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….For they shall inherit the earth

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

I was writing a Christmas card to one of my employees last night and in it I wrote about how although it hadn’t been a good year for the financial performance of the business, it had been great in many other ways.

It has been an unconscious theme of mine this year to react to obstacles and adversity with acceptance and even gratitude. Years ago any sort of set-backs would alarm me, panic me and I would spiral into a pit of depression and hopelessness.  My Christmas card message was clear – we have much to be grateful for.

By world standards I have lived an extremely privileged life and if I were to count my blessings it surely would include being born into a loving family and now having had one of my own, receiving a good education and a life of opportunities and good health. The list really is endless.

Years ago I didn’t understand gratitude and that’s because I didn’t feel grateful. As a young child who wouldn’t eat his food my mother would chastise me and tell me that a starving child in Africa would be grateful for such. But these attempts to make me appreciative were lost on me mostly because I didn’t know where Africa was never mind any children there and like most young children I never thought deeply and was caught up in my own little world where my wants and desires and my self-centredness were my staple diet.

Even as a young adult I never felt blessed, humbled or thankful and I certainly would never have used these words. Not one to stop and smell the roses,  I often didn’t even notice they were there. I envied people born in to wealth as I thought they didn’t have to work as hard as me, I always thought there was something better going on elsewhere, as if I was primed to focus on what I didn’t have and what others did. I hated Christmas, New Year and birthdays (I am still not keen on birthdays).

If I achieved something I usually felt I could have done better, tried harder, got more out of the situation. I moved quickly on from any success that I had – no savouring for me, no pat on the back…just a look forward towards the next stressful hurdle needing my attention. For the longest time I viewed life as a gruelling up-hill race that I didn’t necessarily want to be in but had no choice in the matter. The objective was to get to the finishing line and there was nothing after that. If the thought ‘ungrateful brat’ springs to mind while reading this, I get it.

Today I find myself very grateful and very blessed yet there has been no road to Damascus moment – I   am just finally at a point where I can acknowledge all the bounties in my life, recognise them for what they are and what they mean and quite literally ‘count my blessings’.  I I know it all sounds a bit Zen but its true, I swear I have used the word ‘blessed’ so many times this year and I am not even religious.  Benedictine monk, Br. David Steindl-Rast, is, however and he says two qualities belong in our basic definition of gratitude. The first is appreciation: You recognize that something is valuable to you, which has nothing to do with its monetary worth. The second quality mentions that gratitude, from the Latin ‘gratis’, meaning a gift, is,  like a gift,  freely given to you

Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, argues that it has two key components: “First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”  In the second part of gratitude, he explains, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves…We acknowledge that other people…gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

So I guess it’s an attitude and one that I am not complaining about, although I can’t help wishing I had discovered it earlier. My life is certainly more enjoyable looking through a brighter lens, not to mention the significant benefits which I am likely to gain if the many studies are to believed showing that more gratitude is associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health…

In her book, Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life, Angeles Arrien writes: “Gratitude is essentially the recognition of the unearned increments of value in one’s experience.” She goes on to say: “Gratitude is a feeling that spontaneously emerges from within. However, it is not simply an emotional response; it is also a choice we make. We can choose to be grateful, or we can choose to be ungrateful—to take our gifts and blessings for granted.

And what better time to be grateful than at Christmas?  We have family, friends and time which as I get older I realize is the thing to me most grateful for.  I remember an article from the Huffington Post years ago where there was a suggestion for Christmas gifts — “a gift that you can receive and give at the same time. It’s called gratitude.”   What you can do is think about the people that you love, the special people, and contemplate why they matter to you.

What would life be like without your best friend, your partner, your mother or father, your kids? Imagine that they no longer existed and now you had a chance to get them back — but only if you could prove that you really were grateful. What would you miss about your best friend? Think about the conversations, the memories, the laughter, and the tears — you both shared.

Now think about how grateful you are for having him or her in your life. Now, tell them.” Just a thought, and aren’t you grateful now that I have saved you a whole bunch of money and you can give a gift that will last a lifetime? p.s. One word of warning, though.  The kids will probably still expect something in fancy wrapping paper they can show off to their friends – their epiphany is still to come!

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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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