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Great Expectations

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

I am a great fan of Whitney Houston. Like many I was swept up by her beauty, persona and incredible voice. I even had the privilege to watch her perform in South Africa. At that stage she was still relatively clean, from a PR perspective at least, but as the years passed and with internet footage her beauty, personality and voice were all put in to question. 

Rumours of drug abuse reared their ugly head, along with some sordid tales of personal relationships; the dream was shattered and the good the bad and the ugly had been captured for the world to see. Whitney Houston’s song “Didn’t we almost have it all” could have been a premonition and it rings in my ears and as I think this thought I am angry, as though I had been personally let down by my former idol: My faith had been misplaced.

Talking of internet footage, I have been spending some spare time watching one of my early spiritual gurus on YouTube. Where once you experienced them on the lines of a written page or preaching to the masses from a mountain top, nowadays they can be heard and viewed online from the comfort of your home, train or even at the beach.

Sometimes they are presented perfectly, filmed with soft angle lenses -for those in need of a finer hue for their wrinkled face, or captured as they administer their message in a convention hall to eager followers who have paid a fortune to hear the message (in the US annual membership to Ted talks is over P100k – clearly only the very wealthy can experience their guru live). But your sage can also be caught in real time, at their worst. Like the camera that YouTube is, it can work for you or work against you.

The other night I came across a clip of one of my spiritual gurus which left me cringing and calling into question my thoughts on her. Let me come clean here – this was not a chance discovery as I had been purposely digging around looking for dirt and voilà after I had Googled her name, along with the word  “exposed” I found a piece of evidence to corroborate my niggling suspicion. I felt vindicated – I searched for what I wanted to find and presto it was delivered as efficiently as a Big Mac at a drive through.

Sometimes I have been blown away watching her and at other times I feel uneasy seeing her do her stuff. For a while I have felt conflicted by the behaviour of this person, sometimes feeling that she is totally authentic while at others feeling she is manipulative and fake. So with the clip I feel justified but I also feel betrayed and with that thought I feel sad.  Another false idol has let me down.

I can be just as gullible as the next person. If I see something written I am more likely to believe it to be true. If something is commended from people who I think are credible it moves higher up the accepted list. It makes me worry for myself …do I trust myself and my gut or do I look to others to see what they trust? 

Anything can be proven if you want. Look for 101 reasons why eating meat is bad for you and for every empirical study to support this claim I will show you an equal study that empirically refutes this. It comes back to our thoughts, my thoughts…if I think in a certain way it doesn’t make it true, but how I think it lends a certain truth to it. It reminds me of the legend about a wise man who was sitting outside his village which goes something like;

A traveller came up and asked him, “What kind of people live in this village,
because I am looking to move from my present one?” The wise man asked, “What kind of people live where you want to move from?” The man said, “They are mean, cruel, and rude.” The wise man replied, “The same kind of people live in this village too.” After some time another traveller came by and asked the same question and the wise man asked him, “What kind of people live where you want to move from?”
And the traveller replied, “The people are very kind, courteous, polite and good.” The wise man said, “You will find the same kind of people here too.”

If you were to ask me what is one of my most powerful realisations which I have had in my quest for personal enlightenment it would be comprehending that I am not my thoughts; thoughts are not real and thoughts are preoccupied with past and the future – In the words of the Buddha “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

As I write this I realise that perhaps my biggest road to Damascus experience is not this awareness that thoughts aren’t reality but that they are malleable depending on what you watch, see or chose to inject into your reality. What is important is that you simply check the validity of these thoughts. The need to categorize things and put people into pigeon holes – good or bad singer, good or bad guru, is an unhelpful thought. There is no box for people,  just ‘what is’ there at that time.

It’s interesting that the guru I have been referring to is Byron Katie and her work is all about enquiry into your thoughts.  In the words of Byron herself “I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn't believe them, I didn't suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment.”

There are many powerful lessons which I have taken from Byron Katie, and yet I find myself searching for proof of the charlatan she might be. Regardless of one bad clip from Byron or a poor performance from Whitney, when I have enjoyed so much of her music,  when I examine the thoughts that I hold I find them occupied with the past and future.  Whitney was…Whitney could have been….Byron was…Byron could be…

They are simply thoughts.  Now I know the ego might have a hard time with that because it wants to argue…but together with acceptance, something else I have been realizing… let me reiterate what one personal development guru Jim Rohn said "The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Someone asks, 'Why?' and Jim says “I wouldn't spend too much time on that." "It just IS."

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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

… 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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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    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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