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Monday, December 28, 2009

Subjective Warming

Let's say that scientists determined with certainty that pistachio is the best flavor for ice cream. Pistachio ice cream lovers everywhere would no doubt scream, "I told you so!" and many people might switch to eating only pistachio ice cream. Those of us who dislike pistachio ice might be a little skeptical of the settled science, but we probably wouldn't much care and would continue to enjoy other flavors. The pistachio ice cream lovers might then call us skeptics or deniers and look down on us from their moral high ground.

None of this would much matter, unless pistachio ice cream lovers and scientists latched onto politicians (or vice-versa) to have the government ban (or at least tax and regulate) all flavors of ice cream other than pistachio. This clearly crosses an important line since one group is now limiting the subjective choices and opportunities of the second group. Yet nobody was ever stopping anyone from eating pistachio ice cream.

Now substitute "something should be done about global warming" for "pistachio is the best flavor for ice cream". The substitution, while having elements of absurdity, works surprisingly well.

Even if one accepts that global warming is happening with certainty, and even if one accepts that the scientific consensus is that something should be done about it, once that group forces its subjective preference for doing something on the rest of us, a very serious line is crossed.

It's the line of oppression and totalitarianism.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Well, more like two paragraphs (and the bottom picture) in The Economist:

Even pruning can be mechanised. Vision Robotics, a company based in San Diego, has demonstrated a prototype vine-pruning robot. Good pruning requires skill to balance the growth of the vine. The vines also need to be trimmed at certain locations and at precise angles to grow the best grapes for winemaking. The robot is a bit slower than a good human pruner, but it will speed up. It should be able to prune vines at about half the cost of manual labour, says Derek Morikawa, the chief executive of Vision Robotics.

The company is also developing apple- and orange-picking robots with multiple arms. These too rely on building 3-D models of trees and the fruit growing on them. Mr Morikawa thinks the crop-scouting ability of such automated machines will prove highly valuable. Supermarkets, for instance, like uniformity so if they want, say, apples of a certain size and in a particular state of ripeness, a farmer could use the model to identify exactly where such apples are growing.

Vision Robotics is the company I founded about ten (long, long, long) years ago.

I was hoping for The Cover of the Rolling Stone, but hey, a couple of paragraphs on page umpteen gazillion of The Economist is a start. It's certainly a step up from Good Fruit Growers Magazine (I'm not kidding - that's actually the name of a magazine) and the numerous other ag rags that you've never heard of and I can never remember that we've been featured in.

I'm rather hoping this isn't my company's entire 15 minutes of almost fame, but we'll see.