Delay in App Update and Thoughts on Drones/Robots

Well, it seems that if you upgrade your development mac to a Beta version of OS X, the App Store won’t let you submit an update to your app. While I understand the limitations in the past, that if you used a beta version of the compiler the app could not be submitted, this one is a bit of a surprise.  I am not sure what Xcode is doing from a build perspective where the OS version would impact it.  Oh well, I guess I will wait until the GA of the latest OS X beta.

While I was contemplating the impact of the OS on the build process, I read an article about an IndieGoGo campaign for a Fire Fighting drone.  The article was more a cautionary tale about crowd funding, but my brain (as it is want to do sometimes) wondered to a totally different thought.  As we get more automation and innovation in the world, we look at those jobs that are dangerous or low skilled as easy pickings for new robotic solutions.  This removes the low end of the job market for many people.  We justify this by saying, this will bring new opportunity for high skilled and higher paying jobs.  While at one level, this logic makes sense, I find that we don’t address the other half of the problem.  That is, as we take away low skilled, low paying jobs, we reduce the ability for people to enter the job market at all.  Especially if we are driven by quarterly P & L statements, which reduce the incentive to take the profit and invest it into job training and education projects for displaced, low skill labor.

Drones that fight fires, would reduce loss of life and address the safety concerns of fight fires…but would we program a device to rescue a dog, in a high rise fire, if that would result in a 25% likelihood of losing the drone?  How about 50%?  75%?  What about a “priceless” piece of art?  What about an elderly relative who is on life support, and likely to die tomorrow?  What calculation would be made?

While a robot might perform skilled manufacturing for a complex piece of new technology, would the person who just got displaced by the robot be able to afford the new tech?  Do I need to continue to fund a pension plan for workers displaced by the robot?  

While robots may be a critical technology for those countries with negative population growth, they just don’t have enough workers to support their parents and grandparents … Enabling this technology (which I truly find to be cool and exciting) doesn’t mean that it will only be used in those countries where workers are hard to find.  Companies are global not local, and they will leverage the technology to improve their quarterly results globally.

Technology consistently moves faster than legislation and at times faster then morality… I believe we need to foster both at the same level.  We need to ensure that as we enable the next level of technology, we don’t leave behind our parents and grandparents or our kids and grandkids, and that we continue to innovate at the society level… Science fiction stories have two tropes, one where we no longer have to work and spend our time in leisure served by happy robots, and one where we are the servants of the robots.  I hope we find our path to the first and not the latter.  In order to find that path, we need to make sure that we don’t just focus on the P&L statement of corporations, but we focus on society as a whole.

Final Day – Future visions

It is always amazing to me how fast this week goes. Saturday came and went, and I am flying home today. I went to two sessions and then spent the rest of the day on the show floor, deciding to skip my last planned session. This ultimately was the right decision, as I got time to see people and booths in more detail.

The first session I went to was on creating eBooks without pulling your hair out.

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My simplistic expectation was that this session was going to focus on Apple’s iBooks, I am so glad that I was wrong. Serenity Caldwell, an associate editor at MacWorld Magazine, and the editor of many of their Super Guides, went thru the workflow of creating three types of eBooks (text only, text and pictures, and text, pictures, animation and video) and how to target the three major platforms – ePub (non-DRM), Mobi (Kindel DRM), and iBooks (Apple’s proprietary format). She explained the tools you need to pick up (both OSS -Open Source Software, and for pay), and even included some of her own code snippets to help you get started… I learned a lot.

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The second session, was a follow-up to a session I went to last year – Student Projects from the Hawaii Prep Academy boarding school on the big island of Hawaii. I have really enjoyed these student presentations, as they show all the passion of science that I had at that age, and they come up with some really innovative ideas. I hope to post a video montage, since I shot a bunch of video on my iPhone. The one and only complaint I had was that their teacher spent too much time telling you about what you were about to see, as well as what they learned, what they used, etc. that the students didn’t have much time to show off their work, nor did they say anything much more than the teacher. I think next year they should let the students talk more. The first student was working with HDR (High Dynamic Range) pictures to build VR (Virtual reality) maps of their campus and the Keck observatory. The second student showcased work she was doing using the Emotiv Epoc headset to research how we react to music. I’ve had one of these at home for a few years, and the technology and API is amazing! The third student utilized the headset to control a AR Drone quadrocopter. The Fourth student was doing research on recognizing patterns in electrical usage within hotels, with the goal of reducing the extreme cost of energy. At the current time, electricity on the Islands is 4 times the cost of the most expensive mainland costs. She got this idea after doing research on DNA. She can now look at a set of waves and tell you what is a Laptop verses a refrigerator. They are also working on identifying GMO in food. Another student showcased how she build a radio telescope and can pick up the Doppler shift of Jupiter. And the final presentation was a student who is from Italy and is studying the three types of waves caused by earth quakes. This is important because the third type, can predict Tsunami’s and since Hawaii is receives no other warnings based on Latin American earthquakes this is critical information. The interesting aspect was that school can get three free sensors from Quake Cather Network, this is a crowdsourcing effort sponsored by Standford. I am going to see if I can order a set for myself.

The rest of the day I hung out on the show floor, and got to see the iPad based robot from Double Robot that allows you to be at the office and interact with people from anywhere in the world. I talked to the guys from AgileBits, Smile, CrashPlan, BlueMicrophones, Ecamm Networks, and many many more. I will try and post some more detailed reviews of some of the other people I talked to and whose software I recently picked up.

Looking forward to going back next year!