High tech news from around the world

As a rule, I write about Britain, but nothing’s more British than thinking the weather’s better someplace else, so let’s take a quick and random tour of the world, by way of the stranger bits of news I’ve found lately.

Irrelevant photo: elderflower–with a nettle snuggling up to it on the right.

Germany: An exhibition to mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther tacking his 95 theses on a church door, and in the process kicking off the Reformation, includes a robot named BlessU-2, which can bless you in one of five languages (or eight according to a different source) and beams light from its hands. It can also recite a bible verse–maybe the same one over and over and maybe one per customer; I’m not sure.

The five languages are German, English, French, Spanish, and Polish. If you’d like to be blessed in any other language (or in any other religion, while we’re at it), you’re shit outta luck (unless there really are eight), but you can choose either a male or a female voice, which might ease your pain.

Just for the record, Luther’s theses were in Latin. Latin doesn’t seem to be one of the languages you can choose. There’s not a lot of call for it these days.

The Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau “is behind the initiative,” whatever that means, and hopes the robot will provoke debate, especially about whether a machine can bless you.

That kind of left me speechless, so I turned to a video of the robot (it’s in the first link), hoping for a little drama. Sadly, all that happens is that its hands light up. I was hoping lighting bolts would shoot out of its hands. Now that might make me feel I’d been blessed.

Britain: The church of England isn’t installing robots, but it is planning to add a digital dimension to its collection plates. It’s trying out contactless payment systems in 40 churches—if, that is, it can get around the problem of how to pick up a signal through the massive stone walls of those ancient churches.

May the robot bless it in any of five (or eight) languages and help it find a strong signal.

China: A Buddhist temple in China now has a robot monk that can chant mantras and explain basic Buddhist beliefs. I have no idea what it said in the video clip I just linked to, but the listeners thought it was pretty funny.

Canada just introduced its first—in fact, anyone’s first—glow-in-the-dark coin. It’s worth $2. Canadian dollars, in case that isn’t boringly obvious. If you turn off the lights, the coin’s northern lights glow green and blue.

I want one.

In India, a government ministry recommends that pregnant women avoid meat, eggs, and “impure thoughts.” Also “anger, attachment, hatred, and [in case it’s not the same thing as impure thoughts] lust.”

We can only wish them luck. Impure thoughts can travel through walls—yea, even through those of massive stone temples (or churches, not to mention the flimsiest bedroom ones)—and are extremely hard to avoid.

Or so I’m told.

Back in Britain, politicians are using WhatsApp to plot against (or possibly even for) each other and to make deals. Being electronic and all, the messages are highly leakable. So far, most of the leaks seem to be deliberate, but one MP, Angela Rayner, apparently forwarded a message to the wrong group, after which she apologized for “being a cow.”

I’d heard politicians were out of touch but honestly: Cows don’t use smart phones, Angela. The little buttons are too small for their hooves.

As long as we’re back in Britain, let’s stay a minute and drop in on a squabble of authors, even if only one side is squabbling. Joanna Trollope ripped into J.K. Rowling for using Twitter. She said it was a threat to the literary industry.

“Creating this mass following and tweeting several times a day is like wanting to be…Kim Kardashian,” she told the daily Mail. “Some writers like JK Rowling have this insatiable need and desire to be out there all the time, and that’s entirely driven by their ego.”

And talking to the Mail? That’s driven by a desire to engage in the most high-minded literary discussion, because that’s what people buy the Mail for.

Rowling (wisely) hasn’t bothered to respond, but all the way down here in Cornwall I heard her rolling her eyes.

And finally, everywhere: Or everywhere Gmail’s fingers reach, anyway. Google’s launching Smart Reply (it’s actually a relaunch, but never mind that)–an automated reply system that reads through your email and suggests answers you might want to send. According to Wired, “Google is assuming users want to offload the burdensome task of communicating with one another.”

