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Travel by container ship

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2008

Another story of traveling by cargo ship.

The stevedores, or as we call them in the states, longshoremen, are becoming the latest group of tradespeople to be put out of their jobs by robots. The ships already practically steer themselves, that’s why I’m staying in the pilot’s cabin, “there is no pilot”. The course of the ship is plotted in advance as a series of vectors with turns at key points. The ship’s computer lets the officer on duty know when it’s time to make a turn, and corrects itself with GPS as a reference during the straight runs. The origin of word “cybernetic” is “kybernetes” — ‘steersman’ in Greek. So the arrangement of cargo and the logistics of operations are already optimized by software, the next step will be to link that software directly to the hardware of cranes and harvesters and turn them into robots. They will have a set of broad goals and priorities (the strategy), and the kind of basic decision making processes (the tactics) that the ship uses to stay on course autonomously: avoidance and correction.

People who travel by container ship also seem to be able to write well about the experience. Previously. Even more previously.