From Titans to Technolo-G’s !

Hopefully I am coming to the end of a short spell of involuntary time-travel.  Our washing machine broke down and while my husband attempted to fix it, I relived my student days in the 80’s and 90’s and drove off to look for a launderette.  I soon discovered that both of the town’s launderettes had recently closed, victims of the spread of modern technology that seems to be moving From Titans to Technolo-G’s !

This left me faced with the prospect of hand-washing, a feature of long lovely childhood visits to my grandmother in the 70’s but without the trusty mangle that almost dried the clothes for you.   My husband is now finding me a new washing machine to take me back into the 21st Century. 

I am nostalgic for the past but there are so many things about it that you really only want in small doses.  

We tend to like to look forward to something better or easier.  This week a new life-like robot was unveiled in China called Jia Jia.  Asia seems to prefer life-like robots whilst in the west, humanoid robots seem to unnerve us.  This is probably due to the image of robotic life-forms in film or literature. 

The earliest robot (of a fashion) is the Titan Talos in Greek mythology made by the god of metallurgy, firework and stonework, Hephaestus.  The story comes from a time when metalwork was new and engineering was regarded as something close to magic.   Talos patrolled the Island of Crete until he was destroyed during the visit of Jason and his Argonauts.   

Fear of machines in England goes back to the times of the Luddites (militant poor farm labourers) who destroyed agricultural machines that took their livelihood at the beginning of the nineteenth century.  The rapid technological advances of the Victorian era also spurred on writers like HG Well’s to imagine mechanised beings invading earth in, `War of the Worlds’.  Literature and film soon envisaged invincible robots.  Even a modern writer like Phillip K Dick gives his artificial humans (not strictly robots) almost superhuman powers and this continues to make such beings scary whether they are good or bad as characters.


It is interesting to me as a sci-fi reader and that so many real robots have turned out to be female because in books or films they are predominately male.  However, when you think about it there is no reason at all why a robot should not be female.  More than half of engineers and scientists are male and likely to want to create female companions.  Not only that but males are often perceived as more threatening, the pretty feminine form makes the robot look harmless whereas in fact it might be just as strong and fast as any male robot could be.


Far less scary, or so it should be, is my washing machine and yet it stands on the verge of world-wide dominance because we are about to enter the era of 5 G.  The fifth Generation (there is one every ten years) of wireless technology means that things that were not previously connected will be and this will include potentially things like cars or kettles connected over the internet itself.  Bluetooth, before it connected things on a local level but now you will be able to start your washing machine from your office or from your yacht.  There is, of course, the worry that someone could hack into your computer system via your kettle, for example, although there is the compensation that an engineer might be able to fix a faulty washing machine via the internet without ever coming to visit. 

The other exciting thing about 5G for us is that the research is happening here in England in Guildford.  Technology seems to always come with gains and losses.  For me, however, 5 G could be fertile ground for sci-fi writers, my washing machine could speak to other machines without me, it could have relationships, it could rule the world but I could unplug it and there ends the story.           

Here is  a short film about 5G if you would like to know more about The RACE to 5G .

University of Surrey Innovation Centre