Weekend Thoughts - 1.13.18

   Image  by  Engin_Akyurt , courtesy of  Creative Commons  licensing.

Image by Engin_Akyurt, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy Saturday y'all! Below, I have rounded up some things for you to think about this weekend:

1. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection searched 60 percent more electronic devices in 2017 than it did during the previous year. That has led to concern from privacy advocates who worry that the rise in searches may indicate something nefarious about the administration's stance on immigration and surveillance. However, the good news to come out of this is that customs agents will now need to have "reasonable suspicion" before they can perform a thorough search on devices. The real question now though is, "What constitutes reasonable suspicion?" It's quite possible that even with this change, the number of searches will not decrease in the near future.

2. President Trump has signed an executive order that could make it easier for Internet Service Providers to install high-speed broadband networks in rural areas. This move may help bring reliable and powerful Internet access to these areas, where 39 percent of people do not have access to broadband speeds. However, Trump's latest order will not offer any federal funding to promote broadband in those areas; instead it will expedite federal permitting requirements, which theoretically would make it easier for broadband companies to install and operate wireless towers. And of course he had to follow up this move by saying, "Those towers are going to go up, and you're going to have great, great broadband."

3. The concept of humans having sex with robots is still fairly new (and foreign) to most people, but the technology continues to get more sophisticated and advanced as time marches on. It's worth thinking about the pros and cons of sex robots and how it may affect individuals as well as the species as a whole. All in all, this is a fascinating area of technology that has several layers of complexity, and you may find it worth learning about while it is still relatively unknown to the general public.

4. Brick-and-mortar stores have been having a tough time competing against online retailers recently, and some have begun to turn to automation technology solutions to replace human workers. Think of the self checkout register, for example. Now a six-foot tall robot that is capable of moving about a store, performing inventory tasks for its employer, is beginning to make its way to stores. This machine is able to take photographs of store shelves and determine when items need to be restocked—a job that is still done by a human. For the time being, anyway. So when you see a towering robot in your local brick-and-mortar store, it's probably wise to leave it alone and let it do its job.

5. And for one last piece of news, also related to automation technology—GM plans to release a car without a steering wheel or pedals in 2019. In fact, the car will not have any manual controls or buttons for the passengers (remember, there is no human driver in this vehicle!) to push at all. This release will be dependent on whether or not the U.S. Department of Transportation approves some regulation, but it is exciting to think that there might be a fully autonomous consumer-grade vehicle on the road just next year.

That's all for this week's edition of Weekend Thoughts. Until next week, keep thinking wilder.