[extropy-chat] More forwards please

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Thu Jan 11 22:17:48 UTC 2007

Robert Bradbury wrote:

	I'll throw my 2 cents into the ring here.  There was an
interesting article recently in the NY Times about people my age
(boomers) slowly having their wealth (and perhaps sanity) being drained
in the process of caring for their elderly parents.  Observing the
process of growing "old" in my parents quite closely over the last year
I can see where robots and IA have a significant opportunity to "uplift"
humans as they are now (never mind the transhuman aspects that would
result from returning my parents indefintely to a youthful state -- I
know how to solve that problem and it is *hard* (though not "real"
nanotech *hard*)).  But the simple aspects of robots that would help my
mother prepare diner (she has arthritis that makes cutting things up
difficult) or computer systems (!Windows which is brain dead && !Linux
which isn't exactly user friendly) that would not create problems for
people like my father (who is quite competent from a technical
standpoint but didn't grow up with computers) or that could work with
either parent to exercise their minds (something shown to extend
longevity) [1].  

Yes, there was explicit discusson at CES about the importance of (1)
robotic care for the elderly, and (2) robots that overcome the
user-interface barrier by adapting to the human. In addition, many of
the products on the show floor were categorized as "Lifestyle
Enhancement" which is completely separate from "Entertainment".

Everyone tends to be focused on the rush rush youth market (my mother or
father use an Apple iPhone (see me ROTFL) care about "MySpace" (whats
MySpace?), etc.)  There is little emphasis on how to augment the
lifestyles of the elderly to allow them to remain functional and
productive -- perhaps, as Ray puts it, "Living long enough to live
forever".  I don't know if my parents will make it.  The odds are
against them.  But for those of you on the list who have parents in
their 60s, maybe even their late 50s, you should be asking yourselves
whether it is "moral" to develop, market and push on technologies that
*only* benefit those in the 15-30 y.o. age bracket?  I would predict
there will come a time, sometime perhaps in the 2015 to 2030 time frame
when books will be written with titles like "How many could we have
I take your point, but let's not forget the broad and pervasive effects
of technology diffusion.  The rise of PC technology had enormous diffuse
effects in terms of novel and economical hardware, software, technical
familiarity and know-how, and the social ramifications of increasing
familiarity with using the technology and increasing access to and
sharing of all kinds of knowledge.
In contrast, I'm sure you remember back in the late 70s and early 80s
when many non-business, non-tech people were perplexed and asking what
they would possibly do with a personal computer besides store and index
their cooking recipes.

This isn't rocket science -- simple things like distributing / tracking
/ asking people about whether they have taken their medications, quick
calculations based on verbal Q&A regarding dietary intake, etc. could
make a big difference in the quality of life for the elderly.  
I hugely agree, and this was precisely the content of some of my focused
discussion and research at the show. [I'll divulge more later.]

So a couple of simple questions for Jef.
Q1: What was the average CES attendee age? 
I don't have official statistics, but my guess would be that the
distribution was something like 18-30 yrs: 25%,   31-49 yrs: 50%,   50+
yrs: 25%.  So average age about 40 yrs.
Q2: Would you be willing to stand outside the entrance next year holding
up a big sign saying "How many must die before we say 'Never again?'...
And will you really mean it this time?" [2]  
(A) No I don't think I would choose to stand outside with such a sign.
I don't think it would be effective.
(B) No, I don't think they would really mean it.  See Keith Henson for
the (evolutionary) psychology. 


1. It is worth noting that an iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner is something
that can significantly benefit the quality of life of those with limited
mobility (by keeping homes clean).  Now in an ideal world, iRobot would
not be focused on producing mobile robots for combat surveillance
purposes (something I believe they are working on), or even more
questionable combat purposes, but would instead be trying to produce a
robut "duster" (something a little bit trickier since it has to operate
in 3D rather than just 2D).  
iRobot has had two main product lines:  (1) Consumer products which are
variations on the Roomba floor cleaning robot, and (2) the military
PakBot robot.  Just now, at the CES show, they announced the new iRobot
Create which is a hobbyist/development platform based on a stripped-down
Roomba at a very affordable price.  There was much discussion about how
this was hoped to stimulate interest in diverse new applications.

2. The "you" not meaning Jef but the attendees to CES -- presumably most
of whom have heard of places like Rwanda and Darfur.  (The elderly death
toll in the U.S. on an annual basis dwarfs the death tolls of Rwanda and

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