Archive for the ‘economics’ category

Dieu et mon droid: UK to develop robot strategy


A very British robot. Image Creative Commons Dave King/D J Shin/csaga

We’re broadly in favour of spending more on science and technology research here at Headline Superheroes, and it therefore comes as good news that the government is thinking of creating a unified UK robot strategy. Whilst this may sound like futuristic military posturing, it will actually involve research into automating processes. Sorry, that was really boring: WOOO!!! Robots!!!

However, the narrow-minded obsession with economic impacts in Westminster means that justification even of inherently awesome robot research must be drenched in cost–benefit bullshit. Take this quote, from Prof David Lane of Heriot-Watt University, lead author of the proposal:

With the right course of action, we believe the UK could achieve 10% of the global [robot] market share by 2025.

We can only assume that the researchers in question consulted their almanac of global markets for products which don’t even really exist yet, and tried to work out how many of those as-yet-undeveloped things we might be able to sell as a fraction of that unknown market, on the basis of absolutely nothing. And luckily it came out as 10%, which is nice and round.

The article also skips the thorny issue of what can be classified as a robot, on a scale which runs approximately from electric toothbrushes to C-3PO.

If the UK were to lead the world in automated bread-toasting technology, would that count? Voice-controlled dishwashers with GPS? (‘It looks like you’re trying to wash some dishes! Your current latitude is 51.7 degrees. Congratulations! You have the 371,023rd most northerly set of IKEA Färgrik dinnerware.’) Or does it have to be an entirely autonomous search-and-destroy warbot equipped with thrusters enabling short-distance flight, hyperspectral threat detection, and five cleaning programmes boasting enviably low water consumption? (‘It looks like you’re considering rebelling against the UK robot hegemony! Here, let me wash those sporks for you! Also, nice latitude!’)

‘The UK could lead the world in robots,’ the report’s authors say. Let’s hope we’re riding into battle bestride Megazords, rather than sitting, bored but slightly wealthier, on the invoices for 10% of the world’s toasters.

Written by Statto and Tom

July 1, 2014 at 23:42

Econo-mix metaphors

The Bank of England today cut its growth forecast for 2012 to almost zero, and its governor, Mervyn King, therefore made some comments about the UK economy. To pull together his quotes from the BBC article on this:

The big picture is that output’s been flat for two years…. We are navigating rough waters and storm clouds continue to roll in from the euro area…. Unlike the Olympians who have thrilled us over the past fortnight, our economy has not yet reached full fitness…. It’s a saga that goes on, and on, and on…. There’s still a long way to go.

It’s quite a surprise that Merv didn’t go on to say that ‘we’re sick as a parrot, and our timbers are shivering. The economy is like a tank with no wheels; even though the turret is loaded, we can’t get to the shop to buy strawberries.’

Thankfully, the asininities weren’t reserved only for arguably the most important economist in Britain. The BBC also explained that:

He said that the future was unpredictable, since no-one could predict what would happen in the eurozone crisis, which would have an impact on the UK.

I get it! Finally! Someone explains clearly that things are unpredictable because no-one can predict them! So, conversely, if someone can predict something, it’s probably no longer unpredictable. Is that right? For example, you could predict that economics news will forever be delivered as a slew of disconnected but reassuringly folksy analogy, but you couldn’t predict exactly the shape, size, origin, colour, or other arbitrary properties (dependent on the metaphor in question) of the storm clouds that will come over from the latest crisis, because weather economic forecasting is hard, especially when the jet stream is determined to ruin your economy. Summer. Chances of Olympic gold. Whatever.

Back to the Beeb:

The pound jumped in value to 1.27 euros on the money markets following Sir Mervyn’s comments.

The temperature in Weymouth changed too, but reporters stopped short of noting everything else that happened shortly after King’s chat because correlation and causation aren’t the same thing. But, even suspending scepticism for a moment, is the narrative being entertained here that ‘the markets’ are now confident that at least Merv knows about the storm clouds—which he has been discussing for years in metaphors as forced as this attempt to add a simile into this parenthetical remark—even if he still doesn’t know what to do about them? Brilliant. At least we know where we are: inside the body of a healing athlete trying to predict when the unpredictable choppy waters will subside. Right?

Written by Tom and Statto

August 8, 2012 at 13:14

Posted in BBC, economics