December 2nd, 2013

bilbo

Attack of the Drones?

Photo from USAToday.com

Amazon announced today that it’s testing using drones, essentially a kind of small, automated aircraft, which will deliver packages at faster speeds.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/12/01/amazon-bezos-drone-delivery/3799021/

I’m not technophobe, and my first thought on reading this was “Cool.” It still is, because this is some very Jetson-esque news, even if it is a few years off from being widely available. And novelty aside, I think this could be an advantage for people living away from major city centers. Since I moved to New York, there’s very little I haven’t been able to get delivered inside of three days, and that’s allowing for my student schedule which means there’s not anyone around the apartment at predictable hours to accept a package. But I remember when I lived in other parts of the country, Cleveland and North Carolina, I needed to budget at least a week for it to get into my hands reliably. Anything that speeds up delivery for me could make a real difference for others.

That said, I do have a few concerns.

1) Responsibility. I’m sure the drones make fewer mistakes than human delivery men, but there are bound to be some mistakes. Say an arm breaks and a carton crashes down on some poor man’s roof. Who is responsible for this? If it was an accident caused by an actual human, you’d have an agent, a decision-maker to point to as the cause of the damage. And maybe it wouldn’t turn out to be his fault, but then you’d turn to other people who were involved. With something as automated as a delivery-drone, it seems more likely that any problems would end up being no one’s fault, really. It’s a question worth asking: are liability laws, our ideas about responsibility and ethics, etc., ready to make sense of this much automation?

2) Economic Justice. More automation means less need for manual labor, whether it’s people loading up the delivery trucks or driving them around. The lost jobs are probably going to be lower-wage jobs (delivery-men rather than the engineers making these drones fly). On the one hand, eliminating the need for work seems like a good thing, since it frees people up to do other things. On the other hand, automation has hardly worked out well for the John Henry’s of the world. So it’s wroth asking: how is this affecting the guys who were driving trucks for Amazon? Is this benefiting them, or will they simply be out of a job?

3) Privacy. Drones aren’t restricted to fly over public roads; they’d basically be flying over everyone’s house. I have no real reason to expect they’d attach a camera to these gizmos, but I have no doubt they could do this just fine. This seems to have the potential to redefine where we have a reasonable expectation of privacy. I want to know just how much these gizmos will be able to “see,” and what restraints there will be on how they use and share that data. Mainly this concerns me because I can’t imagine anyone being okay with this if the USPS proposed using these kinds of drones. There can be such a divide between how we think of the data the government has access to and what private companies can know, as if the latter isn’t problematic.

4) Language. This seems almost pedantic, but do we have to use the word drone? Technically it’s accurate, probably, but it also seems to dull down what should be an entirely negative association with Pakistani orphans and some of the few remaining technologies that’s still made-in-America. It’s not a term I want connected to something as mundane and ordinary as getting me my new book.

And of course the normal concerns about the threat to small and local businesses, the way wwe can go through our lives without meaningful human connection should also go here as well. I’m not going into that because those are hardly new problems, although of course they’re worth keeping in mind.

That said, a lot of these concerns aren’t major ones. I mainly wanted to kick the tires a bit on this new technology. My reaction still is hovering in the neighborhood of Cool on this one. Even moreso if he Bezos could only figure out a way to get me my new snowboots without me having to hang around the apartment all day waiting for the deliveryman to show.

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

bilbo

the future is now

Photo from USAToday.com

Amazon announced today that it’s testing using drones, essentially a kind of small, automated aircraft, which will deliver packages at faster speeds.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/12/01/amazon-bezos-drone-delivery/3799021/

I’m no technophobe, and my first thought on reading this was “Cool.” It still is, because this is some very Jetson-esque news, even if it is a few years off from being widely available. And novelty aside, I think this could be an advantage for people living away from major city centers. Since I moved to New York, there’s very little I haven’t been able to get delivered inside of three days, and that’s allowing for my student schedule which means there’s not anyone around the apartment at predictable hours to accept a package. But I remember when I lived in other parts of the country, Cleveland and North Carolina, I needed to budget at least a week for it to get into my hands reliably. Anything that speeds up delivery for me could make a real difference for others.

That said, I do have a few concerns.