I’m sure we do. I’ll have my robot contact your robot and they can meet for coffee. You and I don’t need to be involved at all.

92 thoughts on “High tech news from around the world

  1. Re the glowing Canadian coin – the New Zealand Post Office issued a set of glow in the dark stamps last year. I had one but I don’t know where I’ve put it. Maybe I should turn off the lights.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I really want a glow in the dark coin now!

    I thought that pregnancy was mostly made up from anger and attachment…and followed impure thoughts (via some other processes)…
    I don’t speak from experience mind you so the whole thing could be based in innocence and dancing through daisies…

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Now for the real thing. When our daughter was little and in Catholic School, there was the issue of saying the Rosary. Using Flash and a crude text-to-speech program, I made an auto-Rosary program. It ran through the whole thing, lighting the beads as it processed them one-by-one. At the end, the voice said: “Oh, by the way, brush your teeth.” To this day, when we start to say, “Oh, by the way…” someone finishes with “brush your teeth.” Robot Martin Luther’s got nothing on me :)

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I might have to take a trip up into Canada JUST to get one of them glow in the dark coins. I really want one now.

    See…I get all sorts of wild ideas when I read your blog. Without it, I’d be stuck at home continually making dragons out of little metal rings…

    And…I may not have seen a cow use a smart phone, but I did get one hell of a giggle out of a video of a horse playing with a rubber chicken.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rest assured this is not a response from a robot. I shouldn’t think even introverts want robots to communicate for them. I can’t even think about robots giving blessings.

    Poor Joanna Trollope. I read a book of hers once.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. All the robot developments just make me sigh. So many resources – financial, material, time, energy – spent to accomplish what exactly? I don’t get it. Maybe that makes me a Luddite. The glowing coin, however, has me coming over all Gollum-like. I NEEEEEEEDS one.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for the dose of giggles. How would I survive without your weekly roundup of chuckles and guffaws. That Canadian coin. I think they’re on to something. Surely we can’t be all that atypical here? I did happen to catch a glimpse of that auto-response thing and wondered why google was reading my emails. Surely they have something better to do (as someone prior may have already noted.) Back to packing. It’s getting down to the wire now. However did you manage to up and pack to go clear across to the other side of the pond? My trek is less than a two hour drive (when the tourists aren’t swarming.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • 1. Google has nothing better to do than read our mail. They sell our data, so I can’t help thinking this isn’t unrelated.

      2. The cost of shipping thing across an ocean has a way of focusing your attention on what you really want to keep. It makes things both much easier and much harder. (I was amazed at what had been lurking at the back of our closets.)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Even that simple 2-hour drive with only gas to pay has me puzzled over the stuff that lurked in the closets and cupboards and various other hidey-holes. (oh dear, Google doesn’t like that no matter how I try to spell it!) Moving to a smaller house can do that, too!

        Liked by 1 person

        • There’s nothing like reality drawing a line to make us think about what we really need. I found some jeans that I couldn’t get one leg into anymore, never mind the rest of me. What did I think I was going to do with them?

          Liked by 1 person

    • I have, but a long time ago and it didn’t leave as strong an impression on me as the Hitchhiker’s Guide did. I was working on a gay and lesbian community newspaper at the time, and both it and our working lives were run by infinite improbability drive, so how could it have helped but leave an impression? Anyway, I’d forgotten the robot monk. Thanks for the reminder.

      Liked by 1 person

        • He was amazing. When I taught fiction writing, I used to do an exercise in writing dialog. The idea was to get people listening–I mean, really listening–to each other, so I needed to get them talking first and I used to ask them to gather in small groups and talk about the meaning of life for something like two minutes, mostly because it was such an absurd and impossible topic that they’d say something. Inevitably, someone said, “Forty-two.” And inevitably, everyone understood.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: High tech news from around the world — Notes from the U.K. | The net explorar

  9. Pingback: High tech news from around the world — Notes from the U.K. – GoDigital

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