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September 09, 1982 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1982-09-09

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Page 8-C-Thursday, September 9, 1982-The Michigan Daily
Welcome to Roboticsland

tate leaders
ee savior in



i h


dark economic cloud has centered
if over the state of Michigan. Fac-
es are closing their doors, and in-
tment dollars - as well as the jobs
go with that money - continue to
v southward to the highly-acclaimed
belt states.. .
he short-term solutions to
higan's economic crisis have been
;e cuts in public spending and a tem-
ary increase in the state's income-
N THE MIDST of this disaster,
higan's public and private leader-
p has decided upon a long-term
nedy to get the state back on its feet.
prescription that Governor William
liken - with the consent of the state
islature, business leaders, and many
er University administrators - has
ided on is high technology industry.
L University Will play a key role in
development of the state's program'
attracting robotics and molecular,
logy firms to the state.
n September, 1981, Milliken issued
plan to increase the high technology
nponent of Michigan's economy. '
liken said his goal was to create a
1-employment environment in the
te. Michigan's leaders want a long-
ting industrial base of jobs and they
n on "agressively stimulating the in-
duction and expansipn of high
hnology businesses in the state," ac-
ding to the plan,
iver since the 1950s, Michigan
momists have advised political
ders to diversify the state's
momy, and now that the economic
ps are down the politicians are
atedly taking economists' advice.
e hope expressed by Milliken and the
gh Technology Task Force he
ated to study the issue is to make
chigan a world-class center of ex-
lence" in robotics and molecular
IOBOTICS IS the science o creating
ots for manufacturing purposes with
vanced computer programming built
o the machine's circuitry to enhancet
"intelligence." The aim is to have
>otics machines carry out a wide-
ige of manufacturing tasks without
ving to be programmed. Because
>ots with multi-faceted computer in-
uctions can perform varied functions,
h more accuracy, durability, and
s cost than human laor, Michigan's
anufacturing productivity is sup-
sed to increase v ith the use of robotic
stems. '
)ne assumption behind Michigan's
>ve to robotics manufacturing-is that
v labor productivity in relation to
gh wages is the culprit behind
chigan's economic woes. Another
smption is that the state will gain
>re jobs for workers who will make
e robots than will be lost by workers
ose jobs are replaced by the
echanical marvels. A third assum-
on is that robots will be more advan-,
geous to- industries in Michigan -
pecially the auto industry - than to
e businesses of other states.

But creating a robotics industry in
Michigan is only half the story. While
efforts to make Michigan robotics a
reality continue, the state is also
scheduled to be a leader in molecular.
biology, also known as genetic
altered genes from animals into fast-
grow bacteria. The bacteria with
altered genes creates chemicals (en-
zymes) or chemical reactions with
useful applications. Some genetic
engineers have developed genes which,
will create insulin for diabetics. Other
bacteria with-altered genes can help us
clean up oil spills by "eating"
The University's molecular biology
-program is still in the preliminary,
reserach-oriented stages and commer-.
cially viable projects have not yet
Although the development of a
molecular biology industry is not first
on the state's priority list, the High
Technology Task Force sees the in-
dustry as having great potential growth
--possibly even greater than robotics.
The present agenda is to reap the
benefits of robotics in the near future.
and then pursue a program for genetic
THE GOVERNOR hopes that
technological advancements in robotics
and molecular genetics, along with the
availability of engineering graduates
(especially from the University)
trained in high technology fields,
will attract many of the new companies
that are popping up to take advantage
of America's high technology boom. It
is through the attraction of the coveted
''high technology entrepreneur" to
Michigan that Milliken hopes to gain
the most economic enrichment.' ,
The leadership role in Michigan's
high technology push has been given to
the High Technology Task Force, a
group of mostly private industry and
finance people such as Michael
Blumenthal, president of Burroughs
Corp. and former President Jimmy
Carter's Secretary of the Treasury, and
William Agee, chief executive officer of
Bendix Corp. Two members of the high
technology task force who are not in
private business are University
President Harold Shapiro and Univer-
sity School of Business Administration
Prof. Paul McCraken, a conservative
economist who advises President
Some observers have criticized the
make-up of the task force. They believe
Milliken is relying on the same people
who put Michigan in an economic mess
to find long-term economic solutions to
get the state out ot it.
THE FIRST concrete action for
developing Michigan's robotics poten-
tial was the creation of the non-profit
Industrial Technology Institute (ITT)
headed by Arch Naylor,,a University
engineering professor on sabbatical.
ITI is the state's link between the
University, which will carry out
See STATE, Page 9

