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April 08, 1982 - Image 14

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1982-04-08

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01

1

OPINION

Page 4'

1

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Friday,. April 9, 1982
Robotics and the

The Michigan Daify
Uy
University:

Vol. XCII,)No. 150

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Tackling the social problems

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board

Waking up to the reviews

We cannot make our} decisions
about the fate of any particular
program merely on the intrinsic
merits of that program, but only in
reference to this overall goal of
reallocation.
-Billy Frye, February 8
Thelabove statement represents the
University administration's approach
to cutting the budget, as outlined by the
vice president for academic affairs in
a memo to his planning staff. In tran-
slation, Dr. Frye is saying that quality
programs will be reduced or
eliminated in order to beef up those
departments designated as "high
priority" by Frye, his staff, and the
elite and secret society of the Budget
Priorities Committee.
The recently announced decision to
review the Schools of Art, Education,
and Natural Resources was made on
the basis of the above stated method.
Meanwhile, Frye has been able to
convince the deans of these schools
that their programs may come away
from the review, process with nary a
scratch, once the schools have proved
themselves worthy of continued sup-
port..
Paying.
JUST AS GASOLINE is becoming
cheaper, a growing number of
congressmembers and administration
officials are proposing a tax that would
raise prices nearly 12 cents a gallon.
The plan calls for a $5 to $10 fee for
,each barrel of crude oil imported by
the United States. Proponents argue
the tax could be used to reduce the
federal budget deficit, cut our oil im-
ports, and serve as the death blow to
the bickering Organization of
Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Unfortunately, the world is not so
simple. With 1983 deficits projected to
>e over $100 billion, revenues from the
tax (expected to be less than $10
billion) would hardly solve the
budgetary problems of the nation.
Certainly the tak would help reduce
imports, but at considerable costs to
consumers who enjoyed the prospect of
lower fuel costs. Middle and upper
glass families could probably absorb

The deans have told their faculty
members and students this "good
news," and nobody seems to be
worried.
It's high time to wake up.
With the stated objective of cutting a
total of $20 million from one budget and
shifting that money to others, in the
next five years something's got to go.
And the first schools scheduled for
reviews appear to be the easiest can-
didates for cuts in the eyes of the cen-
tral administration.
To achieve its reallocation goals, the
administration has two options
available now. Either it will reduce
each school by a relatively equal
amount-in the 15 percent to 30 percent
range-or it will hit one school, for the
time being, especially hard.
The ,,"smaller, but better"
philosophy dictates the second option,
and that's the one the administration
seems ready to use. In either case,
trouble is ahead for the schools given
the dubious honor of being reviewed
first.
To look at the reviews merely as a
chance to prove one's worth is a
mistake, as Frye has declared.
Although the positive approach will be
more pleasant for the next few months,
somebody is in for a rude awakening
next year.
for fuel
such price increases. But the poor,
already reeling from drastic cuts in
social programs, would suffer the
most. Because gasoline is a necessity,
the poor can neither escape, nor ab-
sorb higher prices. .
The benefits, however, are worth the
costs, argue proponents who believe
the plan would mean an end to OPEC.
Contrary to popular belief, the cartel is
far from dead, and the tax would
merely indicate the United States'
willingness to pay more for its oil.
President Reagan is considering the
import fee as a way to reduce the
budgetary problems he has helped to
create. But he is doing so at the expen-
se of the poor and the homeowners of
the northeast who rely on heating oil to
stay warm.
If the administration endorses the
import fee, it is putting yet another
burden on an already beleaguered
poor. Not only is the fee unfair-it just
won't work.

By John Adam
There are deep and intriguing social
questions that are raised when man tries to
build machines in exactly his own image.
Robots, modeled after the image of man,
have arms, hands, eyes, and brains. In many
areas, robots are better and more efficient
than their own designers. Some scientists
have speculated that as research continues in
artificial intelligence, computers and robots
will some day think independently and
possibly be able to actually "create."
WHERE WILL this innovation leave man?
Will he be master or servant of his new
technology? Granted, these are old questions,
but now, as the University prepares to
establish world class centers in robotics and
biotechnology on campus, these questions on-
ce again become relevant.
Many activists at the University, who cen-
sor robotics because of its relationship to in-
dustry and the military, fail to grasp the fact
that robotics and integrated manufacturing
will soon be an integral part of man's future.
The question then becomes, not are robots
necessary, but how do we implement their
use?
This is one important reason the University,
should become involved in robotics: at least it
can have some direction and voice in this new
wave of the future. Would one rather have in-
dustry doing all the research and develop-
ment in robotics behind sealed corporation
doors?
A RECFNT Carnegie-Mellon University
report, written in conjunction with the Robot
Institute of America, states that most recent
work done in the field focuses on bypassing
and eliminating potential pockets of resistan-
ce to robotics.
However, not much attention to date has
been focused on the social consequences of
robotics. There has been little serious
discussion on how to cope with human factor
concerns, such as retraining displaced
workers, the study claims.
This is the area where the University should
now take the initiative in establishing a multi-
disciplinary center for conducting research
on the social trends and implications of new
technologies such as robotics and bio-
technology.
WITH A MINIMUM of effort, the Univer-.
sity could immediately become the nation's
leader in a program or center of this sort.
The state and the University should im-
mediately attempt to establish a "Social Im-
plications of Technology Task Force" to con-
sider the development of such a revolutionary
institute. All that is needed for such a center
is for various elements to coalesce. The state
already contains certain unique assets that
could be used.
Consider these examples:
The Robotics Institute of America, the

6

a

Workers ready robots for a promotional show.

