more knowledge of these different cancers now, therefore they must be of modern-making and current causes, it is far more likely that as life expectancy rose in the mid 1960s, older bodies opened themselves up to susceptibility – simply put, up to the age of around 70,  those men who have the early stages of cancer but with no symptoms, may simply die before they manifest themselves; though it’s also true that some well-studied cancers would also appear to have sprung from a change in our lifestyle habits.  It’s all a bit chicken and egg.

And of course none of it explains why Methuselah and his contemporaries managed three score decades and then some whilst poor Abraham and Moses were only granted a fraction of that; and all other mortals thereafter were pegged at 70 or thereabouts.  One thing I can say for sure – that all of us are as old as our hair and a little bit older than our teeth and to quote the poet John Keats slightly out of context. ‘- that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know’.  Mind you, he died at age 26 so why should we listen to him?

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