1) Responsibility. I’m sure the drones make fewer mistakes than human delivery men, but there are bound to be some mistakes. Say an arm breaks and a carton crashes down on some poor man’s roof. Who is responsible for this? If it was an accident caused by an actual human, you’d have an agent, a decision-maker to point to as the cause of the damage. And maybe it wouldn’t turn out to be his fault, but then you’d turn to other people who were involved. With something as automated as a delivery-drone, it seems more likely that any problems would end up being no one’s fault, really. It’s a question worth asking: are liability laws, our ideas about responsibility and ethics, etc., ready to make sense of this much automation?

2) Economic Justice. More automation means less need for manual labor, whether it’s people loading up the delivery trucks or driving them around. The lost jobs are probably going to be lower-wage jobs (delivery-men rather than the engineers making these drones fly). On the one hand, eliminating the need for work seems like a good thing, since it frees people up to do other things. On the other hand, automation has hardly worked out well for the John Henry’s of the world. So it’s wroth asking: how is this affecting the guys who were driving trucks for Amazon? Is this benefiting them, or will they simply be out of a job?

3) Privacy. Drones aren’t restricted to fly over public roads; they’d basically be flying over everyone’s house. I have no real reason to expect they’d attach a camera to these gizmos, but I have no doubt they could do this just fine. This seems to have the potential to redefine where we have a reasonable expectation of privacy. I want to know just how much these gizmos will be able to “see,” and what restraints there will be on how they use and share that data. Mainly this concerns me because I can’t imagine anyone being okay with this if the USPS proposed using these kinds of drones. There can be such a divide between how we think of the data the government has access to and what private companies can know, as if the latter isn’t problematic.

4) Language. This seems almost pedantic, but do we have to use the word drone? Technically it’s accurate, probably, but it also seems to dull down what should be an entirely negative association with Pakistani orphans and some of the few remaining technologies that’s still made-in-America. It’s not a term I want connected to something as mundane and ordinary as getting me my new book.

And of course the normal concerns about the threat to small and local businesses, the way wwe can go through our lives without meaningful human connection should also go here as well. I’m not going into that because those are hardly new problems, although of course they’re worth keeping in mind.

That said, a lot of these concerns aren’t major ones. I mainly wanted to kick the tires a bit on this new technology. My reaction still is hovering in the neighborhood of Cool on this one. Even moreso if he Bezos could only figure out a way to get me my new snowboots without me having to hang around the apartment all day waiting for the deliveryman to show.

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

bilbo

the future is now

Photo from USAToday.com

Amazon announced today that it’s testing using drones, essentially a kind of small, automated aircraft, which will deliver packages at faster speeds.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/12/01/amazon-bezos-drone-delivery/3799021/

I’m no technophobe, and my first thought on reading this was “Cool.” It still is, because this is some very Jetson-esque news, even if it is a few years off from being widely available. And novelty aside, I think this could be an advantage for people living away from major city centers. Since I moved to New York, there’s very little I haven’t been able to get delivered inside of three days, and that’s allowing for my student schedule which means there’s not anyone around the apartment at predictable hours to accept a package. But I remember when I lived in other parts of the country, Cleveland and North Carolina, I needed to budget at least a week for it to get into my hands reliably. Anything that speeds up delivery for me could make a real difference for others.

That said, I do have a few concerns.

1) Responsibility. I’m sure the drones make fewer mistakes than human delivery men, but there are bound to be some mistakes. Say an arm breaks and a carton crashes down on some poor man’s roof. Who is responsible for this? If it was an accident caused by an actual human, you’d have an agent, a decision-maker to point to as the cause of the damage. And maybe it wouldn’t turn out to be his fault, but then you’d turn to other people who were involved. With something as automated as a delivery-drone, it seems more likely that any problems would end up being no one’s fault, really. It’s a question worth asking: are liability laws, our ideas about responsibility and ethics, etc., ready to make sense of this much automation?

2) Economic Justice. More automation means less need for manual labor, whether it’s people loading up the delivery trucks or driving them around. The lost jobs are probably going to be lower-wage jobs (delivery-men rather than the engineers making these drones fly). On the one hand, eliminating the need for work seems like a good thing, since it frees people up to do other things. On the other hand, automation has hardly worked out well for the John Henry’s of the world. So it’s wroth asking: how is this affecting the guys who were driving trucks for Amazon? Is this benefiting them, or will they simply be out of a job?

