THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- JANUARY 12, 2019
Technology is only technology if it was invented after you were born. Otherwise, it's the way things have always been. The problem is technology is moving so fast that “always been” is now calculated in hours. It's enough to make you dizzy.
How fast? “To put it into context, in 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every 100 years. By the end of 1945, the rate was every 25 years. In 1982, it was every 12 months. IBM now estimates by 2020 the doubling rate will be every 12 hours. (https://lodestarsolutions.com/keeping-up-with-the-surge-of-information-and-human-knowledge/)
This pace makes it easy to just throw up your hands and cry “uncle.” Fine and dandy, but hiding in your basement won't stop the tsunami. Technology marches on. Constant vigilance may be required to maintain sanity.
Digital assistants come to mind (Alexa, Siri, Google Home). It seems that these are everywhere and they are so handy we could become mentally lazy. How so? A recent study concluded: “This could become a reality, given that 34 percent of virtual assistant users would trust an AI as their nutritionist, but only 25 percent would trust a human. Fifty-seven percent say they want a smartphone that knows when they are becoming ill before they notice themselves, and 54 percent would like a smartwatch that senses when they are getting stressed before noticing it themselves. Forty-three percent would like a virtual assistant that decides when they should visit a doctor, dentist or hairdresser. With digital decision support in increasingly more areas of everyday life, one-third of consumers think virtual assistants will make people forget how to make their own decisions. In fact, 34 percent already believe critical thinking will disappear due to the overuse of virtual assistants. And 31 percent of consumers also expect that we will have to go to 'mind gyms' to practice thinking.”
If going to a mind gym seems ridiculous, consider what is happening on the college “sports” scene. An example is happening at Northwood University in Midland. “Northwood University is offering scholarships to students who play on the school’s new competitive video-game team starting in Fall 2019. Playing world-famous video games such as Overwatch, League of Legends and Fortnite, the team will consist of roughly twenty or more students who will compete against other schools that have esports teams.”
Scoff is you must, but the school has allocated $60,000 for scholarships. Each team member will receive up to $3,000 in scholarship money. It's not difficult to imagine a future where colleges recruit “athletes” with promises of state-of-the-art computer labs instead of football stadiums and basketball arenas. (https://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw-bay-city/2019/01/northwood-university-adds-video-games-as-a-competitive-sport-offering-scholarships.html)
These new e-athletes will not even have to leave their gaming seats to get some munchies thanks to new technology being rolled out by PepsiCo at Pacific University – a robot that delivers snacks. The “snackbot” will deliver food and drinks to locations across campus through the snackbot app.
PepsiCo says: "It represents a really important intersection of consumer demands and needs and also the evolution of technology. The snackbots will be able to motor around for more than 20 miles on a single charge. Neither inclement weather nor darkness will be a hindrance on the food and drink delivery: The snackbot has a camera and headlights to navigate clearly at all times. As for curbs and steep inclines, the snackbot has all-wheel drive capabilities.” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/01/03/robot-snack-delivery-takes-pepsi-challenge-california-college-campus/2449851002/)
Seeing something like the snackbot in action may amaze you, so check it out at https://youtu.be/skUbYVmRogI. However, another technology video at https://youtu.be/4JlYE6nSNJI could cause your brain to vibrate. Those e-athletes full of bot snacks may be able to get around campus without lifting a finger. They will just have to hop on their self-driving motorcycle. You read that correctly. Motorcycle. Self-driving.
“BMW Motorrad says it’s been working on the technology for more than two years, and the effort shows. The short video showcases a BMW motorcycle cruising around a test track with no driver, starting from a stop, leaning into turns, and braking all by itself.” Now “Born To Be Wild” does not necessarily refer to a human. (https://www.theverge.com/2018/9/12/17847508/bmw-motorrad-self-driving-motorcycle)
As previously noted, technology marches on. So does this column. More tech talk is coming next week, including some technology that will scare the pants off you. Instruct your digital assistant to stay tuned.
Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadilacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.