The Six Million Dollar Man
11th of November, 2019
It’s funny the things you remember as a kid. The memories and things you loved when growing up.
For me one of those things was a thermos that I had. One that on a cold winter’s day mum would fill with “pea and ham” soup for my lunch (it was the 70’s after all!).
But this was not just any old thermos – it was my beloved “Steve Austin” thermos!
I don’t remember watching much TV as a kid, but I did love “The Six Million Dollar Man”. No baddy was safe from the former astronaut and USAF Colonel and all-round good guy played by Lee Majors.
Steve was an astronaut whose spaceship crashed leaving him seriously injured.
However, he is chosen to undergo a secret government-sanctioned experimental cyborg surgery, which using machine parts rebuilds and improves him, giving him superhuman strength and speed, as well as other powers.
“His right arm, both legs and the left eye were replaced with “bionic” implants that enhanced his strength, speed and vision far above human norms. He could run at speeds of over 60 mph (97 km/h), and his eye had a 20:1 zoom lens and infrared capabilities, while his bionic limbs all had the equivalent power of a bulldozer. He used his enhanced abilities to work for the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence) as a secret agent.” Wiki
This $6m surgery created the science fictional character, formidable all-round good guy, who then devoted his life to battling evil for the good of mankind.
What a series – as a kid I loved watching The Six Million Dollar Man.
If you want to take a nostalgic walk down memory lane, then click here to watch the original intro to the Six Million Dollar man.
Photo by Kowon vn on Unsplash
The robotic mega trend is here!
We hardly live a “Jetsons Lifestyle” but robots are becoming more and more present in our daily lives. Some of which we see through the adaptation of automated vacuum cleaners to the more subtle impact of the involvement of robots in completing our online shopping orders.
The robotic mega trend is here! And it’s BIG money and even BIGGER business!
The current spend on robotics is enormous and growing – worldwide it’s predicted to jump from $26.9 billion (2015) to an estimated $67 billion in 2025.
Just like in other technological arenas (think smart phones here) this technological drive is occurring as the cost of robotics is falling and the performance outputs are dramatically improving.
Efficiency, costs and outcomes are ensuring that traditionally manual types of work are being confiscated by the robotic cyborg. The car industry has been an early adopter of robotic manufacturing employing robots to undertake jobs like precision welding on the assembly line.
Robots, like any developing technology, will inevitably become smaller, cheaper, and more efficient with the breadth of potential applications exponentially increasing as they continue to gain flexibility and finesse.
Photo by Franck V. and David Levêque on Unsplash
Rise of the “Grey Hairs”
As the world ages the argument for the adoption of a new robotic world will becomes stronger. In 2017 there were 962M “grey hairs”, that is those over 60 years old. In 1980 it was only half that figure, 382M to be exact according to the UN. This rapidly growing number of grey hairs is going to have a material impact on the labour market. Like food stability it’s a key concern for many governments. One just has to look at Japan and the devastating impact its aging population has had on its economy and economic output to identify that the concern is real.
In 2050 the world will have to accommodate nearly 2.1B of grey hairs. It’s easy to grasp the massive possibilities of the robotics sector that will need to fill the labour shortages and usher in the new era of the global cybernetics workforce. The future it seems will favour those economies that can produce goods cheaper and more efficiently, without needing to increase the workforce.
Photo by Esther Ann on Unsplash
Enter exoskeleton man
Which brings me back to Steve Austin. The science fiction of 1973 is becoming a reality of the 2020’s – without the $6M price tag.
See a new wave of crime fighters is on the way, a super army of workers and warriors is on the horizon – exoskeleton man!
As any student of cycles knows, war or the perceived threat of war can bring about huge technological and innovative inventions. There is no bigger motivator than the threat of having one’s effortless advantage removed. The stimulus of human ingenuity is placed into overdrive should our position of privilege be threatened.
And so it is that the US Army is intent on creating a new generation of Steve Austin inspired “super soldiers”. Rather than the experimental cyborg surgery they have opted to adapt the Aldi priced exoskeleton technology, designed to make troops stronger and more resilient.
Human and robots working in perfect cybernetic harmony.
The battery-operated exoskeleton is designed to assist and enhance natural movements using a range of sensors, artificial intelligence and other technology.
Gone are the days when a soldier just carried a rifle and wore a helmet. The modern soldier will carry anywhere between 40-65kg of stuff. Body Armour, grenades and ammunition, food and water, a flashlight, night vision gear and medical kit just to start with.
And as usual technology is both solving problems and creating them. Batteries are not just the bane of every parent on Christmas day! For the modern soldier almost everything runs off batteries.
It’s said that for a 72hr mission a US Airborne soldier would carry approximately 8kg of batteries alone!
The goal of lightening a soldiers load is unlikely to occur as “there’s direct correlation between how much fire you can put down and who wins. The requirement for ammunition is not going to go down.” Jack Watling of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the world’s oldest independent think tank on international defence and security.
The solution? Exoskeleton Man!
And it’s not just the US that is investing in such technologies. Russia, China- in fact everybody is on the band wagon.
Of course, there is the obvious flow on from the military use in any situation that requires a lot of physical activity and decision making including the construction industry and the adaptation for use in space mining and mineral exploration.
Photo by Specna Arms on Unsplash
A robotic utopia?
Artificial Intelligence and robotics are only emerging technologies and are in their initial stages of development. Like the $6M Man of the 1970’s much of the application and future advancement is purely imaginative at the moment and is impossible to accurately describe the how and where it will be used.
Remember it was only 12 primitive years ago the iPhone debuted. Where will robotics and A.I. be in 12 years’ time?? Who Knows?
Are we heading towards a robotic utopia?
I don’t know, but we certainly aren’t there just quite yet as recently shown by a Jersey warehouse mishap. See an Amazon robot, working in the warehouse, made a bit of a blue and accidently punctured a can of bear repellent sending 24 staff to hospital… guess this goes to show our robots are not quite as advanced as the “Terminator”.
But what we do know is that in the future the Calnan Flack Economic Cycle Plan will continue to provide the road map for planning our path to enable us to use the Economic Advantage for wealth creation that this mega trend is creating.
The drivers of the cycle will always be present, especially Technology and whether it’s the $6M Dollar Man of the 1970s, the exoskeleton man of the 2020s or just a more technologically advanced thermos, we know ALL these gains will continue to manifest into the cycle.