Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Inserting the technology

The video clip is merely a commercial for KUKA Robotics. Although now past his peak, Timo Boll has previously reached number one in the ITTF world table tennis rankings. The average club player would still do well to take a point off him.

In this commercial we cannot see quite how the robot is supposed to score points against Boll, in which case it is safe to assume that in a real match it probably couldn't. Apart from anything else Boll would easily confuse it with spin.

Which is also what this clip is - spin. That's point one - the technology is being oversold. Amusingly oversold but still oversold.

Point two takes us back a few decades to the early eighties when our lab had a brand new laboratory computer system installed. Microcomputers such as the Apple II had only been around for a few years and in those days environmental labs such as ours relied entirely on calculators, graphs and paperwork.

Our super new computer system was part of a centrally coordinated IT project which unfortunately never got to grips with the realities of laboratory life. After lots of fanfare it turned out to be slow, inflexible and expensive. Nevertheless we managed to make use of it. There were no real benefits to using it, but the system had been imposed centrally with lots of senior clout behind it so we made the best of it.

Point three is the glaringly obvious lesson to be drawn from points one and two which are related anyway.

As technology invades middle class professional strongholds such as science, education, law, administration and many others, these two factors will play their part - inevitably. Firstly the technology will be oversold to decision makers and secondly people on the ground will adapt to it because that's what they do. There is no real choice, it's adapt or move on and when it comes to the point most of us adapt.

So gosh - didn't that robot play well?


Sam Vega said...

"So gosh - didn't that robot play well?"

My equivalent is "Blimey - this new classroom technology makes learning a lot faster and effective!". Except, of course, that it doesn't. For exactly the reasons you give. Spot on, AKH.

Demetrius said...

When I utter a horrible groan these days it is often because a site I have used has changed and suddenly it is all a lot more difficult to find your way round the flashy and fancy screen things that simply get in the way or worse do not take you to where you want to go to. There have been some shockers. what is doubly or treble or more annoying is when you are paying a fee or sub's to use the site.

James Higham said...

The wonderful sound of those two words "imposed centrally".

A K Haart said...

Sam - none of our IT systems were much good apart from some home brew systems in the early days.

Demetrius - it surprises me how poor websites can be, especially when good sites are there to show the way.

James - we should be used to it by now though.

Trainer John said...

1976 - 6 hours to program an HP programmable calculator to do a straight line regression analysis for am ecological lab survey. Far faster than by hand.
1996 - A few minutes in Excel
2016 - Who cares. I'm retired!

A K Haart said...

John - I used to enjoy programming programmable calculators. We used them for curve fitting and repetitive calculations.