About Robots and all that….

“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law”. The three laws of Robotics as written many years ago by Asinov. Pretty forward-looking at the time and worth thinking about as we progress towards a world  where robots could begin to do more and more….

In South Africa, traffic lights are called “robots”. One needs to know the laws of robots here, as one spends a lot of time waiting for green lights and the possibility to proceed in the direction you hope you want to go. Last week, my 7 minute trip one way at 8.15 in the morning took me 35 minutes in the reverse direction in the evening…..waiting in a queue of approximately 1 kilometre to turn right into the road, which goes to my hotel. The thought of fighting the traffic here has itself prevented me from doing as much as I might have done.


There has been little time in Cape Town this trip. I had a free weekend and decided not to travel too far away, as the hotel is right next door to Newlands, where the Currie Cup rugby final was decided on Saturday afternoon. Instead, I visited the South Africa Institute of Sport, close to the hotel and with a hotel voucher was able to spend about an hour there, trying to work off the effects of too much food and good wine – unsuccessfully in terms of weight of course, but good for the Psyche. Rather intimidating there, as it is used by many of South Africa’s top sports people.

On Sunday we four examiners travelled around the coastal district of Cape Town.

We started at Hout Bay – so-called as “Hout” means timber, and it was here that they grew the timber for boats etc.

Here we were able to watch seals in the water. There were men feeding the seals and playing with them. The seals would jump up and take the food from the mouth of the men. Apparently they can even jump right up on to the top of the sea-wall. The men of course were asking for donations for feeding the seals and continuing their entertainment for the crowds. Unfortunately (or otherwise!), my loose change was back at the hotel….

We also had coffee/tea at the waterside café there. I have had a little coffee in South Afrcia,but in general I find it too harsh, so tend to drink Rooiboos Tea. They also either make an espresso/double espresso or an Americano, rather than the NZ/Australia (note the order of importance there!) Long Black, which falls right between these. I did manage to order specially at one coffee place last week, but it is too difficult to explain most of the time, so I am drinking less coffee than usual – probably a good thing!

After leaving Hout Bay, we travelled over Chapman’s Peak. This was a road, built with the aid of Swiss engineers, winding its way above the sea on the side of the mountains. There is even a Pyrenees-style overhead section to protect, not from snow, but more likely huge rocs that fall – closing the road on frequent occasions. We stopped to look back at Hout Bay and then again when we came to a section of dunes and beach, where the sand looked like ice. It also had very fine particles.

We finished that part of the drive overlooking Noorhoek Beach. This was a beautiful beach. The water is very cold as the current comes up from the Antarctic. However it looked very beautiful, as did the conference centre below us.

We had lunch at the Noordhoek Farm Village. this was a delightful complex of tourist boutique shops and eating places. Very rural and distinctly South African in nature, we enjoyed the food and looking around the shops. No wooden things to bring back to NZ though. I don’t appreciate the hassle of getting through Food and Agriculture…..


After lunch we went over to the other side of the Cape Point to a place called Boulders. Here there are large boulder sitting in the water and penguins, swimming, nesting and sunning themselves, almost alongside the humans. We did not go on to the beach (A charge is made for that), but we were able to walk along the boardwalk above and see some penguins from very close.







South Africa is extraordinary with its animal life and vegetation. The climate at the Point is so difficult, that there is an entire set of plant life, that grows nowhere else in the world.

While it was still warm, we did notice the really artistic cloud formations that came so low when we were returning to Cape Town proper, through Simonstown, where the South Africa Navy resides.

Today I have had an afternoon to explore, but the wind is devastating. I hear that there are fires up near George, where I was examining only two weeks ago. Apparently they have had to evacuate some of the suburbs. I am sure the wind is not helping there. Here in Cape Town, the temperature has dropped to about 21 (from about 31!). They are expecting rain , so rather than go to the Kirstenbosch Gardens and climbing up the reverse side of Table Mountain, I decided to walk instead to the Gym and charge myself up again. Good plan, as it is most unpleasant outside. The clouds are hanging over Table Mountain.

Rain would be helpful to the Capetonians. Here is a photo I took from afar of the end of the line for people waiting to collect their allocation of water for the day. While the worst of the drought appears to be over for the meantime, there is still quite a strict rationing process. My hotel has its own bore, so that has been less of a concern for guests. This has been going on for a year or so now.

So I have avoided the worst of the Cape Town traffic. I depart tomorrow for places further afield and rather smaller. I hope to avoid being trapped by any more robots….


About David Adlam

I am a conductor, composer, clarinettist and examiner for Trinity Guildhall working in Auckland, New Zealand and overseas
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