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    7 Replies Latest reply on Aug 3, 2008 7:51 PM by LUCKIEST

    Can't Believe How Manual Some Things Still Are

    jerseyboy Newbie
      I take a 300 passenger commuter ferry to and from work every day. I'm amazed at the number of people it takes to run this ship. There must be at least 4 or 5 deck hands and a couple more up in the pilot room. When the boat docks, there's a person in the front and the back (I'm sure there are nautical terms for this) who grabs a rope from the dock and wraps it around a pole. On the dock, there's a person who manually operates a gang plank that people walk on to get to shore.

      In some ways it's kind of nostalgic to see all this manual work going on to get a boat to dock, but in other ways it seems kind of ridiculous that it's not all automated.
        • Re: Can't Believe How Manual Some Things Still Are
          LUCKIEST Guide
          How Manual Some Things Still Are, Welcome jerseyboy


          Manual labour is physical work done with the hands, especially in an unskilled job
          such as road building, or any other field
          where the work may be considered physically arduous, and which has as a
          profitable objective, usually the production of goods.


          In ancient times the status of manual labourers was low, as most physical tasks were done by slaves. The Americans created sophisticated social structures to outsource manual labour to distinct classes.


          This modest position is still reflected in such professional designations as ranch hand or stage hand, where 'hand' means an employee working in the named context. However, certain skilled labourers were seen as artisans, well-paid and could aspire to become influential citizens, especially via professional corporations. It was sometimes referred to as "pick and shovel work."


          Beginning with the Industrial Revolution,
          though, the introduction of reliable machinery further lowered the
          status of labourers. The reduction in status led to the worldwide labour movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, leading to the formation of trade unions.
          Further technological progress leads to an increasing segment of manual


          • Re: Can't Believe How Manual Some Things Still Are
            A_Ellicott Adventurer
            It may well be that those jobs are union jobs that are protected by antiquated union work rules and that any attempt to automate would lead to a nasty strike. A few years ago the Wall Street Journal had an article that explained that it took 7 people to change a lightbulb at the Philadelphia Airport. The reason? Union workrules.
              • Re: Can't Believe How Manual Some Things Still Are
                Iwrite Pioneer
                Then again very few machines are capable of recognizing flayed rope or visually take into consideration properties that a programmer may not have foreseen. Safely guiding a large ferry is as much an art as it is a science and we haven't been able to program human instinct into machines.

                I worked on a construction equipment account and they had a bulldozer that could grade land without a driver but it wasn't union rules that keep it from being used - it was the inability for the programmers to program in all the variables that the dozer might have to consider.

                Even today, combat robots can't replace troops on the ground, unfortunately. And it has nothing to do with unions.

                  • Re: Can't Believe How Manual Some Things Still Are
                    snipperred Scout
                    Right. I was on another forum where an international shipping management firm was looking at the issue from a broad scale. The boat owners contracted his company for outsourcing crews and managing the logistics but they had a 15% turnover and the cost for good labor was being driven up. Their systems for business were antiquated, using hundred year old charters, and so on. The human element is definately at a premium but I bet there is a market for automation where it can be developed.
                      • Re: Can't Believe How Manual Some Things Still Are
                        Iwrite Pioneer
                        I believe so. I hope so.

                        I think sometimes we see people performing a job and we under estimate the importance of the task they are doing. We dismiss the human factor too quickly. I mean, we can't even get a spell check program that catches all the mistakes in a document, and we want to turn something as important as docking a ship full of human beings over to a machine? Okay.

                        For the record, I think automation is great but I love buying products that have been touched by human hands. I the best pair of shoes I have ever worn were hand-made. I have tried to find a pair of machine made that matched the fit and feel but no luck. The same with furniture and clothes. But that is just me.
                  • Re: Can't Believe How Manual Some Things Still Are
                    Lighthouse24 Ranger

                    There are some union limitations regarding who can perform what tasks on-board the vessel versus dockside/ashore, and quite a lot of union protection for those wharf/dock/shore jobs.

                    The number of deckhands on a passenger ferry (all that manual labor that may appear to be "under-utilized") is regulated by the Coast Guard, and based on what would have to be done in the event of an underway emergency (fire, collision, capsize, passenger evacuation, etc.) and adverse weather (high winds, rough waters, low visibility, etc.). Deckhands are licensed and trained to do quite a lot more than they are doing under normal circumstances in decent weather, and since they have to be there for those emergency tasks anyway, the ship/company may as well use the labor for the routine stuff, too. From a passenger safety perspective, it's a good sign when deckhands are standing around doing nothing!
                    • Re: Can't Believe How Manual Some Things Still Are
                      LUCKIEST Guide
                      Can't Believe How Manual Some Things Still Are

                      "Don't take for granted all the things that machines are doing for you" said Ken Silva, chief technology officer
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                      A flaw has been discovered that makes it possible for criminals to divert Internet users to fake web sites.