Robots Ate My Road Trip--Day 5

Pinball machines at the Pinball Hall of Fame.

Mile 2699, Las Vegas.  

All this technology since Saturday prompted a yearning for recreation.  Again, with machines not people.  When I finally stumbled into town at about 9:30 p.m., I made a bee-line to a strip mall where a simple sign announced the Pinball Hall of Fame.   It¹s free, so I didn't have to confront a ticket-taking human. They also had a machine to break a$20 bill.  Wall-to-wall pinball machines and some fabulous vintage video arcade games, including Asteroids.   I saw in the distance, a silver-haired man in his workshop tinkering away with guts of the machines.  He must be a genius because the machines played "like butter."

The robot receptionist at Westin Element hotel was not quite as smooth.   I could not for the life of me find the credit card slot until it was identified on an adjacent wall.  Then it either didn't display my room number or flashed it so quickly I missed it.  When I tried to log back in, the machine demanded my room number. Eventually all was sorted out and the room was fabulous. 


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David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio
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I have listened only to this episode; it is good to have David back on-air.
He did a great job with Bill Moyers; David and Ky are about the best on Public Radio.

I note that the pinball and Mob museums are both in Vegas,
yet each has stronger roots in Chicago.
There is a Chicago Bar in Tuscon, and others in other cities as well.

Also, there was a pinball offshoot known as PinBot.
The evolution of the machines tells us a little about technology and culture.
I always enjoy a voice-over machine that can be played aggressively to elicit 'hiccups' and malaprops.

@douglas w jones: Wonderful find! Babbage had an eye for the future in more ways than one, didn't he?

The thing is, we (that is, humankind) have known that everything would be increasingly automated; we can either accept that, and stay ahead of the curve (like I myself do, by having a career as a software developer, for instance), or we can instead slack-off in our learning during our school years and adulthood (while being lobotomized by a glowing screen showing "reality" shows and other so-called "entertainment").

I prefer education. I prefer reading. I prefer being a geek and being proud of it. So do employers, apparently (I am in constant demand because of my skills as a software developer; the robots can't program themselves - not yet anyway, but hopefully someday).

Listening to the "Robots ate my Roadtrip" piece, I have been constantly reminded of what Charles Babbage said in paragraph 406 of his book "On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures" written in 1832. (Yes, the paragraph numbers are in the original.) Google books and Project Gutenberg both have the full text available free, on line; I quote it here, and it would be worth reading this paragraph on air:

"406. In countries where occupations are divided, and where the division of labour is practised, the ultimate consequence of improvements in machinery is almost invariably to cause a greater demand for labour. Frequently the new labour requires, at its commencement, a higher degree of skill than the old; and, unfortunately, the class of persons driven out of the old employment are not always qualified for the new one; so that a certain interval must elapse before the whole of their labour is wanted. This, for a time, produces considerable suffering amongst the working classes; and it is of great importance for their happiness that they should be aware of these effects, and be enabled to foresee them at an early period, in order to diminish, as much as possible, the injury resulting from them."

In the 180 years since, many people have rediscovered this truth, but I've rarely heard anyone go very far beyond what Babbage said.

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