Robots, They Are Coming

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I was so excited by this photo in the Wall Street Journal today.


YuMi, an industrial robot by ABB, is adroitly writing Chinese calligraphy. 


If you look at the photo and think for a moment, the notion of the robot doing and the person watching is truly prophetic of how we are evolving technologically and as a species. 


Yumi is made by ABB, a leading robotics company headquartered in Switzerland, that on one hand has over 300,000 robots installed worldwide, but on the other hand needs only 4,600 employees in 53 countries to produce all these fantastic and productive droids.  

This robot is a work of not just incredible science and engineering, but of art and beauty. 


It’s sleek black and white build with two incredibly agile arms and hands plus a viewing camera, enables it to do small parts assembly or even fine calligraphic work. 


YuMi stands for “You and Me” working together, collaboratively. 


While we surely will work together, the flip side is that with robotics, some people (who don’t make the transition to STEM) may not be working much at all. 


But of course, the positive side is that we are looking at an incredible capacity to do more and better with less! 


Leaving the innovation to humans, and the assembly and service to the bots, the bar will be raised on everything–both good and bad.


We will build greater things, travel and explore further, and discover ever new depths of understanding and opportunities to exploit.


But we will also edge people out of work and comfort zones, and be able to engage in new forms of conflict and war that only the power and skill of (semi-) autonomous machines could inflict. 


The robots are here, however, they are coming in much greater numbers, capabilities, and impact then we can currently fully comprehend. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal via WSJ)

Smart Cats Aren’t Afraid to Innovate

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It’s really hypocritical that on one hand we put innovation on a pedestal, but on the other hand, we tend to nix new ideas.

The Atlantic (July/August 2012) has an article called “Let’s Cool It With the Big Ideas.”

The author, P.J. O’Rourke, rails against innovation, saying: “I don’t have a big idea, and I don’t want one. I don’t like big ideas.”

Let’s just say this article by O’Rourke proves his point and not only about big ideas.

Unfortunately, like O’Rourke, many in our society seem to have a love/hate relationship with innovation.

We love new ideas when they work to our benefit–like having a smartphone perhaps–but we fear the worst about failing and people seem to loathe change of any kind until it’s a “proven entity.”

Hence as O’Rourke points out the derogatory feelings and sayings about new, big ideas:

– What is the big idea?
– You and your bright ideas.
– Whose idea was this?
– Me and my big ideas.
– Don’t get smart with me.

The last one is really the clincher with it all–without new ideas and the bravery to explore them, our “smarts” really do go out the window.

This is reminiscent of when the great Library of Alexandria burnt to the ground almost 2,000 years ago, destroying many of the “new ideas” of the philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, poets, and playwrights of the time, leaving us for centuries stuck in the Dark Ages!

Sure, new ideas are threatening to old ways of thinking and doing things, but we are an evolving species–stagnation is death.

According to Harvard Business Review (October 2010) in “How to Save Good Ideas“–a more enlightened article here, explains how to counter fearful and destructive people “who try to kill ideas” using “fear-mongering, delay, confusion, and ridicule.”

Some of the suggestions to counter the naysayers:

– When they attack you for “dictating” a new idea–you can explain that there is a vetting process, but like with a train conductor, we need to provide direction for our people.

– When they say, no one else is doing this–for any new idea, someone has to be the first to try it, and we have the capacity to innovate and succeed.

– When they criticize your timing–acknowledge that you can’t do everything and the poor projects should be weeded out, but promising new ventures should proceed.

From a leadership perspective, we cannot shove new ideas down people’s throats, but rather we need to explore ideas openly and honestly. Leaders should explain the imperative for change, explore organizational and market readiness, look at costs and benefits, mitigate risks, and help people in adopting and adapting to change–and this last one can be the most difficult.

For those that are comfortable with the status quo or afraid of what change may mean to their jobs, status, and security–there are times, when reassuring and working together can move people and the organization forward, but there are also times, when perhaps the person-organizational fit may no longer be right, and it is time to part ways.

The way we do things today–no matter how comfortable–is not the way we will always do them.  Times change, challenges build up, opportunities emerge, and as survivors, we either adapt or fade into the annals of history.

“There is more than one way to skin a cat,” but if we are cool to new ideas, the cat will most definitely get away from us–and it may be for good.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Ivo Kendra)

Passover 21st Century

This video (2011) by Aish.com is terrific! The story of Passover–“Google Exodus”– with all the technology of instant messaging, email, social networking, mapping, and more.I love how they make the traditional and sacred, new and promising again by “letting people go” and being able to see and interact with it in modern terms.

While some may find it challenging not to lose the essence of the old, when keeping it fresh, I think the past becomes more meaningful when we can truly integrate it into our daily lives.

I personally am still not comfortable with the idea of online Passover Seders or DIY Haggadah’s–and I don’t think I ever really will be–probably more because of guilt at not following strictly and the concern that people may change things so much as to either misinterpret or actually distort the truth of G-d.

However, I do think that we can strengthen regular people’s connection to their past and their faith only by truly bringing it in our present and looking to the future, as well.

The world of religion-can often be filled with controversy between those that maintain iron-clad religious practices from thousands of years ago and those that seek evolving routes to religion and G-d today.

When we can use technology to help people bridge the religious divide, we are helping people connect with their G-d and choose good over evil in their daily lives.

Neither modernism nor technology is inherently “bad,” and we do not have to run away from it–or escape through the Red Sea from it.

Rather, faith in the Almighty, in His hand that guides all, and in the doing good in all that we do, are fundamental to religion and can be shared online and off, as G-d is truly everywhere and in each of us.

Sometimes, I wonder when Orthodox people probe and judge with incessant questions of “What Shul do you go to?” “What Yeshiva do your kids attend?” “Do you keep Kosher?”  and more, I imagine G-d looking down on his “people of the book,” not with satisfaction that they follow his commandments, but with disdain for how people can hurt others and not even realize that is notreligious.

While I agree that unguided, people and practices can go astray, I also believe that automatic suspicion and rejection of new things is impractical and actually harmful.

Modernism and technology can be a blessing, if coupled with faith and integrity.

Congratulations to Aish.com for the good work they are doing in helping people integrate the old and new in a balanced way.