Tuesday, 3 November 2015

#DigiWriMo technology, robotics, and a galloping horse

This is the first of my set of #DigiWriMo posts. A bit on why we replicate what exists. And whether we are curious to understand how things work, or whether we just want to be the creator/s?

Technology reinventing nature
Technology does something to humans, multiple things, but most of all we seem to use technology to enlarge what already exists. Mobile phones offer ways to talk at a distance, planes bring us somewhere faster, computers help us calculate more accurately, … and robotics mimic natural motion. So, one could wonder how innovating humans are? Can we ever outgrow our own world? Can we build things that are really different? Is it possible to create something that one cannot imagine? I always wondered about this. Is the fact that we do not see life in this universe because there is no life, or do we not see it because we cannot imagine life that expands our known spectrum of life? Whichever is the case, the urge to understand how things work or why we are here (if we are here) seems to be one of the more attractive bits of thinking and exploring. Maybe this is why the course which propelled the term MOOC into the media was in fact on Artificial Intelligence. Many of us are intrigued by the codes of life, by how things work, … by robotics.  

Muybridge’s galloping horse after reorienting himself
One of those explorers of life, motion, technology was Muybridge. As he explored the static art of photography, he started to map the route towards motion and … found it. With his pictures of a galloping horse he managed to put photographs into motion (Btw he was very productive in his 50’s). And with his motion pictures scientists could investigate in more detail what elements were part of a seemingly fluent galloping motion. Muybridge was not a photographer by trade, he simply turned himself into one. He did this by traveling, hard work, trial and error.

MOOC to reorient or train
In our time and in the Northern/Western hemisphere, it is a bit easier to retrain yourself by following MOOC, finding answers and ways of doing stuff on the internet, or simply by the old trial and error. But if you scroll through the courses that are available, I do feel there are more STEM oriented courses than socially oriented courses. Especially in the advanced area. So I wonder does this link to the fact that people want to understand their universe through a technological lens, or is it because those STEM-oriented people use technology more to send out their content?
In any case, if let’s say you would want to be a robotics scientist, you can gather up some great courses, and in doing so build yourself a network while collaborating with peers (I would think: learn, build, share in core learning network, share in larger network via conferences: e.g. http://www.worldfuture2015.org/ ).

At the moment of writing this post, there are:
17 robotics related courses in Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/courses/?query=robotics)
FutureLearn has several courses, but I could not find the search all courses button. But this one is great ‘starting robotics’ https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/begin-robotics .
In a way the above can be seen as curated courses... versus the open online courses you can build while roaming the internet.

When going through these courses, would you be able to get into one of the more specialized robot-centers? I would like to think so. There are some nice contemporary robot projects available. For example one on galloping and jumping. I guess in the not so distant future more robot pets will be living with us (no mess, they actually listen, they can help around the house or carry luggage...). I would like some fur on them though.

Getting to grips with my #DigiWriMo goal
To end this post, I want to sketch what I have in mind for this series of #DigiWriMo to share how this first post came to mind. I only know parts of my own discipline (online and technology based learning), but I do have ideas when watching or encountering ideas from other disciplines. Most of the time I shy away from writing about those less familiar fields in public. With this DigiWriMo I want to tackle this inhibition, and write down what comes to mind when thinking about the future (and technology). I plan to link to grey media (blogposts, MOOCs, documentaries…) or even nothing. Simply sharing my thoughts in whatever logical or false logical form. Why? Because I want to shift towards philosophy in my next phase in life. I want to reorient myself, and so I take this DigiWriMo as an opportunity to playfully get started with sending my thoughts out there, and not limiting those ideas to a personal notebook, nicely tucked away in my backpack.