AP Photo

only trade association in the United States
dealing with robotics, is headquartered in
Michigan. It helps sponsor educational
seminars, conferences and expositions and
has a membership of more than 155 major
companies.
Robotics International, a society of
engineers and other professionals, also has its
headquarters in Michigan and, although
founded in 1980, it already has a membership
of more than 3500 people.
- Michigan is in the center of the manufac-
turing area of the country. In other words, it
is in the center where the effects of robotics
will be most immediate. Thus, conducting
surveys and technology assessment with help
from the United Auto Workers union is a
distinct possibility.
" In the Institute for Social Research, the
University already has a strong foundation
with their sophisticated computer network
and data base, their research techniques, and
a large cluster of-social scientists.
" If the state's Industrial Technology In-
stitute and .the., University's Center for
Robotics and Integrated Manufacturing are
in fact successful in creating a world class
robotics center near Ann,Arbor, then a social
institute of this sort will be in the crux of the
state-of-the-art robotics technology and will
be in a better position to react to social
problems created by robotics.
In short, the centers of technology and
social research will be complementary. Both
ITI chief Arch Naylor and Engineering
College Dean James Duderstadt have em-
phasized the need to conduct.social research

on the effects of these new technologies. But
the social scientists have remained silent.
What can a center like this do and why are
existing social institutions inadequate, a per-
son might respond. Thefirst part of thy
question implies the latter part-today's
social research institutions are largely
inadequate. They react, rather than predict.
They concentrate on alleviating problems of
ten years ago rather than anticipating poten-
tial ones. a
OF COURSE IT can be argued that no one
will ever be able to predict social upheavals
created by technology. In any case, the lag
time must be narrowed. It is also conceivable
that in the near future, citizens may have to
make a choice about controlling technology?,
(For instance, do we want to clone humans
order babies to our specifications from Sears
catalogues-or do we want robots who can
win Nobel prizes?) Thus, it is essential that
we are well informed as to the possible im4
plications of various scenarios, rather than
basing our opinions on some, science fiction
horror film. -
The University can now become a leader
and innovator. It should not wait for Stanford
or MIT to develop such centers. In the words
of Engineering Dean James Duderstadt, the
University is "tailor:made" to carry out
social research of this nature. What is thu
University waiting for?

Adam is a Daily staff writer.

II.

Weasel

By Robert Lence

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0

LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
Witt gets low marks for generalizing

I

I

- - i.

0

-CARIOTS OF FIRE

To the Daily:
The one thing that I have lear-
ned from reading The Michigan
Daily is that it is perfectly accep-
table to state that Howard Witt,
of the Opinion Page, deals only
in generalizations and self-
aggrandizement.
I have read Witt's column most
every week for the past few years
and have noticed that the only
development in his comprehen-
sion of the world, or of the
University community, or even of
himself, has been the trying
decision to alter the title of his
column from "Witticisms" to
"Howard Witt". Unfortunately,
for Witt and we who read him, he

compose juvenile generalizations
of the "sour-grapes" ilk and
proceed to announce to the
University community, at large,
that he does not wish to be a part
of a club that would not have him
as a member. I refer to Witt's
chastizing those students who
were listed by the University as
James B. Angell Scholars (those
who have earned straight A's for
two or more terms). ,Witt sees
such an honor as worthless, for
everyone knows that a student
cannot possibly "develop breadth
and understanding unless you ex-
tend yourself, take a few courses
on subjects you know nothing
about. And you don't get straight

column is devoted to the young
man's advice as to what courses
one ought to enroll in if one
wishes to achieve breadth. I
agree that all students should
take Art History 102, History of
Music 341, and Shakespeare 367
(all large lecture courses, by the
way, just like those useless cour-
ses on Chemistry or Psychology).
However, Witt cannot possibly
mean that the University ought to
give up praising scholastic ex-
cellence and automatically
assume that everyone who
receives A's is taking only a
narrow range of courses. The
courses that Witt mentions, and
the professors he praises, are all

ticular course material.
Witt, I am sorry you have suf-
fered the .stinging insult of "B's
and a few C's" - most of us have
- but you weaken your valid
argument for students actively
seeking a liberal arts education
by stupidly linking breadth of un-
derstanding with average or
below average performance (i.e.,
B's, C's, and heaven forbid, D's
on one's transcript). Oddly
enough, a student can,
simultaneously, become exposed
to different ideas and ways of
thinking and do well in his or her
coursework. Perhaps that piece
of information sits uncomfor-
tably in the singular mind of
Un.'. r ...4 U74

.i

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