Filtered for automation

11.56, Monday 26 Oct 2015


An autopen or signing machine is a device used for the automatic signing of a signature.

Used extensively by US presidents: In 2005, the U.S. Justice Department issued a legal opinion upholding the right of the U.S. President to sign bills by autopen.


Lyndon Johnson allowed photographs of his autopen to be taken while he was in office, and in 1968 the National Enquirer ran them along with the front page headline “The Robot That Sits In For The President.”

Here’s the front page: The Robot That Sits In For the President

See also LongPen, invented by author Margaret Atwood.

the LongPen is not an Autopen, which signs your name over and over without your presence being required. Instead, the LongPen does whatever you have just done at your end, including ‘Happy Birthday Marge’ and a picture of a pussycat

Saves travelling when on book tours.

So hold me Mom, in your long arms. In your automatic arms. In your electrical arms.


On finding new language for space missions that fly without humans.

Unmanned? Robotic? Unpiloted? Uncrewed? Unoccupied? Unhumaned? Drone? Autonomous? Crewless?

The problem is that unmanned is sexist; robotic craft can still contain humans; unpiloted is not accurate because there’s still a pilot it’s just not human; uncrewed is not in the dictionary… and besides there is a crew, it’s just several million miles away back at mission control.

My feeling is that it’ll become the default to have spacecraft with no human crew, and we’ll end up distinguishing by saying when it does have human passengers, assuming not otherwise.

Just like with robot cars. We no longer say “horseless” carriage; in the future we won’t say “driverless” car. It’ll be something to point out when there really is a human involved.


The iPhone 6S came out recently, and as usual there were lines overnight outside the shops. At the Apple Store in Sydney, a telepresence robot was 4th in line. Everyone seemed ok about it.

I remember playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo DS and you could get linked up with real human players to race against – and there was a pretty good A.I. system in Mario Kart so why play against humans? You couldn’t chat. But something… the humanness shone through.

Andy Serkis playing Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies. You can see him, through the motion capture and the green screen and the rendered mesh. You can see him right from the back of the CGI.

You get that at the theatre – you go and see an opera and you’re right up there in the gods, but somehow you can tell the emotion of the lead from that tiny thumbnail of a face all the way down there on the stage, the feelings shine up and up, they’re larger than life.

In the future our great performers will be those who are able to project their humanity through heavy shrouds of computer mediation.


Soylent is a food replacement beverage; you don’t need to consume anything else. I think this is part of the modern mindset, these bimodal extremes: Either you eat at Michelin star restaurants, or you go low-cost low-effort; why bother doing anything between.

The founder of Soylent is Rob Rhinehart. What kind of person conceives of a product like Soylent? He recently gave up alternating current.

The walls are buzzing. I know this because I have a magnet implanted in my hand and whenever I reach near an outlet I can feel them. I can feel fortresses of industry miles away burning prehistoric hydrocarbons by the megaton.

Anyway, so he doesn’t have mains electricity. No kitchen, no TV. He powers his laptop and his phone from a solar cell.

Look, this is what got me. He doesn’t own a washing machine. And so:

I enjoy doing laundry about as much as doing dishes. I get my clothing custom made in China for prices you would not believe and have new ones regularly shipped to me. … I donate my used garments.

Unpiloted? Uncrewed? Unoccupied? Unhumaned?

More posts tagged: