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Back to the future

STUART WHITE
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

We have all heard stories of amazing feats of strength in emergency situations –  a mother lifting up a car when her child is trapped underneath or tackling ferocious animals – in one instance taking on a polar bear attacking her son and his friends children. 

Physicians once believed that adrenaline flooding the system caused an extra boost to the muscles, allowing people to be stronger but that’s not quite accurate. Adrenaline certainly primes the body for emergency action, speeding up the heart and lungs, dilating blood vessels and releasing nutrients, both of which ready the muscles for quick responses.  But while this adrenaline fuelled fight-or-flight reflex spurs people into action, the body’s entire stress response contributes to superhuman strength.

Cascades of enzymes and proteins release, helping people sustain the activity.  These neuropeptides, or endorphins, make people feel good and suppress pain as well as providing people with an extra boost to finish their superhuman task. For years I have been obsessed with evaluating any bed that I sleep on. As I travel a lot I am frequently in and out of hotels and, much like Goldilocks, you can find me complaining the beds are either too soft or too hard and these critiques are inevitably blamed for the stiff back which I wake up with every day.

This morning I had a Eureka moment when I realised it’s not about the bed – it’s my back that’s the problem. That may not seem like a ground-breaking discovery to you but going forward, the simplicity of this realisation will change my focus completely – starting with not viewing mattresses with suspicion and being constantly on the internet looking for new, revolutionary beds designed to ease back pain.

I recently heard from a job candidate who told me that in a previous position she had experienced constant back pain, but it went away immediately when she left that company. I asked her if she felt supported there and she answered no – “So there is your problem”,  I told her, explaining that some believe back pain is a psychosomatic symptom created by our unconscious mind to distract us from emotional issues of subconscious feelings of lack of support that we may want to suppress .

Physician John Sarno says that tension from internalized pressure and rage leads to oxygen deprivation of the muscle and that’s where the pain comes from. I am not suggesting that my back pain comes from lack of support, rage or other emotions or that I should leave my job.  I am saying my shift in understanding and thinking will force me to change my attention from symptoms to underlying cause. So instead of making it about the bed I will listen more deeply to my mind and body to understand what the problem is – it’s something we don’t do. In her case leaving her job immediately took care of the problem.

A few days ago my mother in law suffered what at first we thought was a heart attack. She was rushed to hospital, underwent a series of tests and then told that she had ‘broken heart syndrome’. I thought I hadn’t heard properly at first or that it was the doctor’s interpretation of where she is in her life. Earlier this year my father in law, her husband, died after a long-suffering illness. They were extremely close as a result of a long and loving marriage and his death has not been easy for her. However, she is a strong woman, keeps herself very busy and has continued to live a fully functioning life. Or so it seemed.

Broken heart syndrome is a temporary heart condition that's often brought on by stressful situations and extreme emotions. It may also be called stress cardiomyopathy, takotsubo cardiomyopathy or apical ballooning syndrome, if you want the scientific terminology. Sufferers may have sudden chest pain or think they're having a heart attack as it affects part of the heart, temporarily disrupting its normal pumping function. The rest of the heart continues to function normally or may even have more forceful contractions.

This has been a big wake up call for her: A call to listen to her grief, and in fact have a real grieving process and not just carrying on busily doing everything for everyone. It’s amazing to think that the body has a powerful way of bringing us to check – to demand our attention to the other parts of ourselves. Our body talks to us through pain and sickness and, of course, health.  Most of the time how we feel physically is a sign of how we are psychologically.

This connection gets weakened when we are consumed with activity. And then we stop understanding why things happen to us, and don’t know how to restore balance, Bit by bit we lose the ability to read ourselves. They say that sickness and pain are our body’s way of communicating a message to us and if we listen to what is happening, we can find our way back to health. This is like the kinesiology philosophy which says that like everything in nature we as human beings are created as perfect, interconnected systems.

We are designed to live in homeostasis – a perfect balance of mind, body, emotions and spirit – fully equipped for the things we want to achieve in life. However, sometimes we find ourselves in distress, whether it be mentally, physically or emotionally. This is our body’s way of indicating that we are “off track”, not living to our full potential, or not coping in one or more areas of our life.  Similarly, in times when we generate strength, we did no know we had, our body comes to the rescue and mind conquers matter.  
Mens samo in corpore sano (A healthy mind in a healthy body) was the Roman ideal two millennia ago.  So really, I’m just going ‘back’ in time.

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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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