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Into the light

STUART WHITE
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

For those who don’t know much about its differing styles, yoga comes in many forms and levels but possibly its least flexible (yes, pun intended!), is that of Bikram Yoga.  Unlike a general yoga work-out, a Bikram yoga class follows a precise script and format.

It is a 90-minute written dialogue in Bikram Choudhury’s own words, which teachers study intently and are supposed to repeat verbatim in each class. They are taught to recite this dialogue to its perfection. On top of that, they are taught how to “be” in the class. Instructors are taught to speak in a certain way, and to teach with a certain tone and are, in other words, taught to fit the mould that Bikram created.

At a Bikram class this week the trainee instructor was being evaluated by the owner of the studio, Sally. The class was told to ignore Sally who was participating in the class and intermittently taking notes.  We all know Alpha Sally, the studio owner who runs a tight ship and an even tighter Bikram yoga class which takes no prisoners ; Alpha Sally is not known for her patience even though when she teaches she says such things as “an oak tree doesn’t grow overnight”,  to emphasise the need for patience with one’s yoga progress, only to lose her own a few minutes later to shout at a disobedient student.

Anyway, Sally was writing away furiously but eventually it all became too much for her and she jumped up from her mat to shout the proper instructions to correct the student teacher. Then she went back to the mat. Then she was off the mat again shouting “follow-the-script “until effectively Sally’s participation was such that she had hijacked the class completely. I must just say that in my opinion the teacher was doing a fine job but, obviously not to Sally’s standards.

It was embarrassing for the student teacher to be corrected in front of the 60-strong class. It would have been undoubtedly more productive for Sally to continue taking notes, reflecting and then providing feedback at the end of the class in a private manner. It certainly would have been better for the class not to witness this training in session (remember we are paying customers here.)

Witnessing this I had a sort of epiphany when I realised that I have witnessed this type of hijacking behaviour before -in myself. I can attend a meeting with a junior member of staff and with the intention of creating a learning opportunity we agree prior to the meeting that he will handle the meeting and my role will be for support. And then I will start chipping in here and there until I have unintentionally wrestled power and credibility away from him.

It is because I know the answers and believe that I have the best solution. While consciously I know that the only way for him to learn is to jump in at the deep end, I throw him a life belt, even though he isn’t sinking and I ask him to cling tight while I take command and save him with an almost smug ‘look how well I can swim’ attitude. I hadn’t really been conscious of this until I watched Sally demonstrate the same behaviour. I saw me in her – dominant, impatient and driven to have things my own way.

When we are good at something and honestly Sally is probably the best, we can overplay our strengths. When the pressure's on, the line between strength and weakness isn't always clear — drive becomes ruthless ambition, attention to detail becomes micromanaging, in Sally’s case coaching became correcting. It is the dark side of personality as termed by Dr Robert Hogan.

To understand that let me first explain the bright side of personality. This describes people’s performance when they are paying attention to the normal rules of self-presentation, when they are controlling the way others perceive them and, therefore, trying to create a good impression. The dark side describes people’s behaviour when they are not paying attention and/or don’t care about creating a good impression; this happens when they are emotionally upset, when they are stressed or ill, and when they are simply being themselves.

According to Hogan “The dark side often emerges when individuals are dealing with someone whom they perceive as having a lesser status than they do – such as subordinate employees. The bright side represents maximal performance whereas the dark side represents typical performance. People move continuously and unconsciously back and forth between the two sides of personality. In essence, the bright side reflects faking and the dark side represents the real person. As Freud would say, however, “the real person is usually something to be avoided”.

I am sure that Sally is unaware how she came across that day – much like I have been unaware of the times I have hijacked situations at the expense of an employee’s development and growth. Most people are unaware of how they behave when they are just being themselves and that is because the dark side really is unconscious; but only to you.

Mark Twain wrote that ‘Everyone is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody’ but in reality, we can’t really keep that side entirely hidden.  It might be outside of your conscious awareness, but the secrets of the dark side are readily accessible because they are captured by a person’s reputation – other people can tell you about your dark side. All you have to do is ask and then what you do with that information is up to you.

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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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