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Noodles, intelligent machines & Gen Z

by Jim Powers

In last month's takedown of the Boomer Apocalypse, I pointed out that attempts to assign blame for current social and economic problems are not only misguided, but a dangerous diversion from dealing with the very real issue of the unconsidered expansion of technology. This month I want to talk about noodles.

Now, most of us in the U.S. don't think of noodles when we think of fast food. Hamburgers, fries, and most any other unhealthy, over processed food comes to mind before noodles. But, noodles are big in China. And noodles are a favorite part of the China fast food experience. And in a country of almost 1.5 billion people, noodles are big business. If you own a restaurant that serves noodle dishes, someone has to make a lot of noodles each day to satisfy all of those hungry diners.

The actual work of cooking those noodles is pretty simple. The problem is that "someone" must peel noodle strips from a firm piece of dough, throw them into boiling water, and remove them after a specific time. That's what a noodle cook does all day, every day. And for that effort, noodle cooks in China make around $6,400 U.S. per year.

You would think that, with 1.5 billion people, it would not be a problem to hire enough noodle cooks. You would be right. There is no shortage of people in China who want to earn the equivalent of $6,400 a year to make noodles. Sounds like the perfect combination, a commercial need for noodle cooks, and plenty of folks who want to do it. If you own a restaurant, though, there is a downside to noodle cooks. They get tired, they get bored, they get sick; and, they get $6,400 a year. Technology has found a solution to the problem. Robot noodle cooks.

It seems that over the last couple of years, thousands of robot noodle cooks have appeared in Chinese restaurants, to the delight of many diners. They are entertaining to watch as they peel the noodles from the dough and toss them into the boiling water. They are very fast. They will work tirelessly 24/7. They don't get sick. They don't get bored. And they cost only $1,600 (which is down from $3,000 only a couple of years ago). Even when maintenance costs are considered, they are much less expensive than people. Eventually, because commercial interests are driving the development of these robots, these intelligent machines, the cost will come down even more, and they will dominate the fast food industry. Many people will lose their jobs.

What does this have to do with Generation Z (those who are now under age 17)? The rise of intelligent machines is pervasive in the U.S. It is not just our fast food restaurants that are rapidly becoming more automated. Intelligent machines (robots, if you like) are rapidly taking over jobs from people in every industry. This has been going on for years, of course. But, as the speed of technology increases, the pervasiveness increases. Intelligent machines are now spreading from replacing blue-collar workers, into replacing white-collar workers.

While this escalation in the spread of technology threatens all of us in some way, Gen Z faces the biggest threat. Technology, it is estimated, will eliminate 70 percent of the jobs that exist now within 25 years. Those folks born within the last few years will be looking, in 15 or 20 years, for that summer job, or entry level position as they enter the workforce. Where will they find those jobs? If the unconsidered expansion of technology continues to accelerate (as it surely will, because it is being driven by economic interests), most entry-level jobs and many other jobs, will be done by intelligent machines.

Next month we'll look at another troubling technology trend, the rise of sociable robots.

Jim Powers is Editor of the Tyler County Booster. All opinions expressed are those of the author and do no necessarily reflect those of this Newspaper or its management.

The Boomer Apocalypse

by Jim Powers

Just as you thought the Zombie Apocalypse was finally fading into well-deserved obscurity, and that it might be safe to put the shotgun back on the rack and leave the bunker, Internet pundits are sounding a new warning. The Boomer Apocalypse is here. Hidden among the millions of folks born between 1946 and 1964 is a little known secret. Immortality! Boomers, it seems, are immortal. Don't believe it? Why not? It's all over the Internet.

An important note: This monthly column will be an extended rant about technology. Specifically, it is about the future consequences of the unconsidered growth of technology.

"So, Jim, what's up with 'The Boomer Apocalypse' title?"

I was born in 1950, firmly securing my Boomer bona fides among those born between 1946 and 1964. I've lived the typical Boomer life. Started working at a little corner grocery store after school when I was 13 and have worked every day since then. Got an education. Married. Been a photographer, newspaper reporter and editor. Published a couple of newspapers. Owned my own software development company. Bought and sold a few homes along the way. I've learned on the Internet over the last few years, though, that I, and the rest of the Boomers, are the cause of all the now and future economic pain in the United States! It's got to be true, right? It's on the Internet.

