INDEX - FUN & GAMES ID#0819-02



POSTED: 16 JANUARY 2008 - 8:30am HST

Robot manufacturer seizes presidential race

image above: General Electric's "Mustang: the cantering pickup truck" never caught on with consumers

by Juan Wilson on 16 January 2008

General Electric Corporation (GE) was founded by Thomas Edison in the late 19th century and became a worldwide industrial giant. Although still a gleaming success in the power and electric supply industry, profits in some business divisions have diminished or eluded the company.

GE has tried for decades to compete in high-tech manufacturing arenas, such as mainframe computers and robotics. In the 1960's computer industry observers nicknamed IBM "Snow White" and considered GE as just one of the "Seven Dwarves" (along with NCR, Control Data, Honeywell, Burroughs, Univac, and Digital Equipment). GE just could not keep up with IBM and abandoned the computer business in the early 70's.

In the evolving technolgy of industrial robotics GE has run behind the Japanese, who offer advanced products from companies like Matsushita Electric, Yasuka Electric, Nippon Electric Company, Fanuc, Kawasaki and Yamaha, and Honda. Robot industry insiders nicknamed GE "The Geisha" running behind the "Seven Samurai".

General Electric resented the "Geisha" title and has remained committed to competition in the robotics industry. They fielded a number of robots that did not do well with consumers. First, in 1964, it was the robotically controlled "Mustang: the cantering pickup truck" . But, Lee Iacocca, at Ford, hit a homerun with his variation of the "Mustang" as a mindless sporty muscle-car with wheels.

image above: GE's consumer 'ToasterBot" was considered a failure in 1993 and was discontinued

Not to be undone, Ge decided to go head-to-head with consumer service robots. They were going to have to beat-out Honda and Sony, who, in the 80's were gaining experience with consumer entertainment and recreational equipment. In 1990 GE introduced the "ToasterBot". It might have had more success if it had been small enough to be kept in a closet, or understood verbal instructions.

Honda countered with its "Asimo: the walking toaster-oven" in the early 90's. At first, the "Asimo" was considered too unfriendly, and inflammable, for domestic use, but Honda was willing to go back to the drafting board. Over the years several models were unveiled. The oven feature was eventually dropped and a drink serving capacity added. Asimo was a hit.

In this decade the seven foot Asimo was reduced to human size and finally, in 2006, a subservient child-size Asimo. The latest model is now achieving some of the success Honda had envisioned when it coined the slogan "Kid, get me a beer!".

image above: historic lineup of Honda's "Asimo" robots: from walking toaster-oven to bartender

GE decided to go another way: robotic politicians. In 1980 GE had a specactular success with it's human presidential entry, Ronald Reagan. Reagan, the previous GE spokesman had done well for them with the motto "Progress is our most important product". They changed his line to "It's morning in America" and were swept into office.

This campaign season General Electric has reentered the game with its new motto "We bring good things to life." and a new line of robots. They dominate the Democratic and Republican races offering several models running for president. It is not clear exactly how many, but only Ron Paul (R - Texas) , and Dennis Kucinich (D - Ohio) have submitted to DNA testing and are now certified as human beings.

GE has said the US  Presidency is one robot competition the Japanese, or humans, won't win. Nevada is a case in point.

GE, through its subsidiary the NBC Universal Inc., barred Dennis Kucinich from the last Nevada Democratic Presidential Debate held on January 15th. NBC was the host of the debate. Kucinich is a real candidate with much to say. It may be his policies of restraining nuclear power plant production was something GE did not want people to hear. Perhaps GE also felt that Dennis Kucinich, as the non-robot in the race was going to be a loose cannon on the deck of presidential politics?

The Las Vegas Sun reports:


Kucinich decries GE-media conspiracy
by Emily Richmond · 15 January 2008

At 5:25 p.m., shortly after the Nevada Supreme Court refused to give Dennis Kucinich a seat at the debate, a small band of his supporters marched to a far corner of a parking lot outside the Cashman Center, where supporters of the three major candidates gathered.

Spectators soon realized that Kucinich was among them. He said:

“The fact of the matter is, NBC is owned by General Electric. General Electric makes power plants. General Electric wants to make sure there is a place to dump the waste.”

He was talking about nuclear waste and the now shuttered Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump site northwest of Las Vegas. Kucinich has joined the state of Nevada in opposing the dump. Thus, he said, GE is trying to keep him off the air.

“Now the media has become an issue in this campaign by trying to determine who should be in this debate,” he said.

The Cleveland congressman said he will fight for changes to Federal Communications Commission law to ensure that future candidates can participate in debates. “This underlying corruption is something that undermines our democracy. I’m asking you to continue our efforts to stand up and speak.”

Kucinich has been allowed to participate in all but one of the Democratic debates. He was barred from the Las Vegas debate by NBC after poor showings in the Iowa and New Hampshire contests.


In a roundtable review of the effects of industrial corporate interests on politics the Onion Network News asks the question "Are We Giving The Robots That Run Our Society Too Much Power?" See the video clip below.

video above: From ONN (Onion News Network) "In the Know" video series

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