Tuesday 1 May 2018

Queen of the Shitty Robots

What is a life well led? What is the point of it all? What is left after you're dead?  Yes, I'm feeling a bit existential today, and the reason will become apparent. When my neighbour Mary White was at the zenith of her political career as a TD representing The Greens and briefly a Minister of State, we had a brief chat about realpolitik. Her position was that, as a politician elected for a five year term, you cannot make the whole world into a paradise but you can make a difference if you focus your efforts on one small small t'ing. Furthermore she felt an obligation to make that effort, maybe channelling Edmund Burke "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little". I think her one small step was to ban recreational [noisy, intrusive and inherently dangerous] quad-bikes from the uplands that she loved so well.

Me? I've had a life quite drifty but in the twilight of my career in science, I occupy a desk at The Institute and . . . I blog. These two parallel adventures started in the same week at the beginning of January 2013. They are parallel because right now I'm on the planet to encourage more young women in science. I shall be quite miserable and hacked off if my desk isn't inherited by a young woman with a PhD in Science who will be a far better role model than a crumbly old silverback like me for students at The Institute. Until then I do my best to brace youngsters, especially women, so that they have convictions and courage and determination . . . and also have fun. You don't have to go all Calvinist in the serious business of pushing the frontiers. With my Blobby hat on, I write Brief Lives of Women in Science, in the hope that one of those essays will be read by one girl who is havering between science and, say, banking and that made all the difference.

Which brings me to The Queen who surfaced last night as recently uploaded on YouTube. And was picked up by MetaFilter this morning. I conclude that the algorithm which delivers punters to youtube channels must be utter crap if it hasn't connected me and The Queen before now. I'm worn out with being presented "of all the 500,000 hours of content uploaded in the last 24 hours we think you'll like this" with Ken Robinson, Jason Bourne, Graham Norton and Mark Knopfler. I know those guys, I've seen those chaps, and I'm bored with those blokes. Where are the wimmin? who speak tech? with a sense of humour? preferably a bit quirky? There's Emily Graslie [bloboprev] and now there is Simone "TQOTSR" Giertz.

Giertz dropped out of college after reading Physics for a year and then spent some time at Hyper Island, a sort of international digital business school. She taught herself robotics [google this, e-purchase that] because she couldn't find anyone who was able to implement her ideas for making life easier through technology. Her first functional mock-up was a robot for brushing your teeth which tried to pitch to a Swedish children's TV company. Every parent knows that getting kids to brush their teeth [which is good for everyone except dentists] is an uphill struggle if not a divisive chore. Giertz: "I put a robot arm and a toothbrush on a skateboard helmet and programmed it to brush my teeth. No more poor dental hygiene! My gums now hurt." The TV company weren't having any of it, so Giretz posted it on youtube and it went viral. Further useful child-raising and life-saving aids followed:
Now, if you're of sterner stuff than me you can go back to very first link about The Queen to hear her explain that she has a lump the size of a golf-ball inside her head that needs to be removed. As she says: "Queue jokes about shitty brain surgery robots".  So there's my answer: There is a woman; who speaks tech; with a sense of humour, preferably a bit quirky . . . also brave. Bonnets off!

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