Moultrie Observer


February 2, 2013

Robots may play, but they can't write the lyrics

MOULTRIE — Just a few days ago, newspapers across the country ran a story about technology replacing people in jobs, with the ultimate question: Will you be replaced by a robot?

Ever since that TV show “Lost in Space” came on the air back in the 60s with a tin-can-looking device constantly uttering “Danger Will Robinson, danger!” the seeds were planted for this question.

And yes, technology (including robots) have displaced human hands in many regards. This technical explosion has manifested itself in all walks of life from the farm to the operating room and from the battle field to the assembly line.

Many of us complain when we make a phone call and get a robot’s voice. While the robot may eventually connect us to the right department or may even solve our problem digitally, there is that clinical, stainless-steel aspect of the connection that makes us feel less valuable.

Despite any efficiencies, we know that a robot cannot feel our sense of urgency, cannot temper anxiety, cannot appreciate deadlines, etc. If a robot offers a static condolence, we know that it’s programmed and meaningless.

Certainly technology has caused displacements and shifts in the work place. But, someone has to design the robot and maintain it.  Keep that in mind. We have to rethink and regear in a high-tech world.

And we must give the devil his due in this matter. Technology has made our lives better in many respects.

As Bob Dylan so accurately put it many years ago, “These times, they are a changin’.”

I grew up on a one-row Farmall tractor that had 3 forward gears. Not long ago I crawled up into the cab of one of the largest John Deere tractors on the market, and I might as well have been in the cockpit of a 747. I just sat there and stared around at the knobs, gauges and gizmos. I would not have been surprised if a voice had come from beneath the dash to say, “Will Robinson you need to add more nitrogen on the next row.”

But let’s not get all depressed, feeling left out and insecure. People are still important. While a computer can calculate the efficiency of a quarterback, it can’t put on a uniform, hit a wide receiver in full stride and then do a dance in the end zone.

Technology can restart a heart and keep it on pace. But it can’t heal a broken heart nor can it make the chest swell with pride. In other words, it will not make Valentine’s Day obsolete.

We have technology that could find a Bigfoot if it existed, but we don’t apply it because it’s much more fun to watch a guy named Bozo (excuse me, Bobo) plod around in the woods bumping into trees asking, “What’s that noise?” It’s a weird sort of romanticism enhanced by a couple of cold beers. Let’s face it, it’s comedy. And we need laughter.

Technology can enhance a CD and maximize sound effects. But it can’t write the lyrics and exude the passion. Long live Willie Nelson!

I write this column on a computer that is far superior to the old manual Underwood I once hammered on. I don’t need white-out to correct an error. I don’t have to change ribbons and get ink all over my shirt, and I don’t have to  glue pages of copy together to be type set on a device that was just a few grades above Fred Flintstone. It didn’t replace me. It allowed me to produce an end product faster and with more efficiency. I can push a button and send it all around the world in a matter of seconds.

Probably the greatest irony in all of this is that we can use computers to fight wars, but when the smoke clears, it’s people that lie dead and maimed. That’s a morbid way to illustrate that the aforementioned question is mostly rhetorical, but if the shoe fits ....


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