Autonomy.

Photo courtesy of extreme tech.com

I love technology. Lord knows I blog about it enough. I’ve been fascinated with all things tech since I was a young lad and my interest in technology just gets more geeky with every passing breath.

Tonight, my husband and I watched the latest episode of “Madam Secretary President”. Aside from the fact that Téa Leoni is my straight crush and that the final season of this show gives us a picture as to what the United States could have been like with the first female president, this episode, “Killer Robots”, discussed the dangers of Autonomous Weapons, or killer robots running on A.I.

We are not safer when we remove the human component of something, especially when technology can be hacked by bad actors.

This got me thinking about autonomous aircraft. I learned to fly at an airport jumping head first into UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The airplanes were rather cool in that you’d see a Diamond DA-42 go by on the taxiway without anyone in the cockpit. The airplane was being controlled by a pilot at a computer terminal located elsewhere on the airport. When a traditional airplane entered the airspace for landing, the unmanned aircraft would be redirected outside of harm’s way. When we left the area they had not sequenced manned and unmanned aircraft in the pattern together as of yet.

Many talk about taking the next leap to autonomous airliners. Imagine stepping onto an Airbus and knowing that not only are there no human pilots in the cockpit but there isn’t even a remote operator located somewhere on the ground, monitoring operations from a remote location. I’m not even comfortable with the idea of flying on an airplane with a remote pilot let alone flying on an airplane being controlled entirely by Artificial Intelligence. In both scenarios, whatever is flying the aircraft has no skin in the game. To the pilot controlling the UAV from the ground? It’s like operating a video game. To the aircraft controlled entirely by computers and artificial intelligence? Who knows what it’s thinking.

I love flying airplanes. And I know many men and women that enjoy it maybe even more than I do. I know I’m getting on in my years, but I fully believe we will always need an onboard human element when it comes aircraft hauling passengers or being used for missions that involve human interaction. Honestly, I’m not even comfortable with the idea of airlines reducing the flight crew from two to one; it’s good to have checks and balances, a human set of checks and balances.

Technology can do amazing things and I’m excited to see the advancements we make during the second half of my life. But we must never lose sight of the fact that we’re human and we need that human foundation.

We may not always act like the smartest species, but we’re still a feeling species; and that just feels right.

Bucket List Item.

I need to experience this type of flight once in my life. Many will say they have no need for this type of service. I absolutely want this type of service once in my life.

This is a goal.

UA 1500.

We are on our way home from a wonderful eight-day adventure at Walt Disney World. I have taken dozens and dozens of photos, I have pondered a lot and pondered a little, and I’m feeling the most relaxed after a vacation I have felt in several years.

This has been a wonderful vacation.

We are aboard flight UA 1500 en route to ORD Chicago-O’Hare. The flight is quite smooth; flight time is a little over 2.5 hours. It will be nice to be back in Central Time. As an aside, I’m looking forward to the end of Daylight Saving Time in two weeks. I know many folks don’t look forward to losing their “extra” daylight, but my circadian rhythm feels all nice and adjusted when we get back to Standard Time.

My husband and I were counting out the number of visits we have made to Walt Disney World during our 23+ years together and I was surprised to realize the final tally. As a process and technology dork, it’s interesting to see how things have changed over the years and how much things are progressing. Experiences that seemed very cutting edge back in 1997 now feel a little dated. I still adore the “Disney Tradition” and approach to excitement but I sometimes wonder if the average middle American family enjoys the experience as much as I do. I tend to be an outlier in the way I see things. I’m good with my point of view; sometimes you need commentary from a different vantage point in the room.

One of the things that’s becoming more difficult to do at Disney is shutting out the outside world a bit. Without making changes to notification schemes and avoiding certain apps and streams, you can still become inundated with the travails occurring on the other side of those magical walls. While I tweeted and shared our experiences, I didn’t do a lot of reading of news and the like. I’m sure everything is still as off the rails as it was when we embarked on this journey last Saturday.

I mentioned to my husband that I wanted to keep this sense of centered-ness alive for as long as possible. I have a few little charms that will be in my reach at my work desk. I have a few chants I’ll say to myself from time to time.

It’s good to be in a great place.

And it’s awesome to be in an airplane, enjoying the view. Any seat on an airplane is an awesome seat.

Education.

For probably the first time in over a year, YouTube suggested something to me that I find quite interesting. It’s a television series from 1961 called, “Mrs. G. Goes To College”. A quick Wikipedia hit reveals the show was later called “The Gertrude Berg Show”. The cast includes the aforementioned Gertrude Berg, Marion Ross (later on “Happy Days”), and the perennial Mary Wickes.

Prior to this suggestion I was unfamiliar with this show and Gertrude Berg herself, for that matter. The Wikipedia hit mentions she was a writer, actor, producer and more and basically a female pioneer in a very male dominated industry at the time.

The concept of “Mrs G. Goes To College” is she’s a widow in her early 1960s and decides to go back to college. I’m halfway through the first episode as I write this and I’m already finding it fascinating. I really like Mrs. Berg’s understated method of acting and line delivery. And not only does it appeal to my love of black and white film and other media and the graciousness and manners of the era, but the concept of lead character Sarah Greene going back to college in her early 60s gives me a sense of hope.

We need more hope.

Mechanical.

Our condo for this trip is in The Paddock at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Spa and Resort. The Paddock was built in the mid 2000s and is up for refurbishment over the next year or so. Because of the impending improvements, this will probably be our last opportunity to use one of these:

We enjoy having a washer and dryer available in the condo because we pack half the clothes we need and do laundry every night. We go home with clean clothes. This reduces the stress of going home after vacation.

The original-to-the-condo washer and dryers are marked as a “Quality GE Product”. The washer is a traditional washer that fills up with water, with an agitator up the middle. It fills, washes, spins, fills, rinses, spins and calls it a day. This design washed clothes for decades but has given way to more efficient designs. Newer washers spritz some water on the clothes, thump them around while making cricket noises, spin, spritz, and spin again. The new design is suppose to be eco-friendly but I never feel like our clothes are clean with these energy efficient washers.

One of the things I love about this old school washer and dryer is that it has mechanical controls. Push the knob in, click click click to your cycle choice and pull the knob to start. We did it thousands upon thousands of times when I was growing up. Pulling that knob and having the water start was always so cool. Pressing “Start” on the new fangled washing machines to start the spritzing just isn’t the same.

Mechanical controls are also much more reliable. There’s no need to “reboot” the washer or dryer. The motor turns the knob, the relays click at their appropriate times and the washing machine does what it’s suppose to do.

With the refurbishment of the condos here at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, they’re replacing all the appliances. The new washer/dryer combination units are made by Whirlpool and they are all electronic with the cricket noises during operation.

This means the mechanical controls found on the condo dishwasher are also going away.

Interestingly, GE owns up to the manufacturing of the dishwasher, but the washer/dryer combo unit apparently isn’t worthy of the GE logo.

Nowadays the GE logo has been leased out to a company called Haier, as GE no longer makes appliances. I’m pretty sure the appliances we had in the house before we moved to Chicago were actually made by Frigidaire but branded with the GE logo. Parts could be exchanged between Frigidaire, GE, Westinghouse, and Kenmore appliances. Geeks online called them FriGEmore appliances.

I’m all for technology doing great things for us, but not for the sake of making things cheaper and the lessening of the user experience. The appliances in this condo are well over a decade old and have been used by countless different guests and families and they’re still going just fine.

We need GE to bring good things to life again.