3) Privacy. Drones aren’t restricted to fly over public roads; they’d basically be flying over everyone’s house. I have no real reason to expect they’d attach a camera to these gizmos, but I have no doubt they could do this just fine. This seems to have the potential to redefine where we have a reasonable expectation of privacy. I want to know just how much these gizmos will be able to “see,” and what restraints there will be on how they use and share that data. Mainly this concerns me because I can’t imagine anyone being okay with this if the USPS proposed using these kinds of drones. There can be such a divide between how we think of the data the government has access to and what private companies can know, as if the latter isn’t problematic.

4) Language. This seems almost pedantic, but do we have to use the word drone? Technically it’s accurate, probably, but it also seems to dull down what should be an entirely negative association with Pakistani orphans and some of the few remaining technologies that’s still made-in-America. It’s not a term I want connected to something as mundane and ordinary as getting me my new book.

And of course the normal concerns about the threat to small and local businesses, the way wwe can go through our lives without meaningful human connection should also go here as well. I’m not going into that because those are hardly new problems, although of course they’re worth keeping in mind.

That said, a lot of these concerns aren’t major ones. I mainly wanted to kick the tires a bit on this new technology. My reaction still is hovering in the neighborhood of Cool on this one. Even moreso if Bezos could only figure out a way to get me my new snowboots without me having to hang around the apartment all day waiting for the deliveryman to show.

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

bookworm

fannish share of the day: what might we deduce about [Sherlock's] heart

Yesterday I shared a funny fake-trailer of the first two series of Sherlock. And while the show does have its lighter moments ("We are in Buckingham Palace, the heart of the British nation. Sherlock Holmes, put your trousers on."), what really pulls me to it is its high drama. The excellent work on character-building, the look at how friendships develop and are tested and are balanced against self-protection and flat-out selfishness. The serious stuff.

In many ways the BBC version of Sherlock (and Watson, come to it) is very different from Doyle's because he's genuinely struggling against whether it's good to experience emotions and sentiment. As I've been rereading the originals I've been struck by how much this turns the character against his canonical self, and sometimes that really bothers me because it can seem dismissive of people who resemble the ACD version of Sherlock - the more analytical people, the happily alone, the asexual, and so on. Still, taken on his own, this version of Sherlock is fascinating and intriguing.

In that vein, and as my fannish share of the day, here is a fanvideo looking at Sherlock's character. Warning for spoilers through Reichenbach.



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And some FB statuses:

#1.

I keep meaning to blog about the movie "Philomena," a movie about the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland (and other places, but this story is about the Irish version). I've actually tried to, several times, but it's a case of not wanting to break a thing to find out how it's made. I'm not sure I can analyze it too deeply without ruining something about it, for whatever reason. But I found it a deeply moving story that gives deep food for thought about how to respond to tragedies and injustices.

I don't agree with everything implied by the movie, and thought the sole atheist character got a bit of short shrift, because his reaction seemed more or less reasonable (if incomplete) to me. In fact, I'm sure I would have reacted along similar lines, and I think that reaction is to a certain extent necessary to prompt action against injustices. What I was most impressed with was the moral... well, not ambiguity, because there are clearly some characters who are in the wrong, but the complexity, the way that I could understand where all the characters were coming from, and why they reacted the way they did to the situation.

At the end of the movie, it wasn't so much a question of whether a certain situation was right or even tolerable; it seemed more about the way we respond to things and still hold on to our humanity and our good character - about the tightrope balance between mercy and forgiveness on the one hand and apathy and acceptance of things that should never be accepted on the other. To say I've been turning this movie over in my head ever since I watched it on Wednesday would be an understatement. As I said, there were many things said by the character I think I was supposed to identify with (Philomena) that just sat poorly with me, to the point I can't ever see myself reacting in the same way. Whether that's a good thing or not. But I will say this: like all great art it affected me at an emotional level and kept my mind pounding away at important questions long after I left the cinema. Check it out if you can.


#2. In response to StarTrek.com viewers choosing their favorite time-travel episode:

No great surprise there. "Trials and Tribble-ations" is one heck of an episode. Don't even get me started on the Klingons.


#3.

I have a wreath. I even have Advent readings picked out - a combination of this book with short theological reflections (http://www.amazon.com/Watch-Light-Readings-Advent-Christmas/dp/1570755418/) and the Bible verses that seem to be read at every UMC church I've ever been a part of. I even have matches.

The one thing I don't have is actual candles. D'oh! I have to imagine God will understand if I'm a day late with the ritual this first week. You know, being outside of time and space and all. The intent is there, at least!


http://bit.ly/1ggIAq8