Doily Photo by MARK GINDIN
A PROTOTYPE of what manufacturers call America's best worker of the future demonstrates its abilities at a Detroit
convention last March. Critics of robotics development wonder if these "big, agile, intelligent" machines will put too
many people on the unemployment lines.
Some analstss students not ready
to hop on the robotics bandwagon

ignite high
Michigan's political leaders see the
University as an important contributor
to the state's future economic
prosperity. The University, along with
the surrounding Ann Arbor community,
is expected to be the intellectual center
for the development of high technology
industries in robotics and molecular
Looking to California's Silicon Valley
on the west coast and Boston's Route
128 on the east coast-two fast-
growing and highly prosperous high
technology industrial areas-the state's
leaders would like to see Ann Arbor
become the nation's next high tech
boom town.
SILICON Valley became the world's
leader in electronic circuitry develop-
ment during the 1960s with the help of
Stanford University professors, many
of whom started their own businesses in
silicon chip production. The new in-
dustries that litter Boston's Route 128
feed upon the intellectual talent of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The University of Michigan's answer
to its counterparts on the coasts is the
Center for Robotics and Integrated
Manufacturing, more affectionately
known around the engineering college
as CRIM.
CRIM's purpose is to research and
develop automated manufacturingj
systems that can be controlled by a
computer and use robots for produc-
tion. The Center will work on all stages ~
of development for these systems, from
conception to manufacture and even
delivery..In addition, CRIM will look at
the management side of the new
technology it produces.
CRIM, WHICH was created by the
Regents in October, 1981, is being paid
for initially by grants from the state
and the National Science Foundation,
College of Engineering funds, and some
minor industrial gifts. In order for the
Center to survive, however, it will be
seeking millions of dollars from private
industry and the federal government,
especially the Department of Defense,
Last November, the college
requested $.2 million from the Aif
Force to get CRIM rolling. Although the
specifics of the grant are still being
worked out, it is expected that CRIM
will receive about half the money it@
Critics of defense-sponsored research
on campus fear that CRIM's reliance on
military money will mean the Univer-
sity's innovations will be used for
making bombs-rather than comme'-
cial products-more efficiently.
CRIM's sponsors respond that the Cn-
ter's work will involve the same con
cepts and production regardless of the
source of funds.
THE CENTER will rely on industry6
in addition to the Pentagon, for resear-
ch money. That relationship is essential
and inevitable, according to the Cen-
ter's administrators. Still 'unclear,
however, is how closely tied the
University will be to private cor-
porations in future years and how much

Ann Arbor is enthralled by high
technology. Families, workers,
businessmen, educators, and students
are all entranced by the futuristic
possibilities of robotics, genetic
engineering, computers, and video
But Ann Arbor and the University's
students are known for looking at the
future from both the positive and the
negative sides, and not all the
speculation about high technology is
WHILE THE University plunges
head-long into the high technology
boom as a solution to both the state's
and its own financial problems,'more
cautious observers question ,whether
high technology and the close in-
dustry/University ties it will foster, will
do all the good desired.
Around the country serious questions
about the propriety of university/cor-
porate bonds are being voiced. Some
observers fear that large corporations
will use their financial power to take
control of technological innovations at
the nation's universities. Such relation-
ships, they say, run contrary to the best
interests of education and the main-
tenance of academic freedom.
THEY FEAR that the universities
will find themselves working directly
for the private sector rather than for
the general public good.

In addition, faculty participation in
private industry raises several conflict
of interest questions. Will faculty
members have the interests of the in-
stitution or the corporation in mind
when conducting their affairs? What
happens when a faculty member has a
financial interest in the decisions of his
school or department?.
Criticism of the University's -in-
volvenient with high technology has
been multi-faceted but comes from a
rather small base of support.
THROUGH robotics, "the University
has the possibility of becoming a job
shop for private industry," said Jon
Feiger, former president of the
Michigan Student Assembly and a
leader of last year's small student
movement. "I don't think that will fur-
ther the educational capability of the
University," he told a student-
organized. robotics conference last
Students have been asking the
University to remember the social con-
sequences of high technology. "As a
University, we are in a unique position
to do the engineering and robotics as
well as social impact (research),"
Feiger said.
Another issue concerns the Pen-
tagon's influence over the University's
high technology developments. Some

students fear the defense department-
a prime supporter of the nation's
technical research-will skew the
University's work away from human
needs toward military designs.
BUT MANY of the questions about
high technology concern much more
than just its effects on the University.
Although the state's push for robotics
and high technology is intended to
diversify Michigan's economy away
from its reliance on automobile
manufacturing and related industries,
some observers feel that the state is
trading in expertise in one specialized
area-autos-for expertise in another-
"I think high technology is a great
idea for Ann Arbor, but not for
Detroit," said Dan Luria, a United Auto
Workers union economist, at the high
technology conference last March. "I
would- not put all my eggs in one
LURIA POINTED out that Michigan
is not the only state that has hit on the
idea of robotics development.
"Everybody is doing it and there will be
lots more losers than winners," he said.
See ROBOTICS, Page 9
This series of stories on Ann Ar-
bor and high technology was written'
by Daily staff writer Scott Stuckal.


Manufacturers demonstrate the
- latest in industrial robotics design in
Detroit last March. Robots will be
h able to weld (above) or put together
automobiles on an assembly line
(center). Although researchers are
still working to perfect visual
capabilities for robots, one machine
(far .right) already can distinguish


s. ..J _ -


', U i


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