It seems a large number of Gen X and Y folks believe that if the Boomers hadn't been so greedy, hadn't expected so much, hadn't organized unions and demanded living wages, that the country would be better off economically now. Boomers have been accused of "using up" the resources of the country, leaving nothing but economic bones to be picked over by those coming of age in the 21st century. Worse, those same Boomers are now getting old, retiring from jobs, and becoming a huge drain on the economy as they begin drawing from Social Security and Medicare. I've read hundreds of projections about the future consequences to the economy, to job creation and availability, and even to housing, as the country has to somehow support all of these old people.

I think all of this is a diversion, and a dangerous diversion. The reality is that Boomers are not immortal. In 25 years, the youngest of us will be 74 years old. Which means most of us will be dead. And while we may be retiring at a faster rate and making more individual demands on the system, we will also be dying at an ever accelerating rate. If we are a burden on the economy, it is a very temporary burden. If we caused all the economic woe of the last few years, an extremely odd concept to my mind, what value is there in condemnation? It is the future, not the past, with which current generations must be concerned.

The "Boomer Apocalypse" is self-limiting. And while so much angst is expended on a self-limiting concern, little is being directed to a more direct threat to future economic security, the unconsidered expansion of technology into every corner of our lives. We are not going to stop the growth of technology. Commercial interests are driving the speed at which technology grows. It is important, though, that we consider the consequences of that growth and make conscious decisions about its direction.

Industry estimates suggest that in 25 years, up to 70 percent of the jobs that exist today will not exist because they will have been replaced with intelligent robots. And the rise of so-called "sociable" robots suggests even more fundamental concerns about our future. We will take a deeper look at these issues in the August column.

Jim Powers is Editor of the Tyler County Booster. All opinions expressed are those of the author and do no necessarily reflect those of this Newspaper or its management.

Inappropriate music at Lake Tejas

(Editors Note: After being contacted about this situation, the Colmesneil I.S.D. Superintendent thanked us for the heads up on the situation and said he would take care of it immediately.)


We were reading about Paul Dean in "People Magazine" and were floored that she would be crucified for using the "n" word. Well, can anyone tell us that the person who was asking her the question did not have that "word" in their mind? Of course Not. So crucify that person, too.

If that is so bad, listen to this.

We had a big day planned with our children and grandchildren at Lake Tejas. The sun was warm and the water was great and all the little children were enjoying playing with parents and friends, when out of the spakers came the dirtiest words possible. "F" bombs; "mf" bombs; "B" words; and dirty descriptions of filth in the form of "rap."

There are no smoking signs and they check your cooler for alcohol and the all sorts of parking rules. But they have filthy rap blasting from the loud speakers.

Is this the best picture to have for Colmesneil school system? Who is responsible4 for Lake Tejas? Really!?

Mike & Pam Riley

Sheriff's Corner: May 9, 2013

by Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford

Let me just start by saying what a beautiful weekend it was in Tyler County. So many visitors and citizens of the communities came together for an event that seemed to draw East Texas and a nation together.

Iwant to take this time to personally thank so many people that helped the KREE WEEKEND to be safe and, from a security standpoint, uneventful. To my staff, deputies, communication department and jailers, you made me proud. Each and every one of you stepped up to the task at hand, keeping our citizens, visitors and Kree safe.

Woodville Police Chief Scott Yosko and I spoke on numerous occasions, and I know his feelings toward his officers are the same.

Thank you to Michael Greaff and the Sheriff's Office Inmate Work Program for all your hard work preparing the Rodeo Grounds. Terry Riley, you did a fantastic job as usual, getting the rodeo up and going on such short notice, and Courthouse security has never been safer than it is today.

Thank you to the Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers, local and visiting, Tyler County Constables, the Alabama-Coushatta Police Department and The Tyler County Search and Rescue Team. Dr. Sandra Wright, Sondra Wilson and the entire staff of Tyler County Hospital, and Dogwood EMS, thank you so much for always being prepared and meeting the medical needs of everyone. Woodville Fire Chief Tommy Shane, you and your men always rise to the occasion. So many times you and your men and all the volunteer firemen and women throughout the county come to our aid, even when flames can't be seen.

I have only heard a few negative comments throughout the county concerning the officer presence around our American Idol, Kree Harrison. Law Enforcement in our area has never had this type of "Star Power" in our county in such a wide-open spectrum. We honestly did not know what to expect. We prepared for the worst, but hoped for the best. Officers commonly use the phrase, "Not on My Watch". This young 22 year-old rising star was not going to be harmed, nor any citizen or visitor that was gathered at this nationally publicized event. Thank You, Jesus, that CNN, FOX, ABC and CBS had no tragic headlines to come from this great event.

"Not on My Watch", just another ordinary beautiful weekend in Tyler County.

Ivanhoe Animal Shelter Not Doing Great

by Janis Landry
Ivanhoe Property Owner since 1986 

Regarding the article in the booster dated Sept. 20, 2012 entitled Ivanhoe Council hears updates on Animal shelter, hires security officer. The Ivanhoe animal shelter is not doing GREAT. The article was misleading. EVERYONE in the city has not stepped in favor of Pro animal control in Ivanhoe. For instance on 9-14-12, game night in Ivanhoe Mr. McIntyre was escorted out of the bldg. by a citizen of the city to untie a dog that was tethered outside but in the chainlink fence of the shelter in stormy weather with no protection. On 9-5-12 a dog was tied outside the shelter but within the chain link fence. The cable had become entangled around a tree just out of reach of the water bowl. It was 99 degrees at 5:39 pm and the dog only had the shade of the trunk of a tree that it was wrapped around. NO, the animal pound is NOT doing GREAT. I was inside this location located at 405 Emily and the corner of Gwaine at 7:00pm and the odor was so strong that I ask if the 6 animals caged would have to sleep in that environment. I was told that cages would not be cleaned until the am of the next day. I then ask if the doors would be left open for air and was told "no, not tonight". NO! The Ivanhoe animal shelter is NOT doing great. The six dogs mentioned in the last paper consisted of a mother dog, her 4 pups, and a household pet that had been surrendered due to intimidation by a neighbor. This pound has recieved very negative reaction from concerned citizens.

Unexplained Delays in County Road Repairs

by Lori Kibodeaux

What does it take to get roads fixed in Tyler County? Our county commissioners seem to have unlimited excuses when it comes to getting our county roads repaired, but have put grant-funded repairs above all other consideration. Why? There is no viable reason for this since the grant-funded roads are supposed to be repaired using contractors, not county employees.

We, and I am told others in various parts of the county, have been promised for months to get our County Road repaired and have been getting one excuse after the other from Commissioner Marshall. Some of the excuses we have gotten are: "Everyone had to take vacation or they would lose it," and, "the ground isn't warm enough yet," and "we've had to culvert repairs" (in a drought? Really?), and "the weather isn't cooperating." Seriously - the entire system shuts down because EVERYONE on the road crew has to take vacation at the same time or they will lose it? This was the excuse 3 weeks ago and was still the excuse on Friday. How much vacation do these people get in a year?

We have a disabled son who is wheelchair-bound and the state of our road causes him a good deal of pain due to the bouncing and jerking that occur when he is riding on the handicap school bus or in the wheelchair van. There are times when he cries from the jolting he receives. In addition to the jostling our son is getting, our wheelchair van has also been taking a major beating. We have spent a great deal of money on repairs that are directly related to the beating it is taking going up and down our road. This van is the only means of transportation we have for our son.

We have been requesting for our road to be repaired for over a year now and Commissioner Marshall promised us months ago that he would get our road repaired "as soon as the weather gets warm." Well, the weather has been warm, hot even, for 2 months now and we have yet to see the first sign of a road crew. Apparently, culvert repair in a drought is more important than a disabled child's well-being.

It does seem an odd coincidence that county-funded/budgeted repairs cannot be made using county employees and grant-funded repairs using "contractors" can.

It is a sad time for our county when our local representatives are no more trustworthy than the politicians we have in Washington!