Tuesday, May 10, 2005

appropriate technology, part 1

Once upon a time, I saw something like that and decided that I wanted to be a Mechatronics Engineer. Thankfully I stuck to Mechanical, because I soon found out that I hated programming.

Anyway, you MUST check this out:

R50RD - Automonous Biped Robot

Its ok if you are too lazy to download all the videos, but if there is one that you want to watch, choose the 'Car Stopping' video.

I always believed a robot would be the most natural complement to the automobile - a full biped, intelligent version having great strength, dexterity and a library of mechanical knowledge. I imagined a robot with the ability to repair vehicles, direct traffic and watch over high-accident crossroads to preempt accidents.
Now, all that is left for the dude to do is to make it actually transform, like in the cartoon. At the moment, its just a mini cooper. When he does a trailer, that would be way cool.....like Optimus Prime. If you are a guy below 30 and don't know who Optimus Prime is, please get out of my blog.

But seriously, what's the purpose of this kinda stuffs? Sue me for being short-sighted, but there are some fields of engineering, which I feel is totally pointless. Cool, but pointless. There is a video of the robotic arm unscrewing a bolt from the car tyre. Do you actually need a robot to do that? Do you need a robot to direct traffic? Sure...its damn cool that that robot can stop a landrover from crashing (I told you to watch the damn video). But how vital is all that compared to the amount of money and manpower invested in such a project?

I believe in Appropriate Technology. While it is true that technology is there to make our lives easier and to quench our thirst for knowledge, there are some instances in which technology is not appropriate. Take for example those Mars expeditions.

The Americans sent a damn car onto Mars to take some damn cool colour photographs and take some samples of sand. Way cool. Not just engineers, but I am sure everybody appreciated the level of technology involved. Think about it...its like having a multi-billion dollar remote controlled car. But after that? What next? What about the British Beagle that was send to Mars? Oh yeah...I forgot, that one crashed. So, after spending all that bloody money on both projects, what have we learned?

Mars DOES indeed look red. Mars might have had water some umpteen billions of years ago. And then we do realise that alien DID exist some umpteen billions of years ago. Yeah, so what?

Imagine...with all that damn money and with all those talented minds focused in more pressing issues, a lot of the world's problems could be solved:
  • develop some sort of irrigation system to counter the problem of drought in poor countries
  • develop an internal combustion engine the size of an AA battery (prototype already exists)
  • develop an android sex doll that could be used by horny people to cut down rape cases
You get the idea........

A lot of engineers actually do not agree with this though. I had sort of an argument with one of my lecturers when I wrote an Advanced Technology case study talking about the need for Appropriate Technology in developing countries. He said that it was a social science report. I argued that while it did in a way resemble one, it was still damn bloody relevant in advanced technology to perfect existing inventions and solve existing problems before we move on to building new stuffs. I lost, and got a miserable 45% for that coursework.

*to be continued*


Agree. Like that stupid azimo robot from honda. Having spent millions of dollars just to make it wave and walk like an 80 years old granny. It can do no shit.

My little obnoxious nephew can do more than that ... like puking, climbing trees, hiding shoes, and soon in a couple years, that brat's gonna learn how to cuss in different languages as well.

Ironic but true.


ah..Mechanical engineering and the bane of programming. I feel your pain man. My comp assignment looks like greek to me, literally, and seriously.

And i figure your measly lecturer is one helluva bricky dude.



i know you can win in every argument, but bear in mind that your lecturer MARKS your report, so if you argue with him about what he believes in since childhood and defeats him, of course he's gonna take revenge by lowering your coursework marks (talk about age and maturity).

mike : Now, if that stupid azimo could be like robocop, then that would do some good.

lk : Not greek, just random alphabets.

stoolx : The argument actually took place after I got back the marked coursework with the 45%. I argued with him about the relevance trying to get him to up the mark. I lost and therefore the marks stayed as it was. I may like arguing, but I am not stupid ok.


i find myself agreeing with most of ur points, which u likely intended for the engineering field only

however, looking at it from an all encompassing perspective, wouldn't it be the demise of many fields.

archeology anyone?

About asimo:
asimo might be of no use. but the knowledge learnt frm building him, such as the science involved in allowing him to keep his balance, can be used in future projects.

hopefully, prelude to mechwarriors.


I don't see how the knowledge of building him is going to help solve the world's problems

dissapoitning coming from someone who's normally very very far sighted. i'm on the same side as metalrage. after all, he did mention 'future projects'.

About your objectives for the talented minds to focus on, firstly is to develope a better irrigation system for poor countries. The problems is the technology does already exist, only that the poor countries cannot afford to build them. For example the argriculture industry in the u.s is one of the best and they do not really suffer much from droughts and weather related disasters compared to poorer countries like cambodia and those african countries. And to note, many of NASA's technologies that were developed for the space programme are being used in our everyday lives. For example computer systems, water purification, aerodynamics and even baby food are by products from the space programme. for the whole list go to http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html The thing is, we humans need some sort of motivation to push us beyond our limits. for example during ww2 the technological advancement during that time was phenomenal. that time it was either develope new tech fast or be killed/conquered. the same goes today. the military still has the most advance technology available to a country. in the space programme, the pushing factor was the hazardous conditions, and they had to protect their astronauts. its kinda like a mother pushing her child to work/study harder. thats just my two cents worth.

byn : and why are those 'future projects' taking precedence over CURRENT problems? I never said that it should never be done. I am saying its more crucial to solve existing issues before moving on.

GPL : Yes, I do understand your points, and they were exactly the kind of things I was going to discuss in part2


by the way, METALRAGE, archeology is important because it tells the history of ancient civilisations. It is important that we learn of their history so that we don't fuck ourselves up the same way they all did.

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