Friday, July 02, 2010

Friday 2 July

~ At the Carrefour supermarket, a new, smart weigh-it-yourself system for the fruit and veg.  I look for the code to put in, but there isn't one; instead, the machine itself, unbidden, suggests options.  My apricots might be apricots, or they might be carrots or nectarines.  How does it guess?  I try a pale purple striped aubergine, it suggests aubergine or red pepper.  Intrigued, I conjecture that it is scanning the colour, but when I try a yellow courgette, it doesn't offer, as I imagine it might, bananas in addition to the correct option, but only yellow peppers.  I lurk around and watch other people's offerings, potatoes, it seems might be themselves or they might be pears.  With oranges, all citrus fruit are suggested, including limes and lemons.  I feel I need to observe this further to establish more idea about how on earth it is functioning, before I venture to ask anyone.  I hope this very rudimentary form of artificial intelligence has not put anyone out of work, but the usual faces seem to be occupied elsewhere, stacking shelves, and it really is very intriguing.

~  Today is my father's birthday.  He would have been 103 years old, he died in 1988.  He was a Somerset Masters, and there is a cider apple which bears his name, the Harry Masters red, though I think it is no relation.  This is him with me as a baby (I've posted this before.)

Here are his two eldest boys

~  my two eldest brothers, along with my dog, enjoying a walk in the woods at Pontmain.


Zhoen said...

My how they've grown.

I wish our self-check out made a bit more sense. Ours seems pretty stupid, actually.

Rouchswalwe said...

bet you were the apple of his eye

Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

That supermarket thing is just plain spooky! Might you sneak something in to confuse it? An object that is not a vegetable or a fruit, and that may in consequence illustrate the level of intelligence at work. What would it make, for instance, of a child's doll, or a shoe? Would it start saying "A malformed potato with hair." Or "Not exactly an aubergine, but like it, only smelly with strings." Only asking!

Please don't get arrested!

Rosie said...

how lovely to be immortalised by an apple.

Lucas said...

The machine which guesses rather than recognises the type of fruit or vegetable is a nice concept. I suggest that rather than put anyone out of work it will in fact require at leat three people to cossett and maintain it and come to the aid of baffled shoppers when it gets out of control.

Roderick Robinson said...

Oh bliss! An opportunity for a French dialogue complex enough to test even the most Cartesian of Carrefour managers. Even if he manages to explain the principles to your satisfaction you can still play the Devil's card: "But is it logical?"

A pity that you can't claim that relationship. In France you could suffix your signature with FdP (Fille de Pomme) and gain great bucolic significance. I see
your general scepticism towards technology started at an early age; ironic that someone who appears to have disapproved of the camera went on to become a pastmaster (Pastmistress? Sounds louche.) in its usage.

Unknown said...

I am convinced that it won't be many years before machines take over completely gradually becoming better than human beings at recognising fruit and vegetables and making all the important moral decisions which homo sapiens seems to find challenging.

Anonymous said...

That an apple bears your father's name is beautiful, Lucy. As if the universe is presenting him to you whenever you see that particular kind of apple. Maybe that's me just being romantic.

Such a lovely photo of you as a baby with him. And that photo of your brothers walking ahead of the dog, so lovely too.

Thank you.


Lucy said...

Thanks again.

Z - the self-serve checkout is indeed a minefield, I don't like it and rarely use it. I'm quite sure we have quite accidentally stolen things going through there and not scanning them properly, which shouldn't be possible but still. This is for weighing the fresh stuff inside the store.

R - Touchee!

Clive - Yes, it's got to be done hasn't it? Your idea of a shoe put me in mind of the original saboteurs, the hand-weavers who threw their wooden shoes - sabots - into the new machinery. And don't worry about my getting into trouble, what's the worse they can do? Strip me of my loyalty card and set an angel with a flaming sword at the entrance to the car park, so I am forced to take my solitarie way and shop at Lidl for evermore? No sweat!

Rosie - yes; the apple wasn't actually named after him, but presumably some other Somerset worthy to whom we may be distantly related. Still nice though isn't it?

Lucas - the thougt of an out of control fruit weighing machie is a little scary...

BB - I was ever a terible scowler!

Plutarch - indeed, and the AI beinggs won't even eat fruit and veg!

Alison - thank you! Sadly it's a rather rare cider apple, though you can get the trees from specialist nurseries in England. One day I may try to grow it...

Lucy said...

Oh yes, BB, one might of course say that my sisters and I are all past-Masters... (you're right, past mistresses does sound a bit dodgy!)

julia said...

I'm intrigued by the new machine but can't help wondering if there isn't a temptation to agree to the lowest-priced item, and does not everything green and leafy end up 'endive'? I wonder if the check-out people check out the items to be sure they're properly classified, which reminds me of the days when girls in Tesco would hold up a bag and ask "What are these?"

And will these machines get computer viruses and send the shopper of with a bag marked "Russian Porn"?