Category Archives: Business

More on my dear Great-Grandfather

Ghent, Belgium, is apparently considering naming a street after one of the Filipino Igarot tribe members abandoned by my great-grandfather there, circa 1913. Here’s a recent news story from the Philippines about my mother’s father’s father, Richard Schneidewind, and Timicheg, one of the tribespeople he displayed. Oh, great-grandfather Richard. Sigh.

the next wave of AI: fast food managers?

Sure, we always hear about our robot overlords, but who would have thought that the next wave would be… dun dun DUNnnnnnn… a chicken restaurant manager?

Hyperactive Bob, the kitchen production management computer system from Hyperactive Technologies, is now being licensed to Zaxby’s, a fast-food restaurant chain with locations in the Southern states. … This artificially intelligent computer system not only takes orders, it gives them as well.

Hyperactive Bob is frighteningly close to Manna, a science-fictional system proposed by Marshall Brain in his novella-length story of the same name. In the story, Manna is a PC-based system that makes use of sensors around the restaurant to gain information; it then instructs employees. … Hopefully, no one will tell the makers of Hyperactive Bob about the Manna story; it has too many practical suggestions for the enslavement of humans.

This isn’t really a surprise to anyone that’s seen how much fast food restaurants have come to resemble factories. However, it’s good to note how interested corporate chains are in reducing the role of pesky, unpredictable humans.

[Thanks for the links, Adam!]

Textiles can do good, doing well

Just when you were beginning to think that it would never do anyone any good, voting with your dollar makes a difference. An effort by textile companies and the government of Lesotho has brought the textile industry back from near disaster to near fighting strength again, in large part thanks to the “government… working hard to become a destination of ethical choice”. Makes you renew your faith in checking labels.

big is back (out)

It looks like the pendulum of automotive excess is starting to swing back toward smaller, more efficient cars. The Washington Post notes that “SUV sales have dropped by up to half”: this year over last, while small car sales have gone up, probably due to higher gas prices. Predictably, Detroit got caught with its pants down because it doesn’t have any efficient cars (read: hybrids) to offer. Too bad they didn’t pay attention back when it was made plain that fuel efficiency was going to get really important Real Soon Now.

My take on this is that the gas-price tipping point has finally been reached, so it’s a great time for cities to propose transit alternatives (read: trolleys) and actually get them funded. If I ran a city, I’d make all existing transit free for the next 6 months to get ridership numbers up, then use that period to convince people that transit is worthwhile (or at least figure out why they think it isn’t) while drumming up new funds to make it even better. Of course I don’t run a city, but I hope that folks who do start to see that transit is going to get really important Real Soon Now.