A NASA artist’s conception of the Mars Rover Spirit.
An argument could be made that automation in certain sectors makes things faster, more efficient, and less error-prone. My husband works in a diagnostic lab where processors and stainers perform many routine tests that once were run by hand. An argument could be made that pharmacy automation might be less subject to corruption or error (though there are many ways humans could take advantage if the system isn’t carefully set up and monitored).
This is an automated slide-maker and stainer for a specific laboratory purpose. It delivers consistent results that would be hard to achieve at speed by hand.
But here we start to run into a gray area. There still are things it seems likely robots are a long way from being able to do as well as a skilled, trained human.
My husband, for instance, is still the experienced tech the doctors call upon to quality-check for diagnostic results whenever they do certain kinds of biopsies.
Automated pharmacy equipment from RoboPharma (yes, that’s really their name).
The pharmacy robot may be able to package up pills at the speed of light, but how will it do when you need advice about the best cream to use for the persistent itch you have, or which syrup might work best for your baby’s cough?
I plan to explore this question in more detail next week.
IMAGES: Many thanks to Before It’s News for the “future” graphic, the CNN Money for the graph illustrating the Ball Stat University study, and to Electronicsb2b for the photo of the robotic automotive assembly line. Many thanks to the invaluable Wikipedia for the image of the Mars rover Spirit, to Abbot Labs for the photo of their Cell-Dyn SMS slidemaker and stainer and to RoboPharma for the photo of the automated pharmacy equipment.
I was raised on classical music. When everyone else my age was arguing Beatlesv. Stones, Jan and I were discussing Bernstein v. Ormandy. So, when I reached the fifth grade and my teachers asked if I was interested in joining the band, taking up the clarinet seemed like the obvious thing to do.
I loved it. Learning new skills kept me from getting bored in our rural school, and gave me the chance to learn one of the main themes from my favorite symphony, Tchaikovsky’s 4th. I took group lessons on Saturdays, and later private lessons with my band director after school. And I began to dream. Maybe, some day, I would become a professional musician, and get to play with the New York Philharmonic!
I shared my dream with my band director. He shot it down. “Girls don’t play in professional orchestras,” he told me.
This was 1969, and the women’s movement hadn’t made it to small town Missouri. I was still young enough to believe things would always be the way they were at that moment. My interest in band began to decline. Why should I work all those extra hours, if the boys were the only ones who could make a career of it? By eighth grade, when they told me my final grade depended on getting up very early every morning, all summer long, and marching, I was done. I dropped out of band and switched my allegiance back the theatre, where night owls who can’t tell left from right were more appreciated.
In the decades since, strong, wonderful women with more pioneering spirit than I, have broken the gender barrier in professional orchestras. Blind auditions became the standard, concealing any gender cues and placing the auditioner behind a screen, so all the conductor could evaluate was the musician’s tone, musicality, and playing ability. A whole generation of rigidly sexist artistic directors has died off, and about half the musicians in today’s New York Philharmonic are female.
But the hurt, and outrage I felt back in 1969 lingers.It flares up again every time I hear a teacher shoot down a young person’s dream. And I say, no matter what your creative field, feed the flame.
If someone comes to you with an impossible dream, remind yourself that it may simply not be possible yet.
The child with the shining face, who stands before you alight with the glory of her dream, may be the one who makes it possible, sometime in the future.
Nurture those dreams. We need them. They are the agents of change.
ABOUT GIGI: In addition to being my much-admired sister, Gigi Sherrell Norwood is the Director of Education and Concert Operations for the Dallas Winds (formerly the Dallas Wind Symphony), having used her BFA in Directing, her prodigious writing skills, and her lifelong love of music to become involved with a highly-esteemed professional musical group after all. Widow of the science fiction writer Warren C. Norwood, with whom she sometimes collaborated on projects under his byline, Gigi is also a talented writer herself. She is currently working on several urban fantasy stories set in the historic Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas, TX.
NOTE: for a similar post about a young woman’s creativity shot down, you might be interested in my post Death of a Purple Elephant, from 2011.
IMAGES: Many thanks to Lark in the Morning’s “Clarinets” page for the photo of the clarinet. Many thanks to Amazon, for the photo of the vintage NY Philharmonic album cover, featuring the all-male-except-the-harpist photo of the orchestra’s musicians. I am indebted to the Madison.com website for the image of the MSO blind audition. The photo is by Amber Arnold of the State Journal. Many thanks to Bidding for Good, for the photo of a more recent New York Philharmonic, complete with roughly half female musicians. Gigi provided the photo of herself. It is used with her permission.
I chose a pair of quotes for this week, both addressing, in a different way, the endurance of the glass ceiling in American public life. I am particularly feeling the Maureen Reaganquote in this season of political madness.
This has been my week to just miss anniversaries. Earlier this week I missed K9 Veterans Day. This time it’s the anniversary of my subject’s birth: Rosa Bonheur (born Marie-Rosalie Bonheur) was born March 16, 1822.
She was literally born a rule-breaker. Her family, inspired by her father, were Saint-Simonians, followers of a radical-for-that-period socialist political philosophy that held, among other things, that men and women should be considered equals, and all class distinctions should be abolished (of coursethe group soon split, with one faction unable to accept the idea of female equality).
Well, darn it–I missed it this year. K9 Veterans Day was Monday, on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the US Army K9 Corps. A couple days off or not, however, it seems reasonable to honor the bravery and sacrifices of the magnificent animals who help keep our nation, and its human defenders, safe.
Dogs have been going to war with their humans for millennia, of course. Sergeant Stubby, of World War I fame, was very far from the first, although his story is pretty cool.
So is the story of Rin Tin Tin, arguably the most famous war dog of World War I, thanks to his subsequent acting career.
Rin Tin Tin was a German Shepherd Dog–still one of the most popular breeds for Military Working Dogs.
Dogs for Defense was an American Kennel Club-associated World War II program that slightly predated the Army K9 Corps, and helped supply its need for dogs. They accepted a wider variety of breeds than we commonly see today–including Alaskan Malamutes and Collies.
Whatever their breed, however, we owe them a debt of gratitude! We can make our thanks more tangible by supporting organizations such as Save A Vet, which make sure that once their military service is finished, these magnificent dogs can enjoy their retirement